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MLS Fantasy Player Picks Week 33: Alchemy

This week managers look to make fantasy gold from assets that would be cast aside in a standard fantasy week.

MLS - Los Angeles FC - Lee Nguyen celebrates with Benny Feilhaber
Benny Feilhaber and Lee Nguyen celebrate a goal versus the Colorado Rapids.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines alchemy as “a medieval chemical science and speculative philosophy aiming to achieve the transmutation of the base metals into gold…” You would be hard pressed to find a more applicable term for Major League Soccer’s week-33 slate. Its four matches offer us a mere eight teams to mine for fantasy riches. Combine that restriction with star players leaving for the international break, and we certainly are trying to make something out of nothing. Perhaps Dictionary.com’s alternative definition is more applicable to our task this week: “any magical power or process of transmuting a common substance, usually of little value, into a substance of great value.”

Week 33’s participants include a Friday night match-up between Los Angeles F.C. and the Houston Dynamo. Saturday’s action employs Minnesota United, Colorado Rapids, D.C. United, FC Dallas, New England Revolution, and Orlando City S.C. So, let’s delve into an ancient pseudoscience with our own pseudoscience to formulate fantasy gold.

‘If by fire
Of sooty coal th’ empiric alchymist
Can turn, or holds it possible to turn,
Metals of drossiest ore to perfect gold.’
John Milton (Paradise Lost, 5.439-442)

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Goalkeepers

The obvious place to start is Tyler Miller (Los Angeles F.C., $8.9m). The Dynamo attack has been ravaged by the international break. That was evident in both the lineup and performance they put in against the Seattle Sounders on Monday. And, with the first game of the week, Miller is in the perfect position to anchor your ‘keeperoo.’ Bill Hamid (D.C. United, $7.9m) and Jesse Gonzalez (F.C. Dallas, $5.4m) would be clear cut backup options, ordinarily. But, being pitted against each other turns either player’s selection into a game of pick’em. Considering that these are two playoff contenders, do you honestly see either side being held scoreless in this match?

As for the rest of the slate, we are blessed with three of the four worst defenses in the league. My favorite ‘keeperoo’ backup plan is Brad Knighton (New England Revolution, $7.0m). Yes, New England are the team not ranked in the bottom four, so maybe that is the obvious candidate. Orlando City are set to be without Dom Dwyer and Yoshimar Yotun, which only improves Knighton’s chances. If you like to play the differential game, a shout could be given to Bobby Shuttleworth (Minnesota United, $4.4m), given that the Colorado Rapids have the worst goal-scoring record in the league. However, I do not have the intestinal fortitude for that.

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Los Angeles F.C.

At the outset of this article I was prepared to express an adamant need to fill your defense with LAFC defenders. I still stand stand by that position, but the strength with which I am going to argue for it has lessened. Walker Zimmerman (defender, $8.0m), Steven Beitashour ($8.6m), and Jordan Harvey (defender, $8.0m), remain great defensive targets this week... IF you can fit them in. Do not forget, we are only allotted four players per team. This week, LAFC is the gold standard of fantasy mines.

With Miller being nearly essential in goal, managers are left with three LAFC spots to fill. On the front line, Carlos Vela (12.6m), Diego Rossi ($9.5m), and Adama Diomande (forward $8.0m), make strong cases to be in your lineups. Vela and Rossi are the fifth and seventh highest scoring forwards this season, respectively. Despite his limited minutes, due to the timing of his acquisition and injury, Diomande has been a terror in front of goal for opposing teams, having totaled nine goals and four assists in fourteen appearances. A case could be easily made to include two of these forwards in your squad. Thanks to the positional categorization of players, the one position where we have a glut of talent is at forward, so I am advocating one of the three LAFC attackers.

Because of this, the midfield becomes a wasteland in a hurry when you go to assemble your squad. LAFC provides two of the three best options at the midfield position. Benny Feilhaber (midfielder, $7.7m) and Lee Nguyen (midfielder, $9.9m) have moved up considerably on my priority list because of this. Nguyen has been more influential in the attack of late, having tallied a goal and two assists in his past five games. Over that time, Feilhaber has contributed two assists. But, the work rate of these two players has helped them earn heaps of bonus points over that span, Feilhaber with seventeen and Nguyen with ten, which cannot go overlooked in such a shallow game week. And, for those reasons, these two players are becoming increasingly necessary for my team, forcing me (reluctantly) to pass on any LAFC defenders.

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Houston Dynamo

With the abundance of forwards this week, and the absentees via international duty, Mauro Manotas (forward, $9.4m) just does not make the cut. After all the gushing I did above for LAFC attackers, it really negates any desire to look at Houston defenders. If you did want to have some defensive exposure, DeMarcus Beasley (defender, $6.1m) netted against the Sounders on Monday, so he could prove pivotal on a counter attack. Also, Alejandro Fuenmayor (defender, $6.9m) provides goal scoring upside from a set piece opportunities, having three goals on the season. The only other name that piques interest is Tomas Martinez (midfielder, $9.5m). He has managed one goal and four assists over his past five games. With major attacking pieces being absent this weekend, the Dynamo will need that sort of contribution to compete with LAFC.

