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MLS Fantasy Week 13: Prognosticating a big double-game week

A huge opportunity to rack up points with some smart picks.

Last Updated
14 min read

I hope everyone has their crystal balls ready, because this double game week is the most important week of the season so far. We have our first true DGW, with all but four teams playing twice. This includes superstars Leo Messi and Luis Suarez, Chicho Arango and Lucho Acosta. The only player in the top 10 who has a single match this week is Denis Bouanga.

On top of the match congestion, we have a host of injuries and availability issues that could punish unlucky or unaware fantasy managers. Here's the link to the availability report for your perusal: MLS Player Status Report (Matchday 14)

The headline is that Messi is questionable with a knee issue of unclear severity, which I get into below. Captain candidates Chicho Arango and Lucho Acosta are on a yellow card warning, so if they get a yellow tonight they are out for Saturday. There were some suspensions handed out from the TFC/NYCFC post-match fight on Saturday. And of course, all the "regular" potential rotation in lineups with managers trying to keep their team healthy and rested for the most important matchups.

As we peer into the crystal ball together, remember that this is the start of a new Fantasy Champions League qualifying period. If you've missed out on the 100 spots handed out so far, the slate starts fresh for Weeks 13-18. Good luck!

Week 13 Thoughts

Bye: None
Single-Game Week: LAFC, FCD, NE, SKC

I can't recommend anyone from any of the teams with just a single game this week – just stay away. Though, if you want a scrub player, FCD has a handful of $4M players that are safe scrubs (GK Carrera, DEF Mulato, and MID Urzua). FCD's lineup locks as late as possible in the week, so you can pivot if something disastrous happens on your bench.

Rather than go into every team's matchups and schedule, I'll highlight some teams of interest:

  • Two home matches: RSL, Cincinnati, Nashville, Minnesota, Chicago, Austin

RSL host the Sounders and Colorado. RSL has some injury concerns, with both their starting outside backs questionable, so they could struggle to keep a clean sheet. On the other hand, Seattle is missing more key players and is likely to rotate on top of the absences. Colorado have gone 3-2-2 on the road and have only been shut out once on the season, most pertinently beating RSL at Rio Tinto 2-1 back in March. I'm waving the green flag for RSL attackers (Arango and Carlos Gomez in particular) but a yellow flag for their defenders given the absences and matchups.

Cincinnati is proving to be one of the strongest squads in the league, with a balanced offense and stout defense. I particularly like them against Atlanta and St. Louis. Atlanta has proven to be a very bad team on the road (and also a bad team at home, recently). St. Louis only has one loss on the season, but are still only three points ahead of Seattle (with a game in hand), having drawn 7 matches. Cincy has won four in a row and seem likely to make it five or six. Anyone from Cincy is on the table.

Nashville are not a great team, sitting 13th in the East with a -5 GD. But they are a better team at home, earning 10 of their 11 points there with a +3 home GD. Toronto visits midweek and will be missing Federico Bernardeschi to a red card. They are likely also missing Sean Johnson, Prince Owusu and coach John Herdman due to their part in the post-game melee after their match against NYCFC on Saturday. The suspensions have not yet been officially announced by the league, and Owusu can appeal his suspension as it is reportedly for two matches. (side note: according to the report, Richie Laryea, who is still recovering from a hamstring injury, managed to earn himself the longest suspension of any player involved.) Toronto got 15 minutes from their other DP star, Lorenzo Insigne, this weekend, but the two players driving their attack recently have been Bernardeschi and Owusu. If they are out, Nashville's defense will be heavily favored in this matchup. Nashville's second visitor is Atlanta, who, as stated, is not good on the road. Nashville players should be high on your list.

Minnesota host the Galaxy and the Timbers. The Galaxy still have only managed to shut out Seattle and the Timbers remain woeful. On the flip side, both the visitors have strong attacks, especially if Evander is healthy enough. I'd love to enthusiastically recommend Minnesota's forwards, but coach Eric Ramsay has been proactive about rotation at forward. The past two matches Tani Oluwaseyi has started for DP Teemu Pukki. Oluwaseyi scored goals in each match, his third in three games, and then was subbed out just after the 60th minute in both. It's anyone's guess how Ramsay will deploy Pukki, Oluwaseyi, Sang Bin Jeong (started this weekend), and Bongokuhle Hlongwane (a pair of starts in April and came on at halftime two matches ago) given the match congestion.

