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MLS Fantasy Week 14: The One Where Messi Stays Home

This could be a big week for separating yourself from the competition.

Last Updated
7 min read

In one of the strangest quirks I have seen in some time, the headline fantasy news this week comes from the Vancouver Whitecaps announcing that Leo Messi, Luis Suarez and Sergio Busquets are not traveling to Vancouver for this weekend's match. Setting aside the oddity of an opposing team announcing the unavailability of Miami's players, as well as the understandable (and hilarious) disappointment of thousands of fans for the sold-out match that the reason they bought tickets won't even be in the stadium, this sends a reverberation throughout fantasy rosters with two of the top-tier (and most expensive) options unavailable this week. We keep playing though, and will welcome Messi back for another DGW next week (hopefully?).

Week 14 schedule and thoughts

This week is another standard set of 7:30 pm local time kickoffs, though there is a more even split this week with seven early matches and four late matches, with three others sandwiched between them (including the Sounders at 5:30 pm PT).

Bye: New York Red Bulls

One interesting early match is Atlanta, perhaps on the brink of a coaching change and missing Giakoumakis and likely Almada, hosting LAFC, who have had very poor road results but seemingly strong road performances by xG. Denis Bouanga ($13.9m) finally scored on the road, with a pair of goals last week in St. Louis. Atlanta has lost three straight home games and are winless in their past eight. I could see this being a high-scoring match, but I am not sure which way the ball will roll. Atlanta is usually a quality team at home, but LAFC is far superior this year and Atlanta is missing key players. Another consideration is that LAFC played a lot of starters, including Bouanga, midweek in Open Cup. Honestly though, I might be too low on LAFC and high on Atlanta just because I want Gonzalo Pineda to turn it around and succeed.

Charlotte hosts the Union, with Charlotte on a very strong run of form because of a defense that has not allowed a goal in their past four matches. Kai Wagner ($9.7m) is worth a shout for Philly thanks to his consistent involvement in the attack and set pieces, and you can take your pick of Charlotte defenders if you expect their form to continue.

One lopsided matchup I am targeting is DC United hosting the Chicago Fire. The Fire have lost four in a row and five of their last six, and only one of their games in that span was on the road. Christian Benteke ($12.5m) was my captain and let me down last week, but I am prepared to be hurt again. I am also using DC's defense as early bench plays, with Alex Bono ($5.1m) as my bench GK and Aaron Herrera ($7.2m) at DEF.

Another potential mismatch is Nashville at Montreal. Though Nashville just fired their coach, they are still 2-1-2 in their past five, and Montreal have given up 3+ goals in each of their past four matches. Hany Mukhtar and Sam Surridge are good bench considerations in case Montreal continues being this bad.

I think the Sounders win 2-0 in St. Louis, with a strong defense giving the offense time to find the chances they need, especially with more minutes from PDLV. I've had Jackson Ragen ($8.2m) in my lineup at times, though I have shuffled him out now that Vancouver doesn't have to face Messi, Suarez or Busquets. I will admit I am a major homer, though. If St. Louis have a strong performance from Lowen, who's still getting his legs back under him, it could easily swing the other way.

Speaking of which, I think Vancouver are close to a lock for a clean sheet as I have very little confidence in Miami doing anything productive after such long travel, on turf, without their best players, with two games coming up in the week ahead. I would not be surprised if they rotate even more pieces if they can, despite playing in front of a packed house. I've got Yohei Takaoka ($7.6m), Ranko Veselinovic ($9.6m) and Ryan Gauld ($11.7m) ready to roll in the evening matches.

The Galaxy host Houston, who have the worst offense in the league by xG and the worst in the West by goals scored. Though the Galaxy are winless in their past five matches, they have a pair of 0-0 draws in there, indicating their defense is maybe turning it around a bit (though still worst in the West by xGA). Right now I've penciled in Maya Yoshida ($9.9m) and Dejan Joveljic ($10.5m), with Riqui Puig ($13.9m) in ink. I'll scrub Joveljic if Mukhtar does well on the bench and Yoshida if both my bench defenders work out.

The evening is rounded out by the Timbers hosting SKC and San Jose hosting Austin. I am finally adding Evander ($12.5m) to my team, begrudgingly, as I've lost too many ranks solely because I wanted to speculate on anyone else besides him. William Yarbrough ($4.4m) is an interesting GK play given Austin's inability to generate any offense on the road, and who I was going to go with before I knew Messi was staying home to be a family man. I am not particularly interested in anyone else from these matches, though I can understand if you want to take Rodriguez ($9.7m) from Portland as a nightcap and potential late scrub for your bench.