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Minnesota United

I was quick to pull the trigger on Carlos Darwin Quintero (forward, $14.3m), seeing his home fixture against the maligned Colorado Rapids. The sixth highest scoring forward in the game this season seemed automatic, as I looked to spread my team’s fantasy exposure across the schedule. Again, a dearth of midfield options leaves little to be desired here. And, we are forced to fill three defensive positions. I do not think it would be out of line to take advantage of an early clean sheet chance with Michael Boxall (defender, $7.0m). He is also the most likely Loon defender to accumulate bonus points.

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Colorado Rapids

Finally, a worthy midfield candidate in Kellyn Aco... nevermind he will be on international duty this weekend, too. For our purposes, the Rapids provide nothing of value in the attacking half of the field. Again, playing in the first game Saturday, sneaking Edgar Castillo (defender, $6.6m) or Tommy Smith (defender, $4.2m) into your lineup could reap rewards. Both defenders have shown a propensity to attain bonus points, provided they are not negated by goals-allowed deductions. And, they have proven to be something of a focal point in attack, producing six goals and eight assists between them. Castillo would be my first choice, but a case could be made for including both.

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D.C. United

It is time for the obligatory Luciano Acosta (midfielder, $12.5m) and Wayne Rooney (forward, $12.8m) segment for the umteenth time this season, exclude these two at your own peril this week. Alongside them, United possess some much needed midfield depth for fantasy managers. Paul Arriola (midfielder, $8.5m) has contributed fifteen goal-scoring actions this season, seven goals and eight assists. Three of those goals have come in the four games since returning to the starting lineup in game-week 29. Equally, Yamil Asad (midfiedler, $9.3m) has proven to be a viable asset this season, with seventeen goal contributions, nine goals and eight assists. He has yet to score, though, since his return from injury in week 29. In search of rounding out our defenses Steve Birnbaum (defender, $8.8m) warrants a look for his ability to accrue bonus points and nod in an occasional goal, despite his clean sheet chances being slimmer than we would like to see.

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F.C. Dallas

Like many of the teams above, I would like to provide affirmation for those looking to include Maxi Urruti (forward, $9.3m) or Dominique Badji (forward, $5.4m) there are simply other options I like better. If you feel compelled to pick one, I prefer Urruti. The Dallas defense has a chance to payoff this week. As a team, F.C. Dallas have conceded the third fewest goals in the league this season. This makes players like Matt Hedges (defender, $8.4m) and Ryan Hollingshead (defender, $4.4m) worthy plays. They have arguably the best chance of keeping a clean sheet in week 33, based solely on goals conceded. I am trying to like the Dallas midfielders; it just feels like a revolving door at the position for them this season. At various times this year it has been Michael Barrios (midfielder, $10.9) and Roland Lamah (midfielder, $6.9). Now, it appears that Santiago Mosquera (midfielder, $9.5m) and Victor Ulloa (midfielder, $8.2m) are the men in form. The big question is: Who is it going to be this week? I like Barrios with his six goals and six assists plus his propensity for attacking bonus points. Second on the list for me is Ulloa for his ability to pick up bonus points.

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Orlando City S.C.

The only player worthy of consideration from the ‘Lions’ is Sacha Kljestan (midfielder, $7.0). He should be starting on your bench, if you choose to include him. He will be without attack partners Dom Dwyer (forward, $7.6m) and Yoshimar Yotun (midfielder, $12.0m) through suspension and international duty, respectively, leaving very little to like about Orlando this week.

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New England Revolution

New England could have a major influence on how the scoring turns out in week 33. We discussed their clean sheet chances with Brad Knighton earlier. Likewise, Michael Mancienne (defender, $6.9m), Jalil Anibaba (defender, $5.7m), and Andrew Farrell (defender, $5.9m), should he start, have similar arguments to make for inclusion. In midfield, neither Diego Fagundez (midfielder, $6.9m) nor Juan Agudelo (midfielder, $4.9m) started against Atlanta, but they combined for the team’s only goal in stoppage time. Should one or both start, I would consider rostering them, one or both. If I had only one spot, I would side with Fagundez and his superior goal and assist tallies, seven and nine respectively. Again, at forward Cristian Penilla (forward, $7.9m) and Teal Bunbury (forward, $5.7m) go to waste in a match against the league’s worst defense. I am not going to endorse starting either, regardless of how enticing the matchup is. How lucky are you feeling?

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This week’s limited slate forces managers to concoct a roster in a manner unlike any other this season. Alchemy eventually gave way to other modern sciences like chemistry and pharmaceuticals. Perhaps, for the first time in history, alchemy will finally yield gold. Fantasy gold.

‘You are an alchemist; make gold of that.’
Timon (Act V, Scene I, Line 117)
—William Shakespeare (Timon of Athens)

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Who are you pseudo-believing in this week? What are you pulling off the scrap heap in hopes finding fantasy gold? Let us know in the comments below!

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