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MLS Fantasy Week 17: Back to our regularly scheduled programming

Back to a normal week, but with some important players still missing due to international duty, Messi included. How will we navigate it this time?

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8 min read
Sounder at Heart fantasy soccer logo.

I hope everyone had fun with last week's odd format – I sure did! I managed to get 30th place for the week, mainly by sticking by Gil as my captain, which paid off. Now we're back to a (mostly) regular schedule, though lineups will still be impacted by various call-ups. Another important week to check lineups, as even if players have returned from international duty, they may be eased back into starting this week since next week is another full double-game week.

Week 17 Schedule & Musings

Bye: Portland

The weekend kicks off with a Friday night game at Yankee Stadium, with NYCFC hosting the Crew. Saturday is a normal slate of matches from 4:30 pm to 7:30 pm PT, moving East to West. The Union host Miami in a match that will lack many of its stars, Atlanta gets their post-Pineda era started against Houston while also missing a bunch of their best players, the Revs host the Whitecaps just as both teams have won back-to-back games, Charlotte will try and make sure it is a Bad Benteke week, NYRB host Nashville maybe with or without Forsberg back in the lineup, Montreal will try to stop RSL from reaching 14 matches unbeaten, and Orlando will try to stop LAFC from winning six shutout matches in a row.

As the day continues, Dallas gets St. Louis at home, the Rapids host an Austin team whose fortunes may be catching up with them, the Galaxy get to do some barbecuing at home against SKC, Cincinnati tries to win their fifth in a row on the road against San Jose, and Seattle will try to right the ship against Minnesota.

Going quickly through some of the key games:

  • NYCFC will be without their best CB, Thiago Martins, but will be mostly full strength otherwise. Columbus had Patrick Schulte and Aidan Morris with the US U-23s, but both may be back for this game. Schulte played earlier this week though Morris was held out of the game, presumably to make sure he was not injured in a friendly as Middlesborough and the Crew work to complete his summer transfer. NYCFC is on a five-game winning streak and have won eight of their last nine! Santi Rodriguez ($11.9m) is the player to own from NYCFC, averaging 7.3 fantasy ppg in that win streak, but Hannes Wolf ($8.8m) is close, averaging 7.1 ppg in the eight matches he started in that span. Columbus will have something to prove after they quite literally pooped themselves down at the CCC Final. It should be a good matchup between top teams – I'm thinking it'll be a 1-1 or 2-2 draw.
  • Atlanta hosts Houston, who still have one of the best xGAs in the league and have allowed the fewest goals in the West. Atlanta will be missing Gregersen (injury), Giakoumakis (transfer rumors? idk), Lobjanidze and Slisz (Euro call-ups). While this means it'll be even more of Thiago Almada's show to run and teams often have a new manager bounce, I'm concerned that Atlanta's problems run much deeper than just Gonzalo Pineda and this does not look like a great matchup for Almada to take over. It might be worth putting Lennon and/or Almada on your bench to see how it goes, as I think there's a very wide range of potential outcomes for this game, but other players are probably more reliable this week.
  • I have very little faith in Montreal stopping RSL at this point. I'm very thankful Chicho Arango was rested in Seattle or else we could have witnessed his second hat-trick of the year. Instead, Austin had that honor! Montreal may also be missing key starters Choiniere, Lassiter and Piette to Copa America call ups. RSL are missing... no one? I'm not sure Arango will start three in a row in this upcoming week (midweek at SKC, then home vs. Galaxy) but if he starts two then I'd bet it's at Montreal coming off a bye week, then rest vs. SKC, then full-out against the Galaxy.
  • Benteke's scores since Week 8: 11, 2, 14, 2, 20, 5, 1, 0, 14, 2. That's five matches of 0-2 points and four with double-digit scores, including a hat-trick game. Two of the big scores were on the road. Good luck guessing which Benteke shows up this week! Charlotte is unexciting from a fantasy perspective, unless you want to take their defenders (in that case Malanda, though Privett is close if you need to save a bit of money).
  • The Revs have suddenly won two straight, though I have very little faith they will keep up this form. They won 2-1 in Nashville, but the xG was like 3.2 for Nashville and 0.7 for New England. They also lost the xG battle 0.9 vs. 1.1 against NYRB despite the Red Bulls missing their two best attackers. Maybe it's a bit of luck coming back their way, but I don't think Caleb Porter has suddenly figured out how to turn the squad around. Vancouver is 4-2-2 on the road, so they will likely play tough. I think Gil or Gauld are reasonable bench plays from the early games, depending on which way you see this one going.
  • Hany Mukhtar had two assists in Cincinnati and a goal back at home against the Revs in Week 15. NYRB shouldn't be as tough a matchup as Cincy, but I'm not sure I trust Mukhtar this week given other options. Forsberg is back from international duty but may or may not start (or even play). A high-risk option that could pay off.
  • Orlando is missing a whole bunch of players to call-ups this week, potentially six who have 11 or more starts for them this season. Meanwhile, LAFC is on a tear, winning five games in a row with shutouts. Orlando is not particularly good, and they seem like they should be worse missing so many key players. Logic dictates that LAFC continue their winning shutout streak. So... 3-0 Orlando win, then? Bouanga bombed (fantasy-wise) in their last away match, but they still dispatched Atlanta. Maybe Bouanga plus Bogusz and LAFC defenders are worth a bench slot if things go as expected.
  • Austin have lost two in a row, getting choked out of the game 2-0 against Portland and then mauled by Arango and company at RSL. Is this a sign their horrible underlying statistics are coming home to roost? Looks like it to me. Colorado seem like great picks this week, especially Djordie Mihailovic ($10.8m). After starting the season at a snail's pace (scores of 1, 2, 2, 1, 3), Mihailovic has averaged 8.6 ppg in his past six games and 8.1 ppg going back to his week 6 breakout game where he had 2G, 1A. I've been sleeping on him this season, but I'm getting on board this week. Bassett and Bombito may be out, but more than anything I think this helps Mihailovic in a game they should win anyway.
  • Minnesota was missing a lot of key players last week, but they were still able to stand toe-to-toe to Dallas. To be fair, Dallas seems like they are missing key players on a weekly basis, so maybe it was not that big of an achievement. I'm not going to read too much into that game, but congrats to Hassani Dotson on the goal. Coming to an angry Seattle will (hopefully) be a much more difficult test for the depleted Minnesota.
  • That'll be especially true if Schmetzer does go with moving Jordan Morris ($8.3m) back to the #9 position and Chu gets to return to the left side of the field (prayers for his health). Chu's width and aggression will hopefully mean Nouhou can and will stay home more for a better defensive shape, and Raul Ruidiaz's black hole will be replaced by Morris's aggression and good form. Don't look now, but Morris has 3 goals in the past 4 matches. He's in my fantasy squad, equal parts because I genuinely believe he's being set up for success as well as I like his price and I also enjoy being a homer when I can.

