There should be some fireworks in Major League Soccer this week, with a grand total of 19 games on the schedule! We've got seven contests on Wednesday, three on July 4th, seven more on Saturday, and a pair to close out the week on Sunday. All of these games will count as a single round in ESPN's MLS fantasy format. Thirteen teams will play twice, so you'll want to primarily focus on these sides when building your fantasy lineup.
It's a pretty easy decision at Tier 1 forward, if you ask me. I'm going with Carlos Vela. LAFC -- the league leaders on 37 points -- go up against two of the bottom three clubs in the Western Conference, Kansas City and Vancouver. Yes, LAFC are coming off a 1-0 defeat at Colorado, in which Vela was uncharacteristically quiet (just two shots and no chances created). However, I think that was just a blip. Vela had scored in each of the previous five games, and has 16 goals in 17 games this season -- five more than any other player in the league. He'll be my captain as well.
Josef Martinez (10 goals in 15 appearances) would be my second choice, and it sounds like he will be available for Atlanta in Chicago on Wednesday. Martinez just came back from playing with Venezuela at the Copa America in Brazil. That's a long trip, after a good chunk of time away, which makes me nervous.
At Tier 1 midfielder, Nani has the highest fantasy points-per-game average, and he's coming off a two-assist performance in Orlando's 2-0 victory at Columbus. However, Nani took only one shot in that game. In fact, Orlando only took three shots as a team, and were rather fortunate to win. Plus, this week they play Philadelphia (the Eastern Conference leaders) twice.
I'm picking Maximiliano Moralez in this spot instead. Moralez is coming off a monster two-goal, two-assist performance in NYCFC's 4-2 win over Philadelphia. Both goals came from the penalty spot, but Moralez took four shots in that game and had six chances created. He now leads the league in assists, with eight in just 13 appearances.
NYCFC sit only sixth in the Eastern Conference, but that's because they've only played 15 games. In terms of points-per-game, they're actually in first place. They've only lost one game all season, and that was way back in March. Not only that, but they've got two home games this week -- against Seattle and Portland, two teams that have to travel a long way to get to Yankee Stadium.
Speaking of hot teams, San Jose picked up six points last week, thanks to a 2-0 win over Houston and a 3-0 victory over the LA Galaxy. The Earthquakes opened the season with four straight losses but, since then, they've won seven and drawn four of 13 games, including going unbeaten in their last six contests.
This week, San Jose has a relatively easy schedule, playing two teams hovering around the playoff line in the West: Minnesota (away) and Real Salt Lake (home). I'm planning to have three San Jose players in my fantasy lineup.
Chris Wondolowski didn't score against the Dynamo or the Galaxy last week, but he took four and five shots in those two games, respectively. He'd scored eight goals in the previous four games. Wondo will be my Tier 2 forward, unless manager Matias Almeyda decides to rest the 36-year-old on Wednesday.
Valeri Qazaishvili, on the other hand, scored both goals in the win over the Dynamo, and another one against the Galaxy. "Vako" has also taken at least five shots in each of the past four games, since being restored to the starting lineup at the beginning of June. He'll be my Tier 2 midfielder.
Shea Salinas missed the game against Houston due to injury and didn't start against the Galaxy. He did come off the bench in the 75th minute, and managed to pick up his fifth goal and third assist of the season in that short window of time. Salinas continues to be deployed as an attacker, rather than on defense, meaning he has a higher upside than any other Tier 2 defender. If he starts on Wednesday, he'll be in my lineup, too.
Felipe Gutierrez, Kansas City (Tier 3 midfielder): Sporting KC are in last place in the Western Conference, but they're the only other team besides NYCFC with two home games this week (against LAFC and Chicago). Gutierrez is currently on penalties for KC, and has already scored seven goals this season.
Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, Atlanta (Tier 1 defender): The Atlanta defender is fourth in the league in passes completed and tops at his position, averaging 59.8 per game. He had a team-high 82 in Atlanta's 2-1 win over Montreal last week.
David Bingham, LA Galaxy (Goalkeeper): I went with Brad Guzan last week and got burned as he conceded three goals against Toronto and one against Montreal, making just one save in the two games combined and finishing with minus-14.0 points. That, combined with the fact that I don't think any of the other goalkeepers who could play twice have a great chance of two clean sheets this week, has led me in the direction of a single-game keeper. Yes, Bingham just gave up three goals to San Jose his last time out, but he had posted clean sheets in three of his previous four games and is second in the league with 65 saves. He will also be at home against a Toronto team that has to travel long-distance and missing multiple key players due to the Gold Cup. If Bingham blows up, hey, at least he can only hurt me once!