Cookie Consent by Free Privacy Policy Generator Skip to content

MLS Fantasy Week 12: Let's build a bonfire

Rivalry week presents some interesting matchups but few mismatches.

Last Updated
7 min read

Weekly Schedule

Another fairly standard MLS schedule this week with a slate of 7:30 pm local Saturday night kickoffs. Every match but four fully overlaps, kicking off at 4:30, 4:45 or 5:30 pm PT. Later in the evening, the Rapids host San Jose at 6:30 pm and the two LA teams host RSL and VAN at 7:30pm PT. Then the Cascadia Cup weekend party in Portland continues with the Timbers hosting the Sounders on Sunday at 1:45 pm PT.

Matchup Musings

This week, one match in particular jumps off the page as a potentially huge mismatch: NYRB at home against New England. The Revs have been dreadful this year, and worse than dreadful on the road. I'm planning to triple up on Red Bulls players, with Carlos Coronel (GK $6.6M), Emil Forsberg (MID $10.7M) and a defender, likely John Tolkin (DEF $6.1M). Yes, the Red Bulls did just concede six to Miami on the road. But the Red Bulls also shut out Miami at home (yes, Messi missed that match, but Gil is no Messi, especially this year). The Revs are last in the league for a reason, so I wouldn't let recency bias scare you away from the Red Bulls after last week.

The rest of the matchups are difficult to parse. Atlanta have the best home xG/90 in the Eastern Conference, but a big part of that was beating up on New England and the Fire. Their last three matches at home against Philly, Cincinnati, and Minnesota have not fared as well. DCU are no slouches this year, only losing once on the road. Charlotte hosting Nashville is a great matchup for Charlotte on paper, but Charlotte's star forward may or may not be heading out the door and Nashville have been vastly improved with Muktar regaining his MVP form from two years ago.

Miami are surely favorites this week, despite being on the road at Montreal. Montreal has continued to struggle after their long series of road games to start the year, and it is clear that relationships within the FO are frayed. This could be another lost year for Team Saputo, and you have to wonder what Montreal could have been if a competent owner had given Wilfred Nancy the kind of team and environment they have built in Columbus. I am not taking any Miami defenders (they're still vulnerable every week) but I am utilizing the Messi/Suarez buzzsaw.

I see four matchups of top teams squaring off: Toronto hosting NYCFC and Columbus hosting Cincinnati in the East, and the Galaxy hosting RSL and LAFC hosting Vancouver in the West. I am not convinced Toronto will actually end the season as a top four team in the East, but NYCFC has struggled on the road. At any rate, Bernardeschi is worth a look, which I'll detail below. For Cincy, it seems Lucho Acosta has picked up a knock (though not an achilles injury, as first feared) but he should be set to participate. Cincy has been good on the road this year, Acosta particularly so, and could manage an upset over the Crew. But this is a rivalry match and the Crew should be re-energized with a nice rest midweek. Picking Cucho is definitely on the table.

For the LA games, RSL and the Galaxy are tied for the lead in points this year. I could see the Galaxy building on their defensive success against Seattle and limiting RSL's chances, or I could see RSL leaving as victors after winning a 3-2 barnburner. I'm leaning towards the latter, though not strongly. Meanwhile, LAFC have the best home xGD in the league against Vancouver's league best road GD & xGD (Miami edges out LAFC in actual home GD). LAFC have done it with offense, while Vancouver have featured a stalwart road defense alongside a dangerous attack. Bouanga has been locked in at home, but if there was a defense to fade him against at home, it would probably be Vancouver.

A bad Dallas team hosts a (probably even worse) Austin team that's been stringing together impressive clean sheets. If Austing keep up their road form of bunkering for 90 minutes and hoping to potentially hit a counter, this could be a very boring grindy match. It is a rivalry match though, so I don't feel super confident saying that. San Jose may have turned the corner by beating LAFC at home, and they will likely give the Rapids a pretty tough time up there. Kansas City and St. Louis will be comfortable favorites at home, but I don't feel strongly enough about either matchup or any particular player in these matchups for fantasy purposes. Klauss is probably the one player I'd consider, but I don't trust him – his underlying numbers are very unremarkable and he's likely losing time to Sam Adeniran.

This leaves us with the Timbers vs. Sounders. As we all know, these rivalry games can get completely out of hand. There was a period from 2018 to 2022 where the road team won all but one match in regular season play (with that last one being a draw). Some of the most epic games of the Sounders history has been in this matchup, on that pitch. Some of the most epic games in the Timbers history have come under the same conditions. An entire galaxy of outcomes is possible.