I can recommend midfield engine Robin Lod (MID $11.4M), who was on a 4-game assist streak before he was pulled at halftime this past weekend against Atlanta with a slight knock. He did not appear on the matchday status report so is seemingly good to go. Lod has been an 80+ minute player for Minnesota lately, the two exceptions being his precautionary sub this weekend and a 75th minute curtain call after his goal and two assists had Minnesota up 3-0 on Charlotte.

Austin is an enigma to me. They have played four of their past five on the road, keeping three clean sheets in that stretch. Their home clean sheet in the middle of this run against the Galaxy was somewhat baffling, as they have shipped 10 goals in their other five home matches. Whether this is a team adjustment or a lucky run of form remains to be seen. Houston enters with the second worst attack in the league (worst by xG). SKC has lost four of their past five. Austin's underlying xG is the second-worst in the league, but they are 4-2-1 in their past seven matches. Their xGD in that seven-match span is -1.5 but their actual GD is +3, with them over-performing on both sides of the ball. I've got no idea whether Austin are contenders or pretenders.

  • Two away matches: Vancouver, Columbus, NYRB, Atlanta, Galaxy

I am not particularly interested in most players from these squads. The Crew have two juicy matchups against Montreal and Chicago, but they have not won an MLS match since March 16th (2 losses, 5 draws). They are still quite good – their performance in Monterrey proved how dangerous they can be – but their performance in league matches has left a lot to be desired. They could haul in points in these games, so Cucho (FWD $10.8M) may be a good bet. I like other forward options better this week, though, and don't particularly like the midfield options.

The only other player from these teams I would be interested in is Riqui Puig (LAG MID $13.4M). His floor on the road has been 5 points, so you should be guaranteed a minimum of 10 points from him. He just racks up the bonus points. Plus, his best performances have been on the road (aside from this past weekend). I am a little leery of the matchups though; his good performances were against SJE, NSH, and SKC. Minnesota and Charlotte are significantly better defensive teams.

  • Miami (Messi)

Yes, they (he) get(s) their (his) own section. Miami has blasted an incredible 35 goals this year, as many as Cincy and NYRB (2nd and 3rd in the East) combined. Miami is on pace to break the Galaxy's 1998 record for goals scored (87), even on a goals-per-game basis. Miami has a rivalry match on the road to Orlando and then host DC United on Saturday. The wrinkle this week is Messi has been declared Questionable with a knee injury. This was apparently the result of a foul in the 40th minute against Montreal, but he was able to finish that match.

Messi a doubt for Orlando game with injury knock
Lionel Messi will be evaluated ahead of Inter Mimai’s clash with Orlando City on Wednesday after suffering a minor knee injury, assistant coach Javier Morales said.

So, what do we do with Messi if he doesn't start? If he is declared out? Well, even with his 4-point match against Montreal, Messi is averaging 14.11 points per game this year. That's more than double all but eight other players (four forwards) (minimum of 5 matches). Even if you drop his "outlier" insane 1G 5A match, he's still at 12.38 points per match, doubling all but 18 other players (seven forwards). The list of seven forwards, in order by PPG: Benteke, Arango, Suarez, Bouanga, Joveljic, Giakoumakis and Cucho. Just missing the cut is Joao Klauss, at 6 ppg, though he's scored 33 of his 66 points in the past three weeks.

If Messi is out, and you are happy with three of those players (or three you think will score like them), you can probably drop Messi this week. But if Messi is on the bench? I think he's still a great play, as even with a light score against Orlando he's been doubling up almost everyone else with his single game scores.

Edit: I'm now seeing Tom Bogert report that Messi will not travel tonight. In that case, I think Messi is still a reasonable bench play.

As for the rest of Miami, Luis Suarez (FWD $13.6M) is still a dynamite pick. He had a couple of blanks while Messi was missing earlier this year, but that went along with his own injury troubles (and Miami's overall injury troubles) and he still performed adequately for any other striker, scoring 4 goals. Neither DC nor Orlando have particularly imposing defenses, so the matchups are reasonable. Obviously, Suarez gets a boost the healthier Messi is, but he's still a top option regardless.

