Fantasy: Federico Higuain celebrates a goal for Columbus
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MLS Fantasy: Which non-Gold Cup players are primed for a big Week 18?

What a week! Round 17 had a dream start for managers who went all in with double game week players, then the single game week players showed up and returned strong numbers, and finally we ended with relatively little rotation for key players. The result was high fantasy scores, but none higher than Michael Beasley, manager of MINNESOTA ARSENAL FC, who earned 142 points with his DGW heavy squad. Congrats!

Round 18 starts today, and at first glance it may look like an easy one with only 20 teams playing, but looks can be deceiving. A lot of players will be unavailable this week due to Gold Cup call-ups and there could be heavy rotation after several teams threw everything they had into US Open Cup games last night. Here is a list of some of the players who I like most.

Goalkeepers

Catching A Breath: Before the Open Cup games, Chicago’s Matt Lampson ($4.8) was a target for many managers, but after playing 120 minutes, an alternative may be needed. Fortunately, Sporting Kansas City’s Tim Melia ($5.8) had a much easier midweek game. Melia is still is good form, earning two clean sheets in his last four games, and will be playing a Portland (7 PM ET | ESPN/ESPN Deportes, MLS LIVE) team that has only won twice on the road.

Favorable Match: If you want to add some diversity to your team, then consider Colorado’s Tim Howard ($6.0). He has not produced a lot of clean sheets for his price, but with Houston (9 PM ET | MLS Live) missing some key attackers and a history of poor road results, Howard could be set for a high score.

Defenders

Under Owned: Sometimes it’s not about how good a defense is, but about how poor the opponent’s offense is. In this case, that opponent is Minnesota (7:30 PM ET | MLS LIVE) and the defense to target is New York City FC. Depending on your budget, both Maxime Chanot ($6.6) and Alexander Callens ($5.0) are excellent options as they both produce bonus points, are a periodic threat on goal, and have a good chance for a clean sheet.

Top Marks: If you want a defender to match your keeper then Sporting KC’s Ike Opara ($6.4) is the one to get. In addition to his two recent clean sheets, he has also bagged two goals in his past four games (three in five if you include the Open Cup midweek victory) and shares the title of highest-scoring defender. His best trait is his ability to generate bonus points and that will be helpful as he’s sure to frustrate Portland’s attackers.

Midfielders

Returner: It's been a long time coming but Mauro Diaz ($10.0) has finally recovered and is starting again for FC Dallas. He has yet to play a full 90 minutes, but he has still managed to earn two assists over four games. The Hoops are currently averaging almost two goals per game at home and Diaz’s skill will be essential to finding gaps in the Toronto (7 PM ET | TSN in Canada, MLS LIVE in the US) defense.

Well Rested: If you’d prefer a player who did not have a midweek game, then ColumbusFederico Higuain ($10.6) is a great option. Over his past four games he’s scored five goals and delivered one assist and is currently one of the most in-form players not called up to a Gold Cup squad. This could also be a high-scoring game as Crew SC will also be eager to dish out some payback to Atlanta (7:30 PM ET | MLS LIVE) for the 3-1 loss they suffered a couple of weeks ago.

Away Form: If you’re willing to take a risk on an away player, then LA’s Romain Alessandrini ($10.3) is the clear standout. While most teams dominate at home, Alessandrini has been an anomaly and seen much of his success on the road, much like the Galaxy themselves. His game with the Galaxy against San Jose (10:30 PM ET | Univision, MLS LIVE, facebook.com) is a classic rivalry match-up and has a history of high score lines.  

Forwards

Ole Reliable: Options up top are a little limited this round, but fortunately NYCFC’s David Villa ($11.3) is still around. Villa rarely has consecutive low-scoring games and Minnesota currently has the second-worst road defense, allowing 23 goals over eight games. This match should be easy points for Villa, who is also a top captain option.

WHICH PLAYERS are you considering for Round 18?

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