This article is part of our The Armband series.
It turned out going with a differential captain on the final week of the MLS Fantasy Spring Season wasn't a good idea. Even with two home matches, Yamil Asad disappointed with only nine fantasy points, while the ruler, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, won the week with a hat trick on Sunday en route to 29 fantasy points.
The fall season starts in Week 23, which means taking a differential route probably isn't a good idea yet again. It's best to start on a good note without taking many risks. You also can't roster as many high-level players due to the game reset. While the All-Star Game was Wednesday, I'm taking the assumption everyone will be ready to go for weekend matches. In some cases, we may not know until just before the game.
Unfortunately, there are no double gameweeks to make things easier in picking a captain. At the least, there are matchups that stand out, with Atlanta (v. TOR), NYC FC (v. VAN) and Portland (v. PHI) at home.
There's little question as to who the favorite is since Josef Martinez is set to break the MLS single-season scoring record with months to go. Toronto seem to be playing better overall, but beating Chicago in back-to-back matches probably doesn't tell the entire story because they lost at Orlando a few weeks ago. Martinez is on a tear, and it'd be hard to give the armband to teammate Miguel Almiron, who is supplying most of the assists, giving him less upside. Martinez has 10 goals in the last six matches, which equates to at least 11 fantasy points in five of those.
Close behind Martinez is Maximiliano Moralez after finishing the spring with a monster 14.5m price. He isn't scoring hat tricks, but he's hit at least nine fantasy points in seven of his last nine matches. There's little reason to think Vancouver can stop NYC FC, having lost their last four road matches by a combined 10-1 score line. That also points to another clean sheet for NYC FC, who have allowed four goals in 11 home matches. Anton Tinnerholm gets the nod above Alexander Callens as a bold captain, mainly because he's been getting forward a ton and has a couple goals in recent matches.
I'm not sure I'd put anyone else on the same level as Martinez and Moralez, though Diego Valeri isn't far behind with at least 12 fantasy points in three of his last five starts. The Timbers have been somewhat disappointing in recent matches, but Valeri is still active and the Union are sure to give up multiple goals. Philadelphia had last weekend off and won at Houston in midweek, but they allowed 10 goals in their previous three road games. Portland should score a couple and Valeri will be around at least one of them.
There are options outside of those guys, but I'm not willing to risk on any of them. Ignacio Piatti is a reasonable differential pick at home against D.C. United, especially with a goal or assist in seven of his last eight matches. There's a decent chance he's involved in multiple goals, so it wouldn't be surprising if he leads the week in fantasy points. However, I think he's harder to trust than the three players already mentioned.
Darwin Quintero has been unstoppable at home, but it's smart to not go against Seattle, who have allowed two goals in their last five matches, including three on the road. Sporting Kansas City and Chicago are allowing goals for fun, yet trusting anyone from Houston or Real Salt Lake isn't a great idea. Houston's best player is a toss up every week, while Albert Rusnak left last match with severe neck pain and Joao Plata can't stay on the field.
LAFC are normally in the conversation no matter the matchup, but traveling to New York when your best player (Carlos Vela) captained the All-Star squad in midweek is tough. It probably makes more sense to back the Red Bulls with 27 goals scored and nine allowed in 11 home matches. As for LAFC, they've allowed 27 goals in 11 road matches. Of course, it's the same problem with the Red Bulls in that Bradley Wright-Phillips is goal dependent and rarely scores more than once in a match. Kaku is usually easier to trust, yet he hasn't played more than 70 minutes in five of his last seven appearances.