The big recent addition to Miami has been Matias Rojas (MID $8.5M), who I highlighted last week. Rojas was eased in with 15 minutes against the Revolution two weeks ago, then scored two slick goals with 45 minutes in the second half of Miami's 6-2 rout of NYRB, and he had a masterful free kick goal plus an assist in a 71 minute performance at Montreal. Is he the midfield creator that Miami has sought to unlock Messi and Suarez with impunity? Maybe! Possibly! Could be "beginner's luck," but who knows. He's 28 and has not been a particularly prolific goal scorer or creator elsewhere (he was available on a free from Corinthians). But he could turn out to be a premium midfielder at a huge discount price.

  • Seattle

If Miami gets their own section, Seattle is definitely going to get one. This is a bit of weird week due to match congestion and Seattle's ongoing hurricane of injuries and issues. Nouhou is out on Wednesday for yellow card accumulation; Atencio and Nathan are out for hamstring and quad, respectively; Yeimar is still returning from his own quad injury, then Ruidiaz and Vargas popped up on the injury report as questionable with foot/calf issues. In light of all these issues, this is Jeremiah's projected lineup against RSL:

It's looking like the only regular starters expected to start in both matches are Frei, Ragen, JP, and Rusnak. Possibly Alex, as well. With all this lineup uncertainty, the only three players I'd consider from Seattle are Frei ($6.7M), Ragen ($8.4M) or Rusnak ($8.4M). Leo Chu ($6.6M) could be a bargain option that feasts on RSL's defense, as that could be a wide-open match if RSL does end up missing both their starting outside backs. But, of course, it's up in the air whether he ends up starting both matches. You can likely find more reliable options out there in your budget. Side note: Georgi Minoungou is not available in fantasy even if you wanted to wade that deep into the weeds, since he is just on a short-term contract (plus, if he appears against RSL, he'd need to be signed to a full first team contract to feature against Vancouver).

Georgi Minoungou called up, could start vs. RSL
Midfielder picked up his first Sounders assist in the Open Cup.

If you want to take Frei or Ragen, it will have to be a bet on holding a clean sheet against Vancouver, and take what you can get away to RSL. Seattle has historically been very bad at RSL and Arango plus Gomez has been a deadly combination this year. Pair that with a heavily rotated lineup for Seattle, and the clean sheet chances aren't strong. Seattle looked decent against Vancouver a few weeks ago, up until the game-changing red to Ragen. I think a bet on a clean sheet in that game is very reasonable (maybe even probable), especially as a relatively healthy Seattle was able to stifle Galaxy's much better attack.

Taking Rusnak makes some sense as he is still Seattle's attacking midfield connector, and the only one of the front four seemingly set to start both matches. Plus, he will be back on familiar grounds (I'd guess he has more G+A in Salt Lake than in any other stadium). Rusnak had 7 points last week – an assist along with two BP – which seems very achievable in these matches. For the price, Rusnak is a reasonable pick.