Captain Considerations

  • Riqui Puig ($14.9m) - I made an error scrubbing Puig from my team in Week 15 instead of Bouanga to get in Mukhtar's points, I am not making that mistake again. Puig is totally crazy – he does almost no useful defending but is a complete monster in possession. His 215 progressive passes is the most in the league by 48, his 3817 (meter?) progressive carrying distance is most in the league by almost 1000, his 1575 pass attempts are most in the league by almost 300, and he's averaging just shy of 100 passes a game. Going back to 2018, no one in the league has averaged more than 86 passes per game over a season, and even then it is a small handful of players who were higher than about 80 per game. Last year, Puig and Hector Herrera were roughly tied for the league lead at a little over 80 per game. Puig is cooking in LA, and we are reaping the rewards with his fantasy scores.
  • Cristian Arango ($15.2m) - Montreal has been bad this year, plus they're missing multiple key players. I think being on the road should lead to some caution, but few other players seem as likely to explode for crazy points.
  • Luciano Acosta ($15.5m) - Acosta has been relatively quiet the past couple of weeks, but he still has the fourth-highest point average of anyone this season. And San Jose has not exactly built a fortress at home. If you're down on Puig or Arango for some reason, Acosta is totally reasonable.
  • Denis Bouanga ($14.9m) - Bouanga is having a very good year, and has to be able to find some consistency on the road, right? Right? Maybe? If you think LAFC keeps dominating, especially against a depleted Orlando, he could be a very lucrative differential captain.

Bargain Bin

  • Zack Steffen (COL GK $6.0m) - Colorado gets to host Austin, one of the worst road teams in the league. Seriously, they've only scored 4 goals in their 8 matches on the road. Easy call here. I was going to recommend Luka Gavran (TFC $6.5m) as he's filling in for Sean Johnson against Chicago, until I realized Steffen is actually cheaper.
  • John Tolkin (NYRB DEF $5.8m) - Assuming Tolkin is back from his time with the US U-23s, he could be in for another great week. After amassing a total of 4 BP through week 12 (completely wiped out by his -4 for allowing 6 goals and getting a yellow against Miami), Tolkin has 3 straight weeks with Key Play bonuses plus bonuses for crosses. He had a massive 16-point outing against Orlando with a goal, clean sheet, and 3 BP. If he's back starting against Nashville, he could continue this excellent form.
  • Ryan Hollingshead (LAFC DEF $5.2m) - I got into this for week 15, correctly predicting that Long and Palencia were the two most likely to get two starts in the double-game week. LAFC have a 3-game week coming up, at Austin midweek and then home to San Jose. If they rotate again, or if Hollingshead is considered the starter, he's got a great price entry to LAFC's defense. I'm not sure I can enthusiastically recommend a road defense, but Orlando haven't scored in their past three home matches and will be missing many of their starters. If Hollingshead isn't starting, Palencia is $6.1m and Campos is $6.6m. Long is way up there at $8.6m. Of the options, Campos is scoring the best as long as he's starting.
  • Leo Chu (SEA MID $6.2m) - Come on, live a little!
  • Omir Fernandez (COL MID $6.0m) - He's been starting regularly since week 11, averaging just over 5 ppg in that span, with a goal and two assists, plus one BP in each of his starts. Nothing crazy, but respectable for a low-priced option. Plus, if he's going to go off randomly, this week against Austin with Bassett out is as reasonable a time for him to step up big as any.
  • Leo Campana (MIA FWD $7.4m) - Campana has 3 goals in 5 starts this season, and he will be relied on by Miami against a depleted Philadelphia since Rojas, Messi and Suarez are all out. Miami has shown itself to be plenty dangerous when Messi is not around, and now Campana gets to lead the way.

Not much more to add, good luck this week!