This article is part of our DraftKings MLS series.
Lineup No. 1: Angry Giovinco
Copa America is about to kick off, international friendlies are dotting the map, and soon the Euros will be in action as well. This means we have to be on our toes, or more accurately our fingertips, to find and click in the proper value plays that pop up as lineups are revealed. While this player shuffle creates some poor soccer matches in real life, I thoroughly enjoy it from the fantasy side of things. You should too! Since you're reading this piece, it means you're digging as far or further than your opponents to uncover this week's hidden gems.
All of this value means we can roster Sebastian Giovinco without much concern. On one side, he's playing a New York Red Bulls team that feels like they have figured him out as much as any other Toronto FC opponent. On the other, Giovinco just got snubbed from the Italian roster for the European Championships. I'll side with angry Giovinco rather than surging Red Bulls. $10,600 is a pretty penny, but Giovinco's floor is higher than the ceiling in my house. If I don't recommend him in Lineup No. 2 (hint: I won't), just ignore whatever I say and find a way to squeeze him in.
Other attacking regulars in our lineup are Lee Nguyen ($6,700) and Justin Meram ($5,200). New England host a toothless Seattle Sounders after a coast-to-coast journey and the Kei Kamara factor is kicking into full effect. It's a miniscule sample, but Nguyen has two goals and two assists, along with six shots and 13 crosses in the two games with Kei. Seattle's midfield leaves a lot to be desired in terms of coverage, and they really don't command much defensive attention either, so I think Nguyen will have free reign in this one. Meram is a bit tricker, as his Columbus side host an overachieving Real Salt Lake. The RSL defense is susceptible, and I prefer Meram much more if he lines up away from Tony Beltran's side. That said, he's proven to have a good floor of points with a considerable ceiling, and the Crew need to lean on him and Federico Higuain more heavily with the void left at the forward spot.
Kekuta Manneh ($5,400) headlines the rest of our offensive picks, thanks to an impressive streak of performances. At times, he's appeared unstoppable while racking up three goals, one assist and 10 shots during a two-game road trip. It's more than enough to make me consider him at home against a reeling Houston Dynamo side. Houston's manager just bailed in the middle of the season, probably after watching highlights of his defense!
Dillon Serna ($3,100), Emmanuel Boateng ($4,100) and Carlos Lizarazo ($2,500) round out our front seven. While none of these players have been regular starters this season, they all are young and have plenty of promise. Admittedly, this trio doesn't bring the safest floor, but they also cost less combined than two $5,000 midfielders. Serna will see a Philadelphia Union side who played midweek and now must play at altitude. The Rapids are without Shkelzen Gashi and Jermaine Jones, so Serna could give Kevin Doyle a speedy option to combine with on the wing. Boateng is in a similar situation with Robbie Keane and Gyasi Zardes absent from the Galaxy side. He's probably the fastest player in Major League Soccer, or at least the shiftiest. Lizarazo is a lesser-known commodity, but Dallas is excited about him and I 100 percent trust Oscar Pareja's eye for South American talent. Dallas are missing Michael Barrios and likely Carlos Gruezo and Maxi Urruti. Other possibilities for Dallas are the similarly priced Timo Pitter ($2,700) and Juan Esteban Ortiz ($2,500), while Tommy Thompson could give us an option on the San Jose side of this match.
In defense, we must pick from a group of cheaper defenders. I like Corey Ashe ($3,100) and Brandon Vincent ($3,100) to provide value at the fullback positions. Both are at home and while they play good teams, they'll certainly be allowed to jump into the attack. Walker Zimmerman ($2,800) is a necessity of the salary cap, but I think he has a decent chance at a clean sheet against a San Jose side missing their talisman Chris Wondolowski. Zimmerman finds ways to get enough points to make value, and is a pretty big threat aerially, too. In goal, I'm sticking with the "target San Jose" theme and rolling with Chris Seitz.
One item to note is that we've relied on some options playing in the Dallas v San Jose match, the last one of the night. If you're risk averse it may be worthwhile to budget to Timo Pitter ($2,700) and Jesse Gonzalez ($3,300) so you have the flexibility to move down to Lizarazo and Seitz but aren't stuck if the more expensive options start.