What do the stats tell us, though? The first thing they tell us is that the Timbers are righteously bad. After two wins and a draw in their first three matches, they have gone winless, losing five games and managing three more draws. They have conceded at least two goals in every match of their last seven and have not kept a clean sheet this season. And they are vastly overperforming their xG (20 goals scored vs. 11.8 xG). I believe I pointed this out last week and then they were shut out by Charlotte, posting a measly 0.4 xG. The Sounders' two worst games by xG were 0.6 against Vancouver and 1.0 against Dallas. The Timbers have three games with 0.6 xG or lower, scoring six(!) goals in those matches (4 goals on 0.5 xG against the Rapids, 2 goals on 0.6 away at Columbus). sigh.

One contributing factor in the Timbers' recent run of form is that only two of their past nine matches were at home, so they will be looking to get back on track. Evander has been declared "fit" by Phil Neville, though it is not clear if he is actually healthy enough to start or even contribute significant minutes. The Timbers would get a big boost if he's back healthy, and I would not fault anyone wanting to take him in fantasy. There are almost always goals to be had in these matches. Personally, I am holding Rusnak and Morris as late players I can gamble on if my bench doesn't hit on Saturday.

Captain Considerations

  • Leo Messi (MIA FWD $13.5M). The obvious and boring answer, but it is likely the correct one. Yes, he is on the road all the way up in Montreal, but they are playing on grass and Messi has a goal or assist in every match this year. In fact, the only two games Messi did not score in was the season opener against RSL and the away leg in Monterrey (he did assist in both matches). He will certainly cool down eventually, but this is not necessarily the week that will happen.
  • Luis Suarez (MIA FWD $13.1M). You should definitely take Messi, but Suarez is tied with him for the league lead in goals. If Messi is feeding Suarez, Suarez gets 5 points for the goal and he has proven he can create his own and dish out some assists along the way, too.
  • Emil Forsberg (RBNY MID $10.7M). As noted above, the Red Bulls vs. New England matchup is (at least on paper) the biggest mismatch of the week. The Revs have tightened their defense lately, giving up 4 goals in their past five non-Messi matches, with two clean sheets in that span. But the Red Bulls are a much better team and strong at home. I think we're looking at a 3-0 win here, with Forsberg involved in two goals.
  • Federico Bernardeschi (TOR FWD $9.1M). The Toronto marvel scored two wonderful strikes from distance last week, in a performance that would have been plenty enough to earn POTW in most other weeks this season. But beyond those goals, Bernardeschi is running Toronto efficiently, with two assists and 11 bonus points in his past three matches, all wins. He's gone 90 in every match this season and is averaging 2.9 BP a match. Granted, he's somehow missed two penalties in the past three weeks (a 14-point swing), but he is stepping up with Insigne still out for the time being. NYCFC have only kept two clean sheets this year and now have to play away for the first time since March 30th. If it wasn't for Messi, Berna would be one of my captaincy finalists this week.

Bargain Bin

  • Maxime Crepeau (POR GK $4.9M). Even though I'm high on the Sounders this week, I am not stupid. If you want a bargain GK (who's cheap for good reason), betting against Seattle's weak attack makes a lot of sense.
  • Tim Melia (SKC GK $5.6M) or John Pulskamp (SKC GK $5.1M). As bad as the Seattle attack has been, the Houston Dynamo offense has been as bad or worse. They only have 8 total goals in their 9 games and have been shut out in their past three matches. A healthy and fit Hector Herrera might help get them on track, but betting against the Houston offense is a very reasonable play with Melia or Pulskamp at reasonable prices. I list both of them because I'm not sure who will be starting this weekend after Melia was out last weekend.
  • Zac McGraw (POR DEF $5.0M). Same reasoning as for Crepeau above, he's cheap and the Sounders attack is rough. McGraw also has reasonable BP potential.
  • Ema Twumasi (DAL DEF $5.1M). Another bet against a poor team, I think Austin's magic runs out this week and Dallas shuts them out, for a 1-0 win. Twumasi is a great entry for the Dallas defense.
  • Obed Vargas (SEA MID $6.4M). The best player in the attack for Seattle the past couple of weeks, he was rested midweek and may be settling into the RW/RM spot that Cristian Roldan has made his home the past couple of years. Alternatively, you could spend a bit more if you are a big believer in Leo Chu ($6.6M).
  • Matias Rojas (MIA MID $8.0M). I'd be cautious if he is not starting, but he played 45 minutes last week and scored two goals in that span. Signed very recently to help alleviate Miami's injury crisis, he's a Paraguayan midfielder who could be a key player for Miami going forward since Diego Gomez is out at least another month. If Rojas starts, I like him better than any other midfield option for Miami.
  • Prince Owusu (TOR FWD $7.3M). Owusu just had his first down week after a string of four goals in three matches, but he's still statistically the most likely goalscorer for Toronto. Very goal-reliant for fantasy output, he's probably the best option in this price range.

Good luck this week, everyone!