MLS Fantasy Round 9 is in the rearview mirror, and that means we’re officially more than a quarter of the way through the MLS season! It’s been a pretty exciting 2018 so far here in the world of US club soccer: MLS teams performed exceptionally well in the CONCACAF Champions League, LAFC has exploded out of the gate and sit second in the Western Conference, and Zlatan has arrived!
If you’re wondering what any of this has to do with fantasy… not much! But since we’re on the subject, last week’s score of 88 brought our point total to a flat 800 points on the season thus far. That puts us at 181 overall, just 108 points shy of the league leader. We’re still optimistic we can come within the Top 100 before the ‘spring season’ of MLS Fantasy comes to a close, as long as some of our bolder picks work out for us.
Speaking of bold picks… here’s how we’re lined up coming into the Toronto/Philadelphia match on Friday night to kick off Round 10!
Before we break down our switcheroo players and our locked-in picks, I just wanted to say: Yes, that is correct, we've got Sebastian Giovinco as our Captain this weekend.
Sure, you might be saying "that isn't all that bold, guy", but I wanted to highlight his status to make a larger point: As Kevin mentioned in his Percentages piece earlier this week, we think that Toronto FC will make a statement tonight and steamroll Philadelphia. This is the first time this season where the club has had a full week of rest coming into an MLS match where they won't have to worry about keeping players fresh for the CCL... and I think they put the rest of the league on notice with a very big win here.
True, we're hedging our bets a bit by keeping Alex Bono and Greg van der Weil, but that's more of a Friday Night switcheroo play than anything else - if they were one of the later matches in the weekend, we would put them in our starting lineup and have SKC as our bench switcheroos.
Switcheroo Picks - Bench
• GK - Alex Bono (TFC)
• DEF - Greg van der Weil (TFC)
• MID - Kaku (RBNY)
• FWD - Bradley Wright-Phillips (RBNY)
Switcheroo Picks - Starting Lineup
• Tim Melia (SKC)
• DEF/plug - Chris Odoi-Atsem (DCU)
• DEF/plug - Chris Richards (DCU)
For our bench switcheroo slots, we've occupied two of them with defensive Toronto FC players Alex Bono and Greg van der Weil. Matchups like these are the best when it comes to the switcheroo strategy: we get all of the upside potential from an anticipated rout on Friday night, but none of the downside in case Philly manages to sneak one in on the road as we can bring in players on Saturday morning.
Our final two slots feature two attackers from an early-Saturday matchup: Kaku and Bradley Wright-Phillips. Last week's road match against the LA Galaxy was Kaku's best as a Red Bull, and showed Red Bull supporters the quality he can bring to the table. He and Bradley Wright-Phillips are getting more and more familiar with one another, and that budding relationship was on full display as they combined to create several strong chances for New York last weekend. Given BWP's penchant for having big matches against NYCFC historically, we could see another strong fantasy outing from both players on Saturday.
If you're wondering where our fourth switcheroo player is in our starting lineup... well, frankly, we don't have one at this point. As we mentioned above, we really like the rapport Kaku and BWP are beginning to develop. However, NYC is a stingy team, and I would expect them to park the bus a bit more and mimic the teams that have enjoyed a bit more success against RBNY this year. As such, there's a higher probability than most weeks that one of these two guys are blanked... and if they are, then that's no problem at all, we just bring in another player with a later match. However, if both players enjoy tremendous fantasy success, well, then we've got a tough decision on our hands, as the guys in the 'locked-in' section below are all very solid. Right now, I'm leaning towards Yoshi Yotun or Johnny Soccer (Russell) switching out.
• DEF - Graham Zusi (SKC)
• DEF - Ike Opara (SKC)
• MID - Yoshi Yotun (ORL)
• MID - Sacha Kljestan (ORL)
• MID - Miguel Almiron (ATL)
• MID - Johnny "Soccer" Russell (SKC)
• FWD - Romell Quioto (HOU)
• FWD - Sebastian Giovinco (TFC) - Captain
We laid out our Seba logic above, so no need to go any further there. Romell Quioto has also been on fire lately, and the LA Galaxy have exposed time and again through the midfield this season. We're anticipating another strong fantasy outing from the Honduran national.
SKC was one of the two teams featured in Kevin's piece this week, and their defense seems to have figured out whatever was causing their early-season struggles. Graham Zusi offers considerable fantasy potential on both ends of the pitch, and Ike Opara offers a strong bonus point floor anchoring the back line.
Our good friend and RSL supporter Jay from the MLSFI podcast believes that Orlando will stomp RSL this week, and that's good enough for me to include both Sacha Kljestan and Yoshi Yotun in the starting lineup this week. Alongside those two are Johnny Soccer and Miguel Almiron, who both come into this weekend in scorching-hot form and should see some solid fantasy returns.
Good luck to everyone this weekend... and May the Fourth be with you!