Happy Thursday to all MLS Fantasy managers, and happy NFL Draft Day as well (especially those New York Giants fans!). Kevin from Soccer Captains coming back at ya for our weekly Parsing the Percentages series to further your chances of increased production for MLS Fantasy squads this weekend.
We hit a bit of a speedbump last week as the Chicago Fire shocked the league by traveling to Harrison, NJ and coming away with a rare road win against the New York Red Bulls. Nevertheless, we still have a very strong track record year-to-date, and we’re looking forward to coming back strong this weekend. That being said, let’s jump right in and break down the two clubs the oddsmakers favor for Round 9: Atlanta United FC and Columbus Crew SC.
Atlanta United FC (vs. Montreal)
FiveThirtyEight: 74% chance to win
OddsShark: Atlanta Win -280
OddsPortal: Atlanta Win -278
Simply put, The Five Stripes are on fire right now, and the addition of Ezequiel Barco (8.5m) to the mix is akin to throwing an entire bottle of lighter fluid directly into the middle of said fire. This weekend, that they take on a Montreal team that has given up 17 goals, tied for the most in the MLS. Given the attractiveness of the matchup, and the switcheroo possibilities available due to an early Saturday fixture, there is no real reason to include less than four Atlanta players in your Round 9 lineup.
We, of course, need to target the usual suspects here on a stacked Atlanta team. Miguel Almiron (12.8m) and the aforementioned Barco are two phenomenal midfield options this weekend. Arguably one of the hottest players in all of MLS scoring to date, Almiron will look to continue his torrid streak and should be a strong contender for your fantasy captain slot. Managers can also employ the services of Josef Martinez (11m) up top, whose prospects are quite high given that Montreal will be short-staffed on the back line.
Further back in the formation, Julian Gressel (9.2m) continues to be a revelation at the right wingback position for Atlanta. Given how much of Atlanta’s attack is driven along the right flank and how high up Atlanta keeps their wingbacks, Gressel should continue to see considerable opportunities going forward.
Lastly, among the back three, we rate Michael Parkhurst (6.8m) as Atlanta’s top defensive fantasy option given his central positioning and bonus point potential. However, we would recommend starting him on the bench to take advantage of a potential switcheroo should Atlanta keep a clean sheet.
Columbus Crew (vs. San Jose)
FiveThirtyEight: 64% chance to win
OddsShark: Columbus Win -200
OddsPortal: Columbus Win -196
After a very strong start, the Columbus Crew have been winless for over a month, earning a mere one point over their previous four fixtures. However, as dire as things look from a high level, they have actually played fairly well at home, and are being visited by a San Jose team that has looked even worse than Columbus has since the beginning of April. Therefore, we are going with the Crew this week strictly on the basis of the strength of the matchup here.
Frederico Higuain (9.8m) comes into this matchup with a newly-extended contract and a strong home pedigree. Pipa remains a top MLS fantasy option despite Columbus’ recent misfortunes, and should enjoy a high floor here at home with decent upside. Gyasi Zardes (8.4m) has actually enjoyed a decent bonus-point floor over the prior four matches, with two 4-point rounds sandwiched between goal-scoring outings in Rounds 5 and 8. With three matches slated for Sunday, Zardes is a very solid budget switcheroo pick to place on your bench this weekend along with a MID/FWD bye-week plug in the starting lineup; leave the plug in if Zardes scores, or replace the plug on Sunday morning if Zardes blanks.
Surprisingly, Columbus has done a better job of keeping balls out of the net on the road than they have at home. San Jose has actually played pretty well on the attacking end this season, so we don’t exactly love the Crew’s chances at a clean sheet here. Nevertheless, if managers want to take the plunge, Lalas Abubakar (7.0m) and Zack Steffen (5.8m) are your go-to options this weekend.