We're coming off quite an interesting weekend in Major League Soccer, including defending champs Atlanta beaten at home by 11th place Columbus, current league leaders LAFC held to a draw in Philadelphia, and the LA Galaxy scoring seven goals against Sporting Kansas City.
There are three weeks left in the regular season, and each team has between three and five games left to play. Six teams will play twice this week, and they should be your focus when building your fantasy lineup.
Atlanta is one of those teams, and despite the fact they just lost 3-1 to Columbus, I'll be leaning on them heavily this week. Their performance wasn't as poor as the scoreline suggests. Atlanta outshot Columbus 15-12, and beat them in terms of xG (expected goals) 2.06 - 0.99.
More importantly, Atlanta have two good-looking matchups this week. First up is a match at Cincinnati, who have nine fewer points than any other team in the league, and have conceded 72 goals in 30 games. Then at the weekend Atlanta will host San Jose, who have lost their past five away matches, and have only three road wins all season.
Josef Martinez scored Atlanta's lone goal against Columbus, thereby extending his MLS scoring record to 14 games in a row - amazing! He's up to 24 goals on the season, which ranks him third in the league - four behind Carlos Vela and two behind Zlatan Ibrahimovic, neither of whom will play twice this week. Martinez will be my Tier 1 forward and captain.
Miles Robinson will be my Tier 2 defender. That didn't take much thought - the only other Tier 2 defender whose team plays twice this week is Cincinnati's Kendall Waston, and Waston is suspended for the first game after receiving a red card this past weekend.
Brad Guzan will be my goalkeeper, despite the fact that he's conceded three goals in each of the past two games. Guzan still leads the league in clean sheets with 13, including five in the previous seven games. I like his chances of blanking Cincinnati, who have scored a league-low 30 goals. And even if Guzan doesn't get a clean sheet at home against San Jose, he's likely to pick up a few saves, given the Earthquakes have taken 547 shots this season, second-most in the league. Only LAFC have taken more, 549, and no other team has taken more than 466.
Home sweet home
Portland are one of two teams with two home games this week. (The other is Cincinnati, but you want no part of them fantasy-wise, for the reasons mentioned above.) The Timbers are coming off a disappointing 1-0 loss to D.C., but they outshot their opponents 23-7 in that game.
Diego Valeri took four shots against D.C., one of which hit the woodwork, and also had four chances created. He has eight goals and eight assists on the season, and 113 chances created - 14 more than any other player in the league. Valeri will be Tier 1 midfielder, with Portland hosting the New York Red Bulls and Minnesota this week.
Teammate Sebastian Blanco has missed the past two games due to a leg injury, but if he returns on Wednesday against the Red Bulls he'll be my Tier 3 midfielder. Blanco has four goals and nine assists, and is ninth in the league in shots, averaging 3.4 per game.
If Blanco is still out, the only other Tier 3 midfielder whose team will play twice is Cincinnati's Emmanuel Ledesma. He does have six goals and three assists on the season, but has only started two of the past four games. And I don't want a player from Cincinnati anyway.
In that case, I would switch to Felipe Gutierrez, who is up to 12 goals on the season following his brace against the Galaxy on Sunday. Sporting Kansas City are at home this week, against Colorado.
Jordan Morris, Seattle (Tier 2 forward): Seattle are coming off a 4-2 win over the Red Bulls, in which Morris had both a goal and an assist. He's scored in back-to-back games, and is up to nine goals and six assists in 22 appearances this season. The Sounders - second in the Western Conference - host Dallas, who just conceded four goals to Chicago, on Wednesday before traveling to D.C. at the weekend.
Daniel Royer, NY Red Bulls (Tier 2 midfielder): Royer has nine goals and seven assists on the season, including an assist in the Red Bulls' loss to Seattle this past weekend. He's also 15th in the league in shots, averaging 2.8 per game, and he's on penalty kicks. After their game at Portland on Wednesday, the Red Bulls will return home to host Philadelphia.
Reto Ziegler, Dallas (Tier 1 defender): Ziegler is on penalty kicks for Dallas, giving him the biggest upside of any player in this tier. But he also has a high floor - fourth in the league passes completed, averaging 57.4 per game. Dallas' first game this week is at Seattle, followed by a home matchup with NYCFC.