Captain Considerations

  • Christian Benteke ($12.5m) - I outlined my reasons above; basically he's still an incredibly good striker against one of the worst defenses in the league. He let me down last week but I am ready for him to make up for it this week (that's how it works, right?)
  • Luciano Acosta ($14.5m) - I messed up last week by not capping him as he continued his MVP-caliber season. Going back to Week 9 he's had double-digit fantasy points in every match except one, when he had 9 points in Orlando. Acosta is more or less matchup-proof. Going to Toronto will be a tough game but I am sure Acosta will be up for it.
  • Riqui Puig ($13.9m) - Puig had a staggering 150 passes in Charlotte, as the Galaxy held possession but could not break through Charlotte's defense. I expect more of the same from Puig against Houston, only with some goal contributions.
  • Rafael Navarro (COL FWD $9.9m) - Navarro has strung together four matches in a row with goals, and has 7 goals and 1 assist in his past eight matches. This week Minnesota is visiting Colorado with key CB Miguel Tapias suspended for a red card. Navarro is my wild-card captain option this week with forward selection much more open since Messi and Suarez aren't available.
  • Cristian Arango ($14.2m) - He had 15 points on the road against the Galaxy, 19 against the Fire, 9 against Minnesota and 11 in St. Louis. Three other road matches were 4, 5 and 6 pointers. Arango has been incredible this season home and away. This week he's in Dallas, who has an above-average defense, which is why I'm not as high on him this week. But he's leading the golden boot race for good reason.

Bargain Bin

  • William Yarbrough (SJ GK $4.4m) - Austin has not scored a goal outside of Texas this year. The Earthquakes do not have a good defense, but they looked headed towards a shutout against Portland before they were given a horrible handball PK/red call that PRO later said was incorrect. They weren't great against Orlando, but Austin is a much worse team offensively. High risk, high reward option. SJ's defenders are all very low priced as well, if you want to double down.
  • Lucas Bartlett (DCU DEF $5.3m) - Aaron Herrera is the more popular pick from DC, as he has three assists and 15 BP through the year, but Bartlett has been comparable lately: 6 BP in his past 6 matches vs. 8 BP for Herrera in that same span. Bartlett scored against NYRB and Herrera had an assist against the Sounders. If you have the budget, Herrera makes sense as having higher upside, but over their past 5-6 matches they have been more or less scoring the same.
  • Noah Cobb (ATL DEF $4.5m) - A starter for Atlanta, with a couple of games with some BPs. Purely an option for clean-sheet chasing, if you think Atlanta is up for blanking LAFC, with the potential for a price rise if he does well enough.
  • Diego Fagundez (LAG MID $6.3m) - Thrust back into the starting lineup with Paintsil out with a hamstring injury, Fagundez responded with 12 Key Plays (3 BP), plus BPs for passes and crosses against Charlotte. He also had a goal off the bench against Minnesota. I would expect he will start again (though make sure to check!) and could be a great way to join in on the Galaxy's attack without breaking the bank.
  • Hannes Wolf (NYC MID $7.8m) - Wolf is finally finding the payoff from his dangerous play earlier in the season, and seems likely to soon exit the "bargain" in category. In his past five starts his points have been: 9, 2, 10, 9, 10. This week he's on the road in New England. Definitely should be on your radar.
  • Diego Rossi (CLB FWD $7.6m) - Rossi has stepped up with Cucho sidelined the past couple of games with a back issue. This weekend's match in Orlando is Columbus's last match before the CCC final, and with a week to prepare I expect they will not take it easy. And he's in the early match, so you can park him on the bench to see if he ends up working out.
  • Sunusi Ibrahim (MTL FWD $4.0m) or Jules-Anthony Vilsaint (MTL FWD $5.9m) - Ibrahim started both matches for Montreal in Week 13 and scored a goal against Toronto. Vilsaint started a week prior against Miami and had a goal and an assist in that match and started against Toronto and had a pair of BPs. Ibrahim is due a price rise if he starts again and could be a masterful bench play if he does work out, freeing up a ton of salary elsewhere on your roster. Vilsaint has a slightly better track record (though still thin), but either are fine bench plays to stash and hope they do well if they start.

Looking Ahead

No need to worry about next week just yet, given that we can remake our whole squad weekly, but it is something to keep in mind for matches this weekend. We could see some surprise rotations, especially for road teams, since 23 of the clubs playing this weekend have two matches next week. The teams that only have one game next week are: NYCFC, SJ, Seattle, NE, and St. Louis. For everyone else, be on the lookout for potential early rotations to keep the important legs fresh.

Happy No Messi week to everyone! Good luck out there.