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MLS Fantasy Week 18: Storm Watch

With an actual double-game week upon us, we'll be storm watching Wednesday night for big points and potential chaos if Texas is hit with thunderstorms.

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Sounder at Heart fantasy soccer logo.

Another Double Game Week is now up, with more to come. Week 18 closes out the third Fantasy Champions League qualifier, with one more to go starting next week. If you're in the running for this one, good luck! If not, then hopefully you can make some moves this week and move up in the overall rankings with all the potential points on the board. Two things up top that I expand on below: watch out for players on yellow card warning (big ones: Benteke, Espinoza, Gomez)–they'll probably be fine but could ruin your week–and watch out for thunderstorms in Texas that could lead to postponements, particularly in Austin (vs LAFC) and Houston (vs Seattle).

Week 18 Schedule

Single game weeks: Miami, Vancouver, New England, Chicago

If you want to lock in a "DNP" early, go for Miami – they start early tonight. If you want to hold the spot for potential changes, then you'll want Vancouver – their only match is in the latest time slot of the week.

Home & Home: Cincinnati, DC United, St. Louis

Cincy: vs Philly, vs New England

On paper, these seem like great games for Cincy. Philly has had a poor year and New England has been having about as bad of one as it gets. On the other hand, Philly has not lost a match on the road this year (3 wins, 5 draws) and New England has suddenly won three straight! Plus, Cincy is missing both Miles Robinson (called up) and Matt Miazga (injured).

The only fantasy relevant player on Cincy anyway is Luciano Acosta ($16.0m), who has 156 points. The next highest is Yuya Kubo at 74, and 16 of Kubo's points came last week against San Jose, when he scored a hat trick off the bench (Acosta had 3 assists). I'm captaining Acosta and skipping everyone else.

DC United: vs Atlanta, vs Houston

DCU's upcoming two opponents just played last weekend to a 2-2 draw in Atlanta. Houston scored the first goal five minutes in, Atlanta came back and made it 2-1 around midway through the match, then gave up a backbreaking equalizer in the 89th minute. Atlanta can score goals even without Giakoumakis, but they aren't elite and their transition defending is especially poor. Houston started the year as one of the best defensive teams in the league, but they have cooled lately. Houston has given up multiple goals to Atlanta, Portland and the Galaxy on the road and haven't had a clean sheet since May 4th, which was their only clean sheet since the end of March.

So, I think DC can score. Can their defense hold the line? Maybe not, they actually have conceded more goals than the Fire and their xGA agrees with that assessment. They're also winless in six matches (2 draws, 4 losses). Plenty of warning signs here.

St. Louis: vs Colorado, vs Atlanta

St. Louis are also winless in six (again, 2 draws, 4 losses), so will be hoping to figure some things out this week. I don't have particularly high confidence in them. They get a boost from being at home for both games, but Colorado is a tough matchup and Atlanta did beat Miami on the road a couple of weeks ago. I wouldn't bet too highly on St. Louis, especially with Tim Parker suspended for tonight.

Away & Away: Atlanta, NYCFC

Atlanta: at DC, at STL

Atlanta has the misfortune to be playing two of the teams having two home games this week. Both of them were on the road this past Saturday and lost, so it probably all balances out in the end, but it isn't ideal for a DGW in fantasy. Atlanta might come out of these games just fine, or they might take a beating and lose both matches by multiple goals. It is tough to say for a team in transition from an old coach and which just sold one of their stars to Mexico. That kind of uncertainty is not something I desire when choosing fantasy players.

NYCFC: at Galaxy, at Nashville

On the other side, NYCFC are a strong squad that were barely beat by the CCC finalists as NYCFC played down a man for the majority of the match. It snapped NYCFC's winning streak, but I would still consider them a dangerous squad on the road. The Galaxy gave up two goals to SKC at home, while Nashville allowed NE to score twice in their last home match. I'm almost never going to recommend a defender playing away twice, but I am happy to recommend a dynamic attacking threat like Santiago Rodriguez ($12.4m) who continues his strong run of form. Wolf unfortunately had a down week (you should probably skip him when I recommend him) but I will be covering Alonso Martinez ($7.0m) as a bargain forward option below.

Home & Away: The rest! I'll highlight some teams I am particularly interested in.

