After a truncated schedule last weekend due to the international break, Major League Soccer is back in full swing this week. In fact, there are four extra games on Wednesday -- meaning eight teams will play twice, and these squads will be the key to building your fantasy lineup.
The LA Galaxy are one of those teams, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic was an easy choice as my Tier 1 forward and captain. He's tied for second in the league in goals with 23, level with Josef Martinez and four behind Carlos Vela. Neither of that latter pair is playing twice this week. Ibrahimovic had a goal and an assist in the Galaxy's most recent game, a 4-3 loss at Seattle. He also finished with a brace in each of his previous three games. The Galaxy have lots to play for, as they are fighting to make the playoffs, currently eighth in the Western Conference. Their two opponents this week, Colorado and Sporting Kansas City, are below them in the standings and unlikely to qualify for the postseason.
The only team with two home games this week is NYCFC, now atop the Eastern Conference following a 2-1 win over New England this past Saturday. Toronto and San Jose are the two upcoming visitors at Yankee Stadium. Valentin Castellanos did not score last week, but took four shots, and was hauled down by New England defender Antonio Delamea Mlinar when through on goal, leading to a red card. Castellanos is second on his team with 10 goals this season, and leading scorer Heber (14 goals) is out due to injury. Castellanos will be my Tier 2 forward. Teammate Maximiliano Moralez would have been my Tier 1 midfielder, but he's suspended for NYCFC's first game this week due to yellow-card accumulation.
San Jose is the only side with two away games this week, as the team plays at Real Salt Lake, followed by their matchup with NYCFC. Nevertheless, the Earthquakes are a good team, currently sitting fourth in the West and coming off back-to-back victories against Vancouver (3-1) and Orlando (3-0).
Magnus Eriksson had an assist and took nine shots against Vancouver, scored a goal against Orlando, and had 12 chances created in those two games combined. On the season, Eriksson has six goals and seven assists, and ranks second in the league in chances created with 92. He'll be my Tier 1 midfielder. Teammate Valeri Qazaishvili will be my Tier 2 midfielder. He had an assist against Orlando, and took 10 shots against Vancouver. Vako has eight goals and four assists on the season, and is averaging 5.33 shots-per-90 minutes, tops in the league among qualified players.
Another San Jose player, Cristian Espinoza, is also available in this tier and has a higher fantasy points-per-game average. However, Vako has come off the bench seven times this season, playing 458 fewer minutes. Espinoza is also having a very good season, with two goals, nine assists and 76 chances created. I will pivot to him if Vako does not start on Wednesday, following international duty with Georgia.
Minnesota did not play this past weekend, but won their most recent game 2-0 at LAFC, becoming the first team to beat the league leaders at Banc of California Stadium this season. Granted, LAFC star Carlos Vela was out due to a hamstring injury. Still, Minnesota is up to third place in the West, and the team has a pair of very winnable games this week -- at 11th-place Houston, followed by a home matchup against fifth-place Real Salt Lake.
Jan Gregus picked up his seventh assist of the season against LAFC. He also has scored a goal, and is averaging more than two shots and two chances created-per-game, plus nearly 50 passes completed. He'll be my Tier 3 midfielder. Meanwhile, Romain Metanire is one of Minnesota's starting fullbacks, and has a goal and three assists this season. He's one of three Tier 1 defenders with two games this week. The other two (Alexander Callens and Nick Lima) have been away on international duty, so they may not be available for midweek fixtures. That makes Metanire an easy pick.
Ike Opara is fifth in the league in clearances with 129, and has three goals and an assist. He also scored three goals in each of the past two seasons with Sporting Kansas City. He will be my Tier 2 defender and Vito Mannone will be my goalkeeper. He is tied for second in the league in clean sheets with 10, and is fourth in saves with 100. Mannone is coming off a clean sheet and eight saves against LAFC, has five clean sheets in his past nine games, and has conceded more than one goal only once during that stretch. Plus, Minnesota's two opponents this week are among the sides (with Vancouver) that have scored the fewest goals in the Western Conference.