Seattle losing at home to an expansion team? The 2017 Supporters’ Shield winners getting shut out at BMO Field? Not only did these Week 1 results surprise casual observers, but they upset a foundational principle of MLS Fantasy strategy.
As a general rule of thumb, Fantasy managers favor players who are playing at home. Past data has shown that home players outscore their traveling counterparts by anywhere from 6 to 22 percent. Those points add up over the course of the season.
As Round 2 looms, I’m banking on the home teams to re-establish their form. With several teams (Columbus Crew SC, Real Salt Lake, New York City FC, Houston and Orlando City) drawing favorable match-ups, home players should once again dominate the week’s top scorers.
Tried and True
He may not have recorded a shutout, but Joe Bendik’s acrobatic penalty-kick save helped him to an excellent nine-point haul in Round 1. Should his Orlando City teammates keep an eye on Minnesota United’s Kevin Molino, the $5.5m goalkeeper could be in line for a clean sheet against a Loons team playing its second consecutive road game.
New England Revolution coach Brad Friedel knows goalkeepers, so he must have seen something special to hand former USL player Matt Turner ($4.2m) the gloves on Opening Day. Although the 23-year-old will be without both starting center backs due to red-card suspensions, he could be a sneaky “keeperoo” option against a Colorado Rapids attack that struggled in 2017.
Real Salt Lake’s Justen Glad ($5.7m) is a great bet at home against league newcomers LAFC, who did not create many chances despite their memorable 1-0 victory over Seattle. RSL’s most capable defender could be in line for some bonus points and a clean sheet as Bob Bradley’s side adjust to the thin air of Sandy, Utah.
Ben Sweat ($5m) won New York City FC’s starting job at left back over Costa Rican international Ronald Matarrita and responded with a clean sheet and an assist. Should the Florida native stay in the XI for his team’s home opener, Sweatinho’s laser-precise balls out of the back could bolster his fantasy score with another assist.
Alphonso Davies’ ability has never been in doubt, as his 12-point fantasy performance in Round 1 attests. Now that he’s seemingly secured a starting spot in Carl Robinson’s Vancouver Whitecaps side and scored his first MLS goal, the $6m man should be in your squad from here on out.
According to one seasoned MLS observer, Justin Meram ($9.6m) was the best player on the field during Orlando City’s opener against D.C. United. Against Minnesota’s shaky defense, I could see Meram breaking loose for a goal and an assist in the new-look Lions attack.
Player of the Week Potential
In Columbus Crew SC’s opener, Meram’s former teammate Federico Higuain ($10.5m) treated us to a masterclass. Although he is getting a little long in the tooth, his ability to float into empty space and make plays remains as sharp as ever. Facing an untested Impact midfield, Pipa is my captain choice and prediction for this week’s top fantasy scorer.
Death, Taxes and Villa at home
Starting David Villa ($11m) at home is an MLS Fantasy no-brainer. The 36-year-old showed he still has the quicks on NYCFC’s opening goal – I’ll have him in my starting lineup when Round 2 gets underway this weekend.
The Houston Dynamo showed that they’re ready for 2018 by chewing up Atlanta United’s defense en route to an easy 4-0 victory. Alberth Elis ($9.5m) was in the middle of it all, providing two assists and a handful of defensive actions to boot. Elis deserves a look – after all, what Wakanda manager would overlook the Black Panther?
Other striker options: Josef Martinez, Atlanta ($10.7)
Agree with any of these picks? Disagree? Let us know in the comments below.
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