This article is part of our DraftKings Fantasy Soccer series.
MLS schedule makers have served up another sizable slate, and DraftKings has increased the prize pool to match this week. None of the day's matchups stand out as particularly enticing, but on the surface there doesn't appear to be any lopsided affairs either. Along with some notably sharp player pricing on DraftKings, all of this should make for an interesting and diverse night of fantasy soccer.
7:00 p.m. EDT
The Union gave Jesse Marsch's Red Bulls squad plenty of trouble last season, staging a comeback win or draw in their first two meetings. While New York collected all three points in their final two meetings, the two earlier road bumps weren't forgotten and often still arise when the team semi-consistently takes its foot off the pedal and lets opponents back into a match. Many of Red Bulls' best players were limited in Wednesday night's match to make sure they were coming into this one with a full head of steam, but I think a struggling Philadelphia side can hang with them.
Sacha Kljestan, NYRB at PHI ($8,200): The mustachioed man is the first top-tier midfielder that jumps out as being a great value on this slate. Thanks to friendly crossing numbers, the safety net is largely there, but we've yet to get a glimpse of his ceiling as he's goalless on the year. Anyone who has paid attention for the past few seasons knows that goals are certainly in his repertoire, though, and the Union have allowed the third-most per match in the league this year.
Kemar Lawrence, NYRB at PHI ($4,600): After a personal issue and possible concussion kept him away from the starting XI on Wednesday, Lawrence should step back into his spot at left-back for this match. 2017 has been much brighter than last season's slight slump for the Jamaican and it's plausible that he ends the year as one of our favorite fantasy fullbacks. While he had a goal last week, and could have easily grabbed another, this recommendation is a testament to his overall quality play this Spring.
Chris Pontius ($4,800) was kryptonite for the Red Bulls last season, burying four goals on them in as many matches. While he's typically been too expensive for a goal-dependent winger, the price has recently lowered to match expectations. On a slate with some really attractive forward options, at affordable prices, goal-scoring machine Bradley Wright-Phillips ($8,800) is poised to be criminally under owned.
In a rivalry that has become particularly intriguing since the infamous Kei Kamara trade, we will be without the headlining act as he and his wife await the birth of their second child. On the field, two teams who have had a similar start to the season will look to attack first and defend later. Even with half the usual allotment of Kamaras, this match could be quite entertaining and the two young goalkeepers may be in for a long 90 minutes.
Federico Higuain, CLB v. NER ($7,000): Higuain was certainly a part of the Kei Kamara saga, and it's a shame that his old friend won't be on hand as he showcases his great run of form this season. Like Kljestan, Pipa is trotting out consistent performances this year, particularly now that the midfield behind him is providing a more solid foundation than much of last season. In a good matchup, which I think New England is, it will be difficult to overlook Columbus' playmaker.
Juan Agudelo, NER at CLB ($6,700): Missing Kei Kamara is far easier when Agudelo is playing like a top MLS forward. With six goals in nine matches this year, he's largely responsible for propping up an otherwise questionable attack. Whether Columbus decide to use three or two center-backs in this match, Agudelo's athleticism and wherewithal should give him a good chance to continue his recent successes.
Agudelo comes in at a lower price, but if you can afford him, Ola Kamara ($7,900) is one of the best options on the slate. As everybody jump on the Higuain bandwagon, Justin Meram ($7,800) makes for an intriguing pivot play to differentiate your tournament lineup. Diego Fagundez ($4,900) could see more action up the field with Kei out of the lineup and has been quietly putting together a nice season.
Both of these teams have been pleasantly surprising in terms of results to begin the season, largely thanks to the coaches at their helm. Romell Quioto seems ready to start for the first time since his March injury, after making three cameos in the latter half of April. Each side likes to counterattack, but somebody is going to have to take charge of the game and have ideas on the ball.
Joe Willis, HOU v ORL ($5,200): Willis has historically been a risky proposition, both due to him being a below-average MLS keeper and the defense in front of him being relatively poor. This match, however, aligns a lot of beneficial factors. Houston's defense has been improving slowly but surely as the season rolls along, and they've had time to plan for the Lions, who are relatively predictable in attack. Additionally, Orlando are fresh off a scrappy loss in Toronto on Wednesday and the quick turnaround will be amplified by the lengthy travel to Houston. This is a big price to pay for a keeper I rarely consider, but I like the potential for a high save total and outside chance at a clean sheet.
Scott Sutter, ORL at HOU ($4,900): Sutter has scored double digits on DraftKings in each of his five MLS starts. His arrival to Orlando wasn't heralded like other high-profile signings around the league, but the impact has been large in a spot that was desperately needed for Jason Kreis. Houston have some speed on the wings, but if Sutter wasn't held back offensively during a road match in Toronto, then I'm not going to fret over the Dynamo wingers. There's a premium to be paid here for the consistency, but given the dearth of reliable and steady fullbacks in Major League Soccer, I think it's worth it.
There should be goals in this one, but predicting who they will be from is tougher than usual. Carlos Rivas ($6,400) has been in great form, but if Giles Barnes ($6,500) gets a start against his former team, I think he's worthy of a dart throw as well. With better forward options on the slate, I'm not targeting an expensive Cubo Torres ($7,800) but his early season form hasn't been a mirage and at this point he should be considered an every week goal-scoring threat.
