This article is part of our DraftKings Fantasy Soccer series.
It's a 34-match season for MLS teams, and some are down to as few as five games remaining. On this five-match slate, only DC United and Minnesota United are fairly hopeless in terms of playoff contention. Notably, all of the home sides have clear motivation to win their respective matches. Form and talent will always be important factors when picking our fantasy lineups, but unlike mid-summer affairs in Major League Soccer, we can now factor in clear motivations or lack thereof as well.
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Columbus must begin picking up three points if they hope to have home field advantage in the opening round of the playoffs, but it will be tough sledding against the surprise team atop the Western Conference. Vancouver did play midweek, but they remain on home turf and rested many of their important players Wednesday. Neither side has lost in their last five fixtures, making this an intriguing kickoff to the slate.
Pedro Santos, CLB at VAN ($5,800): At a time of year when hidden gems in the DraftKings pricing have all but been eliminated, Santos jumps out as a clear value. The Primeira Liga veteran has already flashed brilliant passing ability and when combined with the playmaking abilities of Justin Meram and Federico Higuain, possibilities for the Columbus attack are endless. While Santos hasn't announced himself as a true goal-scoring threat since joining Columbus, a tally is not out of the question. In the meantime, he projects to share set pieces with Higuain at a minimum.
Yordy Reyna, VAN v. CLB ($5,600): The addition of Reyna to the Whitecaps' lineup has been a big reason for their march up the table. Subbed off after 60 minutes Wednesday, I expect Reyna to resume his duties in the no. 10 role, but this time flanked by a fresh Cristian Techera and Fredy Montero up top. While both of those players make for good plays as well, they'll cost more than $2,500 extra. With the re-addition of Techera and possibly Christian Bolanos, Reyna is unlikely to share corner kick duty like he did last match, but he's still in a great spot. Whether Columbus decide to focus on defense and counter, or open up the attack and risk a deadly Vancouver counter, Reyna should thrive in either game script.
I'm hard-pressed to find an attacker from these teams that I wouldn't consider in fantasy games this weekend, but Ola Kamara ($7,100) stands out as a value relative to his potential. Jonathan Mensah is out due to yellow card suspension, and the Crew have been susceptible to set piece goals, so it's another week where the imposing Kendall Waston ($3,500) is worth considering despite playing in the center of Vancouver's defense.
Sitting just below the playoff spots, Montreal desperately need three points after being shut out in two straight matches. At home, and with more rest, they should easily achieve that. Minnesota have very few bright spots to take away from their debut season in MLS and particularly disappointing is their minus-23 goal differential in just 27 matches. The question for this match isn't whether or not to use two Montreal players in fantasy games, it's whether to play three or more!
Ignacio Piatti, MTL v. MIN ($10,300): Picking between Piatti and Blerim Dzemaili ($9,800) is no easy task. One is a top-five scoring threat in the entire league. The other is a dominant and safe midfield option who still has massive fantasy upside. If you must choose between the two, I'm leaning Piatti this week in a cakewalk of a fixture, against some of the league's poorest defenders. It will be be legitimately disappointing if Piatti doesn't pop up two or more times on the scoresheet, whether via goal or assist, and there's potential for even more.
Daniel Lovitz, MTL v. MIN ($4,400): Somewhat under the radar over the last few matches is Lovitz's corner kick duties. He certainly doesn't have a monopoly, but with both Piatti and Dzemaili playing 90 minutes last week, Lovitz took four of their five corners. If midfielder Marco Donadel is starting, I wouldn't bank on Lovitz taking any set pieces, but assuming he does not, Lovitz is one of the easiest defender picks on the day. A clean sheet is likely, and a handful of crosses is very possible.
Anthony Jackson-Hamel ($6,200) is one of my favorite GPP fliers this week. Evan Bush ($5,700) is about as expensive as we've seen a keeper this year and I actually like his upside, as Minnesota can manufacture a few save opportunities to pair with a Bush clean sheet and win. Don't bother trying to find value in a poor Minnesota attack on tired legs.
While Seattle maintain a good shot at winning the Western Conference, FC Dallas are nervously on the verge of falling out of the sixth and final playoff spot. Dallas are winless in a whopping eight matches, and their spot in the standings is only a testament to how strong they were earlier in the season. Recent form necessitated a players-only meeting earlier this week and it will be interesting to see how the team responds in a critical home fixture against a top team. I continue to believe in Dallas, but Seattle are far from an ideal opponent to play this week.