Captain Considerations

  • Leo Messi ($14.0M). He should still be your pick if he is starting. If he is not starting but is on the bench, then you should still think long and hard about making him captain. In his one substitute appearance this year, he came on at halftime against Colorado and still put up 9 points, with a goal and 3 BP in those 45 minutes. Edit: As noted above, Tom Bogert is reporting that Messi will not travel tonight. I do not advise captaining Messi, but it could still work out.
  • Christian Benteke ($12.5M). I skipped the big man last week to my chagrin. This week he gets NYRB at home and then away at Miami. I'm not sure how the home match will go; NYRB has one clean sheet in the past seven matches. But Miami has a pretty weak defense that is just overshadowed by how explosive their offense has been (their last clean sheet was March 2nd). Since Benteke seems to have had an off week then an explosive week lately, I think he'll post multiple goals in at least one of these matches.
  • Chicho Arango ($13.7M) (YCW). Arango is the only player who seemingly has a shot of keeping anywhere near Messi's total fantasy production this year, largely because of his consistency and his penchant for loading up on bonus points. Seattle couldn't contain Benteke, and with the rotated lineup, seem unlikely to be able to fully contain Arango and Carlos Gomez. Arango did only manage 2 points against Colorado the last time the Rapids visited, but that was way back in week 3. Caution though, Arango is on yellow card warning and could miss Saturday's match if he's booked on Wednesday. Only give him the captain's band if you are supremely confident.
  • Lucho Acosta ($14.0M) (YCW). Acosta is the leading mid in the game and is on an incredible run of form, scoring a goal in each of his past four appearances, with four assists in his past six matches. And that's on top of a heap of bonus points recently. Things could get even better for Acosta and Cincy, as they are getting new 19-year-old loanee Kevin Kelsy (a Columbian on loan from Shakhtar Donetsk) integrated into the lineup. He's going to be occupying DP forward Aaron Boupendza's (out with a broken jaw) spot for the time being, and completely changed the game when he entered in the 67th minute against the Crew. Seven minutes later, Acosta assisted a Kelsy goal and Kelsy made a great play to open up Acosta to score the game winner two minutes later. Kelsy just became available in fantasy at $8.0M, a potential home run differential at forward if you are brave enough to bet on him. Caution on Acosta though, as he is also on yellow card warning and could miss the second match of the DGW.
  • Hany Mukhtar ($10.1M). Two great home matchups, and he had 9 and 14 points in his last two home matches. There's a lot of upside here, though not as much of a floor as some other options.
  • Cristian Espinoza ($12.3M). An away match at Portland (an attacker's paradise) and home against Orlando is a reasonable set of games. I think SJ is better than their record indicates. They are on a mini run of form, with a draw and two wins in their past three games (wins over LAFC and in Colorado). Their expensive new DP #10, Hernan Lopez, is already having a positive effect on their attack and should be a big benefit to Espinoza. If you can't afford Espinoza, but like SJ and their matchups, Lopez is $9.4M and could be another great differential.

Odds and Ends

  • Nicolas Freire (MIA DEF $7.4M) has been quietly putting together some impressive performances from a fantasy perspective. Though Miami hasn't sniffed a clean sheet lately, Freire has had 4, 4, 5, 4, and 4 point outings by amassing 14 BP in that time frame. How? He's averaging over 90 passes per match in these games and picking up some of the rare clearance BPs along the way. He's currently second in the league for passes per 90 of anyone with at least five full matches.
  • If you want a Houston defender, since they are at Austin and home against Dallas, consider Griffin Dorsey ($6.2M) over Micael dos Santos ($7.9M). Dorsey took a red card against Dallas in week 10, then came out last week with a chip on his shoulder against SKC. He put up 9 Key Plays, with 3 total BP and an assist. Micael is high priced largely as a result of his 10 BP in the first three weeks of the season. But he has nine BP in the seven matches since then, partially offset by two yellows in that stretch. I'm not sure if Dorsey's performance is sustainable, but he does have two other matches this season with a KP bonus.
  • Don't be surprised if RSL run a little GK rotation this week. They've started 19-year-old Gavin Beavers twice this year, apparently as a way to get the kid minutes as they see him as the future at the position. I think Zac MacMath probably goes both games, but Beavers did play against Colorado earlier this season. If you're trying to decide between MacMath and a different keeper, maybe go with the more reliable option.
  • I didn't mention him above, but Evander (POR MID $12.0M) is probably a good choice this week. Phil Neville knows his team is toast if he doesn't turn it around fast (especially when he's telling the media that players need to get their "fingers out of their butts" and that only 2 or 3 players were actually trying against Seattle), and Evander is really the only ace that Neville has to potentially get him out of this hole. The match against SJ could be a prime showcase of Evander's skills, but I am concerned that he is still not fully fit. If he's starting against SJ, you should strongly consider him for your lineup.
  • I don't really get why, but Kai Wagner (PHI DEF $9.2M) had 5 BP last week against Orlando. The team did not perform well defensively, but Wager has been heavily involved in the attack as of late. Since week 5, Wagner is averaging 6 points per match, despite only one clean sheet in that span and losing five points to goals against and a yellow card.

That's all for tonight from me. If you read all this, I appreciate you being a fantasy sicko with me!