In what could be Javier Morales' last visit to Rio Tinto Stadium, the grounds where he ruined many an opponent's night, FC Dallas will hope to extend RSL's recent struggles. Mike Petke's side has given up three goals in consecutive games, while Dallas have yet to have a truly dominant offensive performance. In fact, FC Dallas are near the bottom of the league in expected goals.
Javier Morales, DAL at RSL ($4,200): At 37 years old, Morales is far from the player he was just two seasons ago, but the significance of this match is hard to ignore. Assuming he starts, it's nearly unfathomable that he won't meet value with at least a high single-digit performance. We're set for a few more throwback Javier Morales performances as his career winds down this season, and while this pick may be swayed by nostalgia, I think this is a prime opportunity for one.
Maxi Urruti, DAL at RSL ($7,400): We won't always get the hyper-motivated version of Urruti we saw last week against his former team, but we will almost always get a great work rate atop a Dallas formation with plenty of talented players. His fantasy performances are admittedly a rollercoaster at times, and it would be folly to lock him into your lineups each week, but he should be highly owned this week and I have a difficult time arguing against it.
Kellyn Acosta ($5,600) is one of the few fantasy defenders who can match Sutter's consistency, but if Javier Morales steal some set piece action, Acosta's floor may not be as safe as usual. Cristian Colman ($4,500) is reaching the price point where I'm awfully tempted to bet on a breakout game should he start. On the Salt Lake side, Albert Rusnak ($8,500) will be passed over by so many people that I think he's a very interesting tournament play. He's going to find ways to earn points even when RSL get run over by opponents.
For the first time in a long time, the tables could be turned in this matchup. While the Galaxy have been a perennial contender, the Fire have been quite the opposite. This year both of those things have changed. Bastian Schweinsteiger will hope to make the most out of his first trip to Los Angeles, and Juninho will return to his old stomping grounds struggling to find many familiar faces. This has the feel of a low-scoring match, but there's plenty of attacking talent to be found for both sides.
Nemanja Nikolic, CHI at LAG ($6,800): Despite being squarely in the Golden Boot race (yes, it's early), Nikolic is priced under many less enticing forwards. After a seven-shot outing at Red Bull Arena, with a whopping five on target, we shouldn't be too leery of a road match for Nikolic. The Galaxy did keep a clean sheet last week against Philadelphia, but their defense has been far from tidy, including the previous match where they gifted three to the Galaxy. Chicago should only continue to grow as a unit, and Nikolic is the focal point of all their gifted pieces.
Bradley Diallo, LAG v. CHI ($3,400): Diallo put together a relatively sound performance in his Galaxy debut. Assuming he keeps the starting spot at right-back, he should provide a handful of points at a low cost. The Galaxy are bound to find a competent attacking game on occasion, and when they do, Diallo seems like the type of player who can help support the attack and hopefully grab his fantasy owners a few crosses.
Romain Alessandrini ($11,500) disappointed last week, and despite his incredibly high potential, I think the price is too high again. Defensive minded midfielders in this match could be real options, with Dax McCarty ($4,600) and Jermaine Jones ($4,400) always finding ways to accumulate points. Meanwhile, Emmanuel Boateng ($6,500) hasn't produced a standout fantasy performance yet this year, but he genuinely looks like a consistent threat on the ball for Los Angeles.
San Jose are – you guessed it – undefeated at home this season and Portland could be missing key players in Diego Valeri and Darlington Nagbe. The Earthquakes have been stable but not stellar at both ends of the pitch in 2017. When healthy, the Timbers are an attacking powerhouse, but when Darren Mattocks and Dairon Asprilla are forced into action, the unit can't be expected to perform at quite the same clip. I'm looking for San Jose to grind out three points in a one goal match.
Jahmir Hyka, SJE v. POR ($6,000): The Earthquakes' no. 10 appears to be finding his groove. In the four matches he's played over 70 minutes, all coming recently rather than at season's start, Hyka has averaged 14 fantasy points. With just one goal during that stretch, it's evident Hyka is both finding ways to help our fantasy lineups and also poised for even better outings should he familiarize himself with the back of the net. DraftKings has not yet caught onto his talent, allowing us to snag a nice bargain in the midfield.
Sebastian Blanco, POR at SJE ($7,700): Blanco will once again deserve hard consideration if Valeri and Nagbe aren't in the starting lineup. The match in Dallas was a nice breakout performance for Blanco last week, but given his talent, we should be expecting that type of play nearly every week. It's tough to analyze this match and not point out Blanco and the potential, but there are plenty of playable midfielders on this slate and his value is just a little shy of some of the others. Regardless, we typically want some exposure to the Timbers offense and our options could be limited this week.
Like Bradley Wright-Phillips, Fanendo Adi ($8,600) will almost surely be overlooked relative to his potential. Alvas Powell ($4,700) is a great option at fullback if you don't mind the road fixture, and Florian Jungwirth ($3,900) is the rare center-back deserving of a look for the home team.