Charlotte: vs Orlando, at Philly

I am mostly interested in Charlotte's defense. They remain a league leader in defense, allowing the fewest goals per match (1.0 per game, tied with the Crew) and holding a top two xGA per match. Orlando has scored the second fewest goals in the league, and Philly still has not won at home since March 30th. Things seem to be getting ugly in Philly, with Kai Wagner outright calling for the FO to get better players after their recent home loss to Miami. With Gazdag at the Euros and Carranza on his way out (if not out already), I don't see things getting much better for the Union. Charlotte probably has the best CS chances of anyone this round, in my estimation. I've got Kristijan Kahlina (GK $7.5m) and Adilson Malanda (DEF $8.6m) and I think a lot of other people will, too.

NYRB: at Montreal, vs Toronto

A very manageable schedule here: Montreal has tightened up their play recently but don't seem to actually be winning games (one win in their past 10, but four unbeaten) and Toronto similarly only has one win in their past seven games. NYRB will still be without Morgan, and Forsberg is questionable after missing the last match, so I am not really excited about the offense here. DP Dante Vanezir has 1 goal 0 assists in his past 11 matches, and if you exclude his crazy 4-assist (three to Morgan) match back in March, he only has 2G, 2A on the year. Maybe he's snakebitten (he had a full 1.0 xG this past match against Nashville) or maybe he just isn't that good. If Forsberg is starting tonight in Montreal, I think he's a good option, but he might still be on limited minutes.

In NYRB's defense, John "I don't believe in gravity or trans rights" Tolkin has had two very good fantasy games in a row, with a goal and CS three weeks ago against Orlando and a CS against Nashville, with 3 BPs each outing. I'm a little hesitant to endorse him though (even ignoring his shitty beliefs) because his 26 points these past two games is basically half of his entire fantasy point output for the season (54 pts). He's not a goalscorer – he has 0.2 xG on the season – and he has yet to register an assist. He's probably due for an assist (he's got 1.8 xG on the season) but that depends more on the goal scorers than Tolkin himself. Tolkin has been splitting corner kicks with Forsberg all year (36 for Tolkin, 23 for Forsberg), but that has not translated into many fantasy points before week 15 (just 6 BPs weeks 1-13). Still, in Tolkin's past four matches he has 9 BPs from KPs and crosses. If you want in on the NYRB defense, he's probably got the highest upside.

Columbus: at Miami, vs SKC

Columbus just got a win at Yankee Stadium, successfully taking advantage of an early NYCFC red card to get three road points. They'll try to do the same against a Miami team missing its biggest stars and missing two key players to red card suspension: Aviles and Ruiz. Then, hosting SKC is about as good a matchup for the offense as you'll get. SKC's 36 goals conceded in 18 games (a cool 2.0 GPG) is second worst in the league.

Cucho Hernandez ($11.3m) has dealt with injuries and discipline this year, but this is a very enticing week for him to return to your lineup, assuming he goes 60+ minutes in both games. That's not necessarily a given, but with CCC in the rear view, I would bet Nancy leans on Cucho to lead the attack.

I am not expecting too much from Columbus's defenders, as both Miami and SKC are still very dangerous in attack, but few teams have better matchups. If you want a CLB defender, maybe Rudy Camacho ($8.2m)? In his past 5 games he's averaging 2 BP a game. I might recommend Mo Farsi, who's playing wingback and just scored and had an assist in his previous start, but it seems he's been rotated in and out all year so I'm not confident he starts both games. Sean Zawadski has been playing as a midfielder, but he hasn't managed very many BP and also has been in and out of the lineup. So maybe just go with Camacho and his boring passing volume BPs?

LAFC: at Austin, vs San Jose

Probably the best team in the league at the moment, LAFC have not put a foot wrong in weeks. They did allow a goal to Orlando that besmirched their clean sheet streak, but it was still a win. Denis Bouanga ($15.4m) has 6 goals (including 2 PKs) and 4 assists in his past six games, and Mateusz Bogusz ($11.7m) has 4 goals and 2 assists in that span. Those are the two you want from the offense. On defense, Aaron Long ($9.1) remains your best option as an every-match starter and BP generator. Palencia is the other every-match starter, while Campos, Murillo, Hollingshead and Chanot continue to rotate depending on availability and rest concerns.

Seattle: at Houston, vs Dallas

I think these matchups line up very nicely for Seattle. As I mentioned above, Houston's defense has fallen off, plus Dallas has the third-fewest points in the league for good reason. Also, Seattle's attack is set to be much more dynamic with Raul Ruidiaz moved (back) to a bench role. Going back to 2017, Seattle is 12-2-0 (!!) vs the Dynamo in all competitions and going back to 2019 Seattle is 5-2-4 against Dallas. That kind of track record is no guarantee of future success, and of course I am a huge homer, but I still think this is a very good opportunity for Seattle to have a 6-point week.