Maximiliano Urruti, DAL v. SEA ($8,000): Call it a hunch. Urruti has a way of stepping up and scoring big goals in tight games. He's always willing to shoot and makes crafty runs that both Roman Torres and Chad Marshall could struggle to deal with. As the focal piece of an attack that features speedy wingers, industrious midfielders and some expert passing should Mauro Diaz get a start, Urruti is set up very nicely to be the player who breaks Dallas out of their slump.
Nicolas Lodeiro, SEA atDAL ($8,800): Seattle have earned the third-most corner kicks of all MLS sides in 2017. They've also suffered the third-most fouls. This makes corner kick and set piece taker Lodeiro, already a ruthless attacker and frequent crosser, a weekly fixture in fantasy lineups. Because he is on the road and has scored at a quieter pace than usual, his price is somewhat depressed this week. Additionally, with Montreal's two stars having a much better matchup, I expect Lodeiro to have some of the lowest ownership we've seen this season. I think he remains a great play and will do what I can to squeeze him into my lineups.
Diaz ($6,800) and Michael Barrios ($7,000) will be strong values if Dallas truly respond in a big spot. Jesse Gonzalez ($5,200) has been impressive in goal lately, and against a dangerous Seattle attack, will likely see low ownership and plenty of shots. I like that recipe in GPPs. Victor Rodriguez ($5,000) is worth a look, but ceding set pieces to Lodeiro and Clint Dempsey makes him a less stable play. Finally, it's worth noting that Dempsey ($7,500) always seems to step up big in his home state of Texas.
Clinging to the third playoff spot in the East, Chicago's form hasn't been quite as poor as Dallas', but it's not far off. Similar to Dallas, they've fallen a long way from early season dominance. Meanwhile, D.C. United, largely out of the playoff picture, have been performing better since the summer transfer window. This makes for a tough match to call and I foresee a low-scoring draw.
Brandon Vincent, CHI v. DCU ($4,700): Vincent projects to return to the starting lineup. Before his injury, he was a bright spot on this Chicago team, defending well, supporting the attack and providing top notch service to Nemanja Nikolic. I don't expect Vincent to be limited going forward right from the outset given D.C. United's lack of elite threats on the wing. He's instantly back to being one of my favorite fantasy fullbacks for the value.
Zoltan Stieber, DCU at CHI ($5,700): The United attack may not jump off the page, but all come at good prices this week and Chicago are missing some assets in the center of their defense. Growing into his role with a new team, Stieber is well positioned to earn a nice floor of fantasy points thanks to his corner kick duties but also has palpable upside that hasn't yet translate to the box scores.
Chicago's expensive attackers may not find their way into your lineup given the wealth of other options, and if that's the case, it may be worth doubling down on Bill Hamid ($3,900) in goal. He's allowed just four goals in six matches and has been keeping United in many a match. Patrick Mullins ($5,100) will fly under the radar in tournaments but is great cheap exposure as the striker to D.C. United's improving attack.
Sporting are fighting for a bye in the Western Conference playoffs and will enter the match with fresher legs than New England. Unfortunately, they struggle to score and have few fantasy options that stand out. New England got clobbered Wednesday, losing two men to red cards and allowing seven goals to Atlanta United. They desperately need to rebound with three points to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Krisztian Nemeth, NER at SKC ($5,100): Sitting out Wednesday and now facing his former team, I'm tabbing Nemeth for his first start with the Revolution. In 2015 with SKC, Nemeth notched 10 goals and six assists in 23 starts. With an even better set of attackers surrounding him in New England, he could easily jump right back into fruitful fantasy production. While the motivation and talent will be there, it's worth noting that Kansas City have only allowed eight goals in 13 home game this season.
Graham Zusi, SKC v. NER ($5,600): As a set piece taker on a home favorite, Zusi's high price could be worth paying this weekend. Despite New England's dangerous attackers, Zusi won't be reluctant to push forward on home turf, particularly with the Revs playing on tired legs. Assuming Joevin Jones doesn't play for Seattle, Zusi is the slate's highest ceiling defender, but he also brings one of the highest floors.
U.S. national team outsiders Lee Nguyen ($9,200) and Benny Feilhaber ($7,300) will be pivotal playmakers for their respective sides, but I'm not certain I can trust them over some of the other options discussed above. I thought Chris Tierney ($4,600) was cooked as a fantasy option, and he didn't play in New England's midweek drubbing, but the former fantasy fullback staple has shown glimpses of his prior strong play of late.