Devil's Advocate: Aside from the final note above, I have few hesitations. Our defense won't be winning us much, but they do allow us to invest in the attack. Dallas are on the road and we have three of their players. The salary we've invested in Meram and Manneh may be better suited in some other combination of players.
Why We'll Win: We've hopefully found the value plays and picked the wisest choices in attack. Giovinco and Nguyen will be tough to top, while Manneh could be a true x-factor. There's a ton of great goalkeeping options this weekend, but I have a feeling many of our opponents will try to go even cheaper with a guy like Sean Johnson hosting Portland. We'll have a better choice.
Lineup No. 2: Forwards-Schmorwards
No Giovinco allows us to have some fun with this one. I could have swapped out the Giovinco-Nguyen combo with an almost-as-appealing Kei Kamara-Diego Valeri, but let's see what we can do if we find value forwards and load the midfield.
Up top, I went with David Accam ($6,300) and Octavio Rivero ($4,900). Accam gets you the best bang for your buck of any forward, and though the matchup isn't the greatest, he's a game changer of the highest pedigree. Portland could have a bit rougher a go than most think, without Darlington Nagbe shuttling the ball upfield, and perhaps without Fanendo Adi providing a crucial pressure release valve atop the formation. Rivero appears set to return in full from injury, ready or not, with Blas Perez and Christian Bolanos off to Copa America. I'm a well-known Rivero apologist, but I think this match against Houston is a great opportunity for him to make an impact. Manneh is just $500 more, and probably the better choice, but he'll be a much more popular pick.
I'll also get the cheap attackers out of the way, as you've already heard their names above. Carlos Lizarazo and Dillon Serna will have a hard time not meeting their value, or exceeding it with such cheap salaries. They may not win us anything on their own, but giving us the room for some top tier midfielders is valuable in and of itself.
Our midfield trio is where we'll hope to rocket ahead of the crowd. Sacha Kljestan ($7,400) will find a Toronto FC midfield without Michael Bradley, and I think an already confident Red Bulls could boss that area of the field against Jay Chapman, Jonathan Osorio and Will Johnson. Federico Higuain ($7,200) hasn't wowed us since Kamara's departure, but his desire to prove he can carry this team is palpable. Real Salt Lake are not as effective defensively without Kyle Beckerman, who is off to Copa America with the USMNT, so look for Pipa to find plenty of space. He just needs a little bit of it to wield high point totals. Lastly, Cristian Techera appears poised for a nice game. He has double-digit points in seven of nine starts this season and this might be his softest opponent yet. $6,200 is getting little expensive for "The Bug," as he's yet to top 20 points in 2016, but I'd wager this is the match where he finally does.
In the back, I went with Corey Ashe once more at $3,100 and added Kofie Sarkodie ($3,000) of San Jose. Ideally, I find a value I like throughout the day better than Sarkodie and can pivot away, but if we're stuck with him he should return value. Another option is to double-down on centerbacks and hope for a headed goal, but we're just going to bring in one: Jelle van Damme ($3,200). I've liked what I have seen from van Damme lately, as he isn't scared to push into the midfield and let others cover for him defensively. He's going to score some goals from set piece headers this year, and Montreal's best defender of them, Laurent Ciman, is away with Belgium.
I wouldn't mind paying up for a keeper like Bobby Shuttleworth if we had the cash, but Andre Blake is only $3,100 and playing a Colorado side without two of its key attacking pieces. He is largely responsible for Philadelphia's success this year, and will want to head off to Copa America with Jamaica having earned his MLS club another three points.
Getting the right midfield trio, and secondary forward choice is key today if you use this lineup template. Lee Nguyen might be worth going back to the well with, or Ignacio Piatti who feels overlooked at $6,200. Ola Kamara ($4,300), Juan Agudelo ($4,700) and perhaps Jack McInerney ($3,900) may be worth a look in place of Rivero. Season this lineup to taste, as if a DFS lineup were a home cooked meal, and let me know how it goes.
Devil's Advocate: Team Fade-Giovinco isn't bankrupt yet? Can we afford to fade all high-priced forwards? Is David Accam going to be an over-owned trap?
Why We'll Win: While forwards can have volatile performances, elite midfielders are much more consistent. We've grabbed three good ones and will hope that the rest of the lineup can pitch in with a couple of goals. Should things fall into place, this lineup could absolutely compete with the Giovinco laden field.