Jordan Morris ($8.8m) rewarded me with a goal last week, and I'm looking forward to more of the same. Morris has four goals in his past five games, going back to May 18. The list of players who have more than four non-penalty goals in that span: none. Yes, as far as I can tell, a bunch of players have four npG since May 18, but none have more. A couple of players have more if you add PKs (Gauld, Arango) and a couple more have more goals in their past five games (Bouanga including PKs, Bernardeschi), but no one has been a better goalscorer from the run of play in that span.

I also like Jackson Ragen ($7.9) to hold down the defense. Scoring very slightly better than Yeimar, but those points add up and he's only barely more expensive. I'm not as certain about other Sounders options. Albert Rusnak had 8 points last week with his assist to Morris, but his BPs are still kind of low for someone who is supposed to be the primary creator. Joao Paulo is not someone I've recommended in the past, but he had over 100 passes against Minnesota and got bonus points for KPs and fouls suffered, good for an 8-point night without a goal contribution. Assuming JP starts both matches, he could be a nice mid-budget option to ensure you get some points.

Real Salt Lake: at SKC, vs Galaxy

Another good team with very enticing matchups. SKC has a very poor defense and the Galaxy's defense has been leaky as well. The last these teams met was also in Carson, a 2-2 draw back in May with a brace from Cristian Arango ($15.7m). The Galaxy have only kept one clean sheet since then. The Galaxy's firepower has been winning them games, not their defense. And if you're in on Arango, it probably makes sense to take Carlos Gomez ($11.9m) for your midfield. His 6.71 average fantasy ppg is 15th in the league, and that includes two games where he was limited to 34 minutes against St. Louis and 45 minutes against Austin. Don't fall into the Diego Luna trap – he has mostly turned back into a fantasy pumpkin (last three scores: 3, 5, 3). Braian Ojeda might be interesting, though.

LA Galaxy: vs NYCFC, at RSL

I spoke about the Galaxy above in their opponents' sections, but to dive a little deeper on Galaxy players, the first thing to know is that Puig is out for tonight. We do not know if he'll be able to play the weekend, but I would sit him out of your lineups. I apologize for recommending him for captain last week, his unavailability came as a surprise late on Friday and even then he was just considered questionable. We'll see how long he's out. In his absence, Gabriel Pec ($11.4m) and Dejan Joveljic ($10.9m) held down the fort, earning 1G/2A and 1G/1A, respectively, against SKC. Pec had a massive 17-point night with his bonus points. Plus, Joseph Paintsil returned and played 25 minutes with a goal of his own. I don't think the defenders are worthwhile, considering the schedule, but Pec and Joveljic are still great options.

Yellow Card Warnings

One big thing to keep in mind this week is players on yellow card warnings. If you take these players, you're running the risk of only getting a single match from them for the week. Here's a list of some players of particular concern: Brooks Lennon, Thiago Almada, Kerwin Vargas, Paul Arriola, Asier Illaramendi, Christian Benteke, Joseph Paintsil, Wil Trapp, Ariel Lassiter, Frankie Amaya, Kamal Miller, Brayan Vera, Carlos Gomez, Alex Katranis, Emeka Eneli, Cristian Espinoza, Tomas Totland, Jonathan Osorio.

Captain Considerations

  • Luciano Acosta ($16.0m) - Yes, he's expensive, but just watch his performance late against San Jose and his ridiculous assists (scroll down to 2. to see the clip Matt Doyle put together here) to see his value. He's got two home matches and presumably a weakened defense behind him with Cincy's top two CBs out, so he'll have to carry the team.
  • Cristian Arango ($15.7m) - He had a bit of an off week, but an off week for Arango is still 6 pts with his bonus point scores. Excellent matchups, too. His ceiling is just as high as Acosta's.
  • Denis Bouanga ($15.4m) - Great matchups for LAFC, too. The third of the S-Tier options this week. If you think LAFC's dominance will continue, it might as well be Bouanga who leads them there. As high a ceiling as any others, though his floor is lower.
  • Cucho Hernandez ($11.3m) - He hasn't had as good a year as some of these other options, but the capability is clearly there, and his games this week are setting up for a big haul.
  • Jordan Morris ($8.8m) - Jordan has not had as successful a year as any of these other guys, but he still has 4 goals in his past 5 games and somehow has just one assist this year on 3.9 xA. With Seattle's matchups this week, I am betting he will have at least a goal and an assist. I may be getting ahead of myself, though.
  • I'd consider Cristian Espinoza (vs POR, at LAFC) but I am a little concerned about LAFC's defense and Espinoza getting suspended for yellow card accumulation, and I'm concerned about the same for Benteke (plus he's still having very polarizing games). Santi Rodriguez is another consideration, but I'm not a big fan of players playing away, especially for the captaincy.

