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MLS Fantasy Boss: Navigating All-Star absences before it's back to business as usual

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The Gold Cup is over, but if you’ve been looking forward to the return of several big-name players, you’re going to have to wait just a little longer. The MLS All-Star Game is this week, so we’ll have at least one more round before it’s safe to assume that everyone will be available for our fantasy teams. This leaves one more round for some of the differentials to shine before it’s back to business as usual. Here are my top picks for Round 22.

Goalkeepers

King of the Hill: Many teams have tough matches this round, so clean sheets should continue to be sparse. But one player with a great chance at a shutout is Tim Melia (SKC $5.0m). Sporting Kansas City have won their last six home games and have allowed the second fewest home goals. With this form, the chances are small for the Houston Dynamo, who are the third worst at scoring on the road.

Road Warrior: If you are a manager with a high tolerance for risk, then consider starting David Ousted (VAN $5.7m). Vancouver are the second best team at not allowing goals on the road, and it’s no secret that Seattle have been struggling to score. Ousted will be at the All-Star game this week, but he should still be available this weekend as he’s likely to only play 45 minutes in Denver.

Defenders

Bye Back: The New York Red Bulls had a bye last week, so if you already had Matt Miazga ($5.8m), I hope you just rested him on your bench because he’s easily one of the top defenders right now. He has high CBI numbers, a great schedule over the next three rounds (including a DGW) and costs less than $6m.

Giant Killer: Last week we all saw the LA Galaxy fall flat on their face in Houston, so the big question this round is how long can this poor away form continue? If you have faith in the Rapids defense, then the answer is one more week, and Drew Moor ($7.0m) is the man for you. He may not have high CBI numbers, but he is attack minded and gets into positions for goals and assists.

Under the Radar: If you’re willing to drop some cash on a differential pick for this round, then consider San Jose’s Victor Bernardez ($7.4m). The Earthquakes have been a surprising team this season and have only lost one of their last six home games. Bernardez has been a key to this success and has a good chance at a clean sheet this round in addition to several defensive bonus points against a struggling Portland.

Midfielders

The String Puller: I was recently asked if Real Salt Lake’s Javier Morales ($11.8m) was “fixture proof?” While I think the answer is no, after putting up two goals and two assists over his last three games, I do think he has a great chance for more points this round against a D.C. United team that has not kept a clean sheet since the loss of Bill Hamid.

Back on Form: After a rough midseason, New England’s players may be starting to find their confidence again, and this makes Lee Nguyen ($11.1m) a player to keep an eye on. Over his last three games, his form has started to return, and he’s scored two goals and earned one assist. This is bad news for Toronto, who are tied as the third worst team at allowing road goals.

Rising Differential: If you’re looking for a cheap midfielder, then go no further than New York City FC’s Kwadwo Poku ($6.7m). He’s not usually a 90-minute player, but after providing three assists last round, he’s worth the risk for a couple of weeks and could help NYCFC dismantle an already leaky Montreal road defense. 

Forwards

Classic Cool: Speaking of Montreal’s leaky defense, the NYCFC player with the best chance to profit from this weakness is David Villa ($11.2m). In four of his last six games Villa has shown his goal-scoring prowess by netting a brace. Could he be due for a hat trick this week? Or is the better question: Can you afford to not have him on your team?

Budget Pick: If you’re trying to find a way to shift some funds around, then considering adding Orlando’s Cyle Larin ($6.0m). Sure, you could call this “chasing points” after his hat trick last round, but Larin has been the most reliable striker for Orlando this season and you are not going to find a cheaper starting forward.

Returning Star: Some of the returning Gold Cup players may get a little more rest before rejoining their teams, but one player I expect to see on the field for 90 minutes again is San Jose’s Chris Wondolowski ($11.2m). He had a quiet game against Vancouver last round, but Portland will give him a much better chance to score, and he’s a great differential replacement if you are planning to drop a big-name forward this round.

These are the players I like for Round 22. Do you have any others to add? Share them in the comments below and don’t forget to stop by MLS Fantasy Boss for all of our latest charts, articles, and live chat. Good Luck!