This article is part of our DraftKings Fantasy Soccer series.For detailed odds and stats, check out the Fantasy MLS: Sunday (Early) Cheat Sheet.
The six playoff spots in the Eastern Conference are all set, but with two matches left for each team, we still have some important things to determine. First, this Eastern Conference slate features three of the four players in close contention for the Golden Boot. Maybe more importantly, Atlanta United and, to a lesser extent, Chicago Fire are looking to hurdle NYC FC for the second seed, which would earn a valuable bye week heading into the postseason.
As an added bonus, we have simultaneous kickoff times for all matches (5:00 p.m. EDT) and will get a peek at 100 percent of the starting players. This will be particularly appreciated with the eliminated teams likely to trot out a few players who have been warming the bench for much of the season.
This season, the Union have largely been a cautious team on the road that doesn't execute in the attacking third. They've won one road match. With nothing on the line, their ambitions could make a complete 180-degree turn, but the execution is likely to remain lacking. With Bastian Schweinsteiger still nursing an injury, Nemanja Nikolic leading the Golden Boot race by one tally, and Chicago chasing that bye week, we know what to expect from a motivated Fire side. Gauging how much of a fight Philadelphia will put up, with jobs potentially on the line for next season, will be crucial for fantasy success.
Nemanja Nikolic, CHI v. PHI ($8,300): With five goals in five games and the shooting boots laced on just right, it's tough not to buy into the Golden Boot narrative with Nikolic. For much of the season, and particularly during his long slump, David Accam seemed the better play because of a safer floor and still electric attacking talent. This week is different. It's worth noting that Philadelphia have only allowed 1.22 expected goals per road game since Aug. 1, one of the better marks in the league during that time. Nonetheless, Nikolic has goal-scoring potential in spades and comes in cheaper than his scoring title chasers David Villa and Josef Martinez.
Brandon Vincent, CHI v. PHI ($5,000): I don't anticipate many clean sheets this week, but if I had to pick one match, it'd be this one. Philadelphia are almost certain to throw out an attacking foursome that haven't taken the field together very often, making it highly unlikely they match the three-goal outing they had a few weeks ago hosting Chicago. Along with clean sheet points, Vincent should be teeing crosses up for Nikolic in the box every chance he gets, particularly if they gain a multi-goal cushion and don't need to worry about holding onto the three points.
22-year old Marcus Epps ($3,000) is going to be a quality MLS winger, and with two goals in six starts this season, you could do much worse than spend a minimum salary on a hungry player looking to impress heading into the offseason. Alejandro Bedoya ($3,000) is cheap too and seems...umm...ticked off about having to watch the US match in Trinidad from the bench. If you want cheap attacking exposure from the other side, look to none other than Djordje Mihailovic ($3,900) playing as the makeshift no. 10.
New England have allowed just one goal in their last six home matches, but some hungry Pigeons may have something to say about that streak continuing. Patrick Viera's side could potentially seal a bye week if Sunday plays out just right for them, and on top of that Villa won't want to let a second straight scoring title slip out of his grasp. Even though NYC FC only have five goals in their last six games, and Maximiliano Moralez is set to sit due to yellow card suspension, it would be awfully brave to overlook their attack this weekend.
David Villa, NYC at NER ($9,900): He's considerably more expensive than Nikolic, is playing on the road, and his team has been far more out of sorts offensively. Who in their right mind would prefer Villa? This guy! Last year's MVP and Golden Boot runner-up consistently finds space, takes shots (a full shot more per match than Nikolic) and scores goals. He's a better creator than Nikolic too, and is playing a team that has had to play a man down seemingly more times than a hockey team this fall. Pirlo's swan song may mean Villa isn't on as many set pieces as he should be, but Pirlo's swan song could also mean one final beautiful connection between two former world-class players. You can't go wrong with either forward, but if you have to pick, El Capitan is your man.
Andraz Struna, NYC at NER ($4,000): With an overwhelming amount of New England's attack lately being channeled up their right wing through Lee Nguyen, I'm reluctant to bite on Ronald Matarrita, who appears back to match fitness and was a premier fantasy defender prior to an early season injury. I'd rather look to New York's right fullback, whether it be Struna or RJ Allen ($3,600). The right-back has the benefit of Jack Harrison pinning back the other team's defenses on that side of the field and also providing a great partner for some dangerous combination play in the attacking third. If defensively deficient Thomas McNamara ($3,300) should be a little higher up the pitch than usual with Moralez out. Lee Nguyen's ($8,300) tee time may be approaching, but he has more than enough time to tee up a few more goals, assists and crosses before he switches over to golf balls. NYC FC have players who love to shoot from distance, and may try to overcompensate for their recent lack of scoring. That makes me like Brad Knighton ($4,900) as a wild tournament option.
After nine winless matches, New York sealed their playoff spot with a win against Western Conference leading Vancouver Whitecaps. They'll have to contend with another impressive side if they want to keep the wins rolling. Atlanta United (plus-30 goal differential) are the only team within sight of Toronto FC's plus-36, and that includes being one of just three teams with a positive differential away from home.
This match is interesting because it features two teams that would currently play each other in the first leg of the playoffs if the season ended today. That could mean that both sides take their foot off the pedal of their trademark pressing systems and keep their cards close to the vest, particularly Atlanta on the road.
Josef Martinez, ATL at NYR ($9,000): Martinez has played 1,466 fewer minutes than Nikolic and 1,078 fewer minutes than Villa, and yet he's just three goals off the Golden Boot lead. Martinez reminds me of a faster, younger, and already better Obafemi Martins, which is saying a lot considering prime Oba was an elite all-time MLS attacker. You can knock the Atlanta attack down a notch simply because Miguel Almiron remains injured, but for Martinez that likely just means three or four spectacular chances instead of four or five. For their part, the Red Bulls have given up 11 goals in their past six home matches, making it a juicy fixture if Martinez wants to pull off the heist of the season and put himself squarely back atop the goal-scoring standings.