Bargain Bin

  • Alex Bono (DC GK $4.3m) - He's super cheap and a starter. Of course, he's cheap for a reason (DC's defense is bad often) but he does have two home games. I'm picking elsewhere, but if you just want a cheap GK so you can spend elsewhere, Bono is a good selection.
  • Rafael Santos (ORL DEF $4.2m) - Santos was a starter through the first six weeks or so and has returned to starting the past two weeks after a bunch of sub appearances. Those sub appearances drove his price way down. I don't know enough about Orlando's defense to know if he'll start these next two as well, but he could be a cheap fill-in that at least goes 90 in one of the matches this week. Orlando is at Charlotte and home vs Chicago, which has some risks but are not the worst matchups of the week for defenses.
  • DeAndre Yedlin (CIN DEF $5.8m) - He should be starting both home games for Cincy, on possibly the league's best defense, against two weak teams. Cincy will be weakened themselves, so I can't endorse him 100%, but he's a reasonably priced option to try to capture Cincy's potential clean sheets.
  • Omir Fernandez (COL MID $6.5m) - I recommended him last week and he had an assist, clean sheet, and 2 BPs from 8 KPs. He's still an excellent budget option.
  • Reed Baker-Whiting (SEA MID $4.1m) - I am not certain Reed will start both matches, but he look set to start against Houston and I would assume if his fitness is OK that he'll get extended minutes against Dallas. Alex Roldan is out on concussion protocol and it would make sense to let Reed start as Alex recovers. That said, even if Reed only starts one game, I think he has as high upside of any player that's basically at a minimum salary. It would be totally reasonable to put on your bench to swap in if he does end up having a great game in Houston.
  • Alonso Martinez (NYCFC FWD $7.0m) - He had an assist in his 56 minutes against the Crew, while down a man. He had a hat trick a week earlier off the bench. His xG/90 is at a very nice 0.69. Sample size and all (he's logged just over 450 minutes), but that would put him fourth in the league for npxG/90. He's likely due for more minutes and his price will probably skyrocket if his recent form is an indication. Two away games this week is not ideal, but then again, neither is looking for bargain forwards!
  • Anderson Julio (RSL FWD $7.0m) - Same price as Martinez and does play a home game. He's had four goals of his own over the past five weeks, plus an assist. But he's been in and out of the lineup all year and only played more than 76 minutes in one of his starts (83 minutes). Of course, two of those recent goals (plus an assist) were off the bench. He could easily be a flop, but starting up top with Arango working beneath him means he should get opportunities to score.

Odds & Ends

I'll wrap up this (overly long) article here, but wanted to leave you with a couple of things:

  • There's a tropical storm approaching Mexico today, which is expected to bring heavy rainfall and thunderstorms to parts of Texas. The exact storm track will determine which parts of the state are affected and how severely, but regardless the Texas games will likely be wet. This affects Austin hosting LAFC, Dallas hosting Minnesota, and of course Houston hosting the Sounders. It's impossible to tell just yet what the impacts will be, but it is something to watch closely as kickoff times draw near. If games are postponed or abandoned, I would expect those players to initially lock at the scheduled kickoff time and then unlock tomorrow to make changes (you'd be stuck picking between Saturday-only players, which might be just fine). It may be a good idea to avoid players playing in Texas to ensure that this serious weather is not a major factor in your fantasy week.
  • For your reference, here's the "Matchday 21" player status report. It is pretty extensive, but it is not exhaustive. Some players were called up who aren't on the report and some players are suspended who aren't on the report. You can follow links from that page over to the disciplinary report and a list of call-ups, but neither page is fully accurate. For example, the disciplinary report lists Arango as being on YCW but he has had his yellow card count reduced for good behavior, so he is two yellows away from a suspension, not one. That page also has an HTML glitch that has been there for weeks that they haven't bothered to fix. The call-up list also doesn't say who is still gone with their international squads and who has returned and is missing some call-ups (like Jon Bell). They're helpful resources, but don't take them as gospel.

Good luck this week!