Los Angeles Football Club has been the most impressive team in Major League Soccer so far this season, and I don't think many fans would argue with that assessment. They've won six of their first seven games -- including their current streak of four in a row. Their only hiccup was a 2-2 draw at NYCFC on March 17.
This week, LAFC are one of two teams with an extra game. They'll play at Vancouver on Wednesday before hosting Seattle on Sunday. So, clearly you should stack your fantasy lineup with LAFC players, right?
Yup! This is one of those weeks when you really shouldn't overthink things.
You have four opportunities to pick a player whose team plays twice this week -- at Tier 1 forward, Tier 2 midfielder, Tier 1 defender, and at goalkeeper. I'm planning to choose LAFC players in three of those four spots. You also have options on Vancouver, the other team that will play twice. However, the Whitecaps are winless in their first six games, so... no thanks!
My Tier 2 midfielder will be Eduard Atuesta, who has been promoted from Tier 3 this week. The 21-year-old Colombian isn't much of a goal threat, as he's only taken eight shots in seven games. Still, Atuesta already has three assists and, more importantly, ranks second in the league in passes completed, averaging 64.6 per game. Atuesta has finished in double-figures in fantasy points in four of seven games, and only once has finished with fewer than 8.9. It would be quite disappointing if he finished with much less than 20 points in a double matchweek.
Walker Zimmerman will be my Tier 1 defender. He's one of the better options in this tier anyway, currently checking in at No. 6 in points-per-game, with 10.5. That's no fluke. Zimmerman did have one really big game, when he scored a goal and took five shots against Real Salt Lake, finishing with 23.5 points. Yet, he's also finished in double-figures on two other ocassions -- and only twice with fewer than 8.5 points. Zimmerman is 21st in the league in passes completed (averaging 48.1 per game), tied for 19th in clearances (26), and tied for seventh in interceptions (16). He does enough dirty work to be pretty reliable, and the extra game puts him over the top.
Just make sure that Vela, Atuesta and Zimmerman are all in LAFC's starting lineup on Wednesday (or check my Twitter feed). They're each 7-for-7 in terms of starts so far this season, but Bob Bradley could decide to rotate in Vancouver, with a big game looming against Seattle. The Sounders, after all, do have the second-best record in the league.
The one LAFC option I won't be choosing is goalkeeper Tyler Miller, despite the fact he's coming off three straight clean sheets and has conceded only five goals in seven games. Miller is averaging a relatively paltry 2.0 saves per match. More importantly, LAFC's first game is on the road, and the Sounders have scored 14 goals in six games, tied for second-most in the league. Miller is just too risky for me, given how frequently goalkeepers finish with negative points in ESPN's scoring format.
Instead, I'll be going with Zack Steffen, at home for Columbus against Portland. Steffen has kept a clean sheet in four of his six games so far this season, and conceded just one goal in each of the other two. Plus, he's averaging over 3.5 saves per game. The Crew are just one point behind D.C. United at the top of the Eastern Conference, and the Timbers have collected a league-low one point so far this season, scoring only six goals in six games.
Jozy Altidore, Toronto FC (Tier 2 forward): He's coming off a brace in Seattle last weekend, and has now scored in all four games he's seen the field so far this season. Now, Altidore will be back at home against Minnesota, who have conceded 11 goals in six games, and just gave up three at home to winless NYCFC.
Federico Higuain, Columbus Crew (Tier 1 midfielder): He's yet to score a goal this season, and only has two assists. That said, Higuain has been solid fantasy-wise, finishing in double figures in three of seven games and with at least 8.8 points in three of his other four contests. Higuain is 17th in the league in passes completed, averaging 50.0 per game. He is also averaging more than two chances created per match. Plus, Portland has conceded 17 goals in six games.
Wil Trapp, Columbus Crew (Tier 3 midfielder): Don't expect a goal, as Trapp hasn't taken a single shot this season! Even so, he's finished with 8.4-plus points in five of his six games, with a season-high 12.3 last week, thanks in large part to a whopping 113 passes completed!
Reto Ziegler, FC Dallas (Tier 2 defender): He scored his third goal of the season last week. He now has two from the penalty spot and one from a free kick. Ziegler continues to lead the league in passes completed, averaging 68.3 per game. This is the easiest decision of the week.