Brad Guzan, ATL at NYR ($4,400): I can't say I'm down on the Red Bulls' attack in this match, but this is too good a price for a top notch keeper behind a quality defense. Atlanta have conceded just four goals and lost just once in their previous six road fixtures. They're both pragmatic and aggressive in turns, and while they don't typically allow many shots, New York will certainly generate more than a typical opponent. As the slate's third cheapest keeper, Guzan makes for an appealing tournament play, but if you need the salary to squeeze in top attackers, I wouldn't even shy away from rolling him out in cash games.
Hector Villalba ($6,700) provides excellent Atlanta exposure if you opt for Villa or Nikolic over Martinez. Julian Gressel ($5,200) has done nothing but impress during his rookie season, and while it'll be a tall task, he's capable of handling whatever New York throws at him. Tyler Adams ($4,700) always seems to sniff out chances in the box despite often playing as a wing-back in New York's 3-4-1-1 system lately. He's a great play. Sacha Kljestan ($7,800) and Bradley Wright-Phillips ($8,200) are fine plays but more or less off my radar given the other options on the slate. Add Daniel Royer ($7,700) to that mix, who has returned from injury with two goals and an assist in two starts. With just two non-penalty shots on target in those starts, he's simply too expensive for the low shot, low cross floor he risks bringing to a lineup.
Orlando and Columbus have a short but bitter rivalry, which adds additional drama to what is already a notable event: Kaka's last home game in Orlando. The Crew could feasibly wind up anywhere between the third and sixth seed in the Eastern Conference, so the motivation should be right there alongside their bright attacking talent. They've made a habit of playing close matches since mid-season, however, and Orlando's home crowd should give the purple side a nice boost. All in all, the Columbus attacking choices just seem to have a few less things going for them than some other options on the slate, but they are more affordable on DraftKings than at any other time this season.
Kaka, ORL v. CLB ($7,600): We have to mention him. It's been a rollercoaster with some ups and a lot of downs during the Brazilian icon's time in Orlando. Seemingly every time he began a gallop downfield with the ball at his feet that made us think, "Wow, he's still got some life in those legs!" he'd inevitably pull his hamstring seconds later. But when it was good, it was really good. Kaka's last five starts have only resulted in three shots on goal, and they all came in one two-goal match, so it's hard to lean on anything here other than the narrative. As narratives go, it's a particularly special one though, and Kaka is a legendary player capable of making 25,000 jaws in the home stands drop one last time.
Harrison Afful, CLB at ORL ($4,300): At his best, Afful is one of the last players an opposing defender would want to see running at them on the wing. For a defender, that's high praise, but the talent and capabilities have rarely shown up in the fantasy boxscores this season. His price has finally fallen to reflect it, and I'm thinking about buying in again after an impressive last outing against D.C. United. He's not given as long of an attacking leash in the Crew system as he used to have, but the potential is still there in a match that projects to be fairly wide open.
Without digging up the pricing data, I think Ola Kamara ($6,800) may be at his cheapest price of the year, which is bizarre considering he has five goals in seven matches and is tied for the second highest expected goals from August onward. Justin Meram ($6,300) and Pedro Santos ($5,800) are also bargains. If I had to buy an overpriced Orlando attacker, it'd be Yoshi Yotun ($8,200).
After one of the more memorable playoff series in league history last season, Montreal head to Toronto this fall having lost five of their past six matches, a shocking collapse after they had appeared to find their best form in the summer. Ironically, their only win in this stretch came against Toronto to the tune of a 5-3 barn burner. Dropping points to Minnesota, Colorado and New England during the most important stretch of the season has to hurt and Toronto fans are guaranteed to be eager to remind them of it.
It would be reasonable to think Toronto, having clinched all there is to clinch in the regular season, would take this one easy, but it should be exactly the opposite. Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley desperately need this match to refocus after plummeting out of World Cup contention and Sebastian Giovinco hasn't played in over a month. The league's best team has rarely actually had it's best 11 on the field at once this year. They've got two games to make sure it all works together like it used to.
Jozy Altidore, TOR v. MTL ($8,300): Jozy might be playing the best all around soccer of his career, as much as that hurts to say following Tuesday's international debacle. With the gang back together, including Giovinco alongside him up top, I expect Altidore to be firmly in the fantasy mix this weekend. Given his dependability on shooting and scoring, he's not the most trustworthy cash game play, but he can score in bunches and has been eager to take aim at goal lately. Toronto need him to jump right back in and shake off the US result as they barrel towards another run at MLS Cup.
Ignacio Piatti, MTL at TOR ($7,900): Is Piatti the most consistent fantasy player we've ever written up on this site? No. Is anyone in their right mind taking Kaka plus $300 over Piatti? If so, find me their head to heads in the DraftKings lobby. At this point in the season, there's not much I haven't written about Piatti, but I'll reiterate that he's pretty comfortably one of the league's most dangerous players. With nothing left to lose, against a rival opponent, I expect the Argentine to have fun dribbling at some unfortunate defenders rather than lay down and wait for the offseason to arrive. He had two goals and two assists against this same team less than a month ago, albeit with somewhat of a different lineup.
Blerim Dzemaili ($7,000) is also a great bargain on the Montreal side. Justin Morrow ($6,000) is the first MLS defender I can recall scoring 40 fantasy points. Whether it's sneaking onto the backside of a cross or initiating the action around the box, his attacking potential isn't a one-match fluke.