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MLS Week 25 Player Picks: Twin-Bills Come Due

Scouring the the six double game-week teams to find players to help managers make a charge up the overall standings.

MLS - Portland Timbers - Diego Valeri
Diego Valeri takes a penalty versus the LA Galaxy.
Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

The two previous articles in this series have been written in preparation of week 25, stressing the building of a budget. That rationale gets tossed to the side for this week as managers should solely chase points. Double gameweeks (DGW) provide the opportunity to make large moves in the overall standings. For DGWs, I employ one simple rule: Premium attacking assets ONLY in the midfield and forward lines. With six teams playing midweek games, this is not too difficult to obey. If you need to save money in a DGW, I always look to defenders and goalkeepers, which I do not always do for a non-DGW slate.

With the Colorado Rapids, D.C. United, Los Angeles Galaxy, and Los Angeles FC, Portland Timbers, and Real Salt Lake participating in the double dip, there are plenty of players available across multiple price levels to field an entire lineup of double game-week participants. Instead of the normal price barrier format, this week we will scroll position-by-position through this week picks. Here are the players that caught my eye this week:

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Forwards

Carlos Vela, Forward (Los Angeles FC, $10.3m)

Vela’s returns have not been AMAZING since the start of the fall fantasy season. But, he has a goal and an assist in his two starts. You cannot argue with his current price, either. With games against Real Salt Lake and Colorado, the schedule could not be more accommodating for LAFC’s attacking players, and that all starts with the Mexican playmaker. Bob Bradley rested his starters over the weekend, so I would expect minimal rotation from them this over the upcoming twinbill.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Forward (Los Angeles Galaxy, $11.5m)

With LA Galaxy having three games in nine days, this pick feels a little risky. In the last DGW (week 22), the 36 year old played all 180 minutes leading up to the all-star beak. Ibra has shown enough upside to warrant consideration if he plays only one game, particularly the Tuesday fixture against Colorado. He will be positioned on my bench to mitigate some of the risk and volatility that comes with Zlatan’s minutes. I expect him to be widely owned once again this week. So, having him on your bench allows you to fade him if he falters (or plays greatly reduced minutes), while allowing you to switcheroo him should he go full ‘lion-mode,’ if he does, indeed, play 140-180 minutes.

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Midfielders

Diego Valeri, Midfielder (Portland Timbers, $12.0m)

The Timbers’ captain put in another stellar performance last week, 13 points despite falling to the Vancouver Whitecaps. It is highly unlikely that any defense can prevent Valeri from putting up fantasy points. He has netted a goal in three of his last four games. The D.C. United game is where I would expect him to accrue most of his points this week, although I still have my doubts about the Sporting KC defense, regardless of their recent results. If there is a worry about ‘The Maestro,’ it is that Portland are on the road for both games, but I personally do not subscribe to the ‘home drone’ theory.

Albert Rusnak, Midfielder (Real Salt Lake, $9.3m)

Rusnak is a bit of an enigma. He has not logged a double-digit return since game-week 17. However, he is not likely to return less than 5 points. If you are reading my third compilation of player picks, you know how much I love a stable floor. He is arguably RSL’s most talented player, which is not reflected in his price. He saves you a considerable amount of cash compared to Joao Plata who, despite his better form, is a larger rotation risk. It would not be unexpected for Rusnak to turn up with some goal contributions, given his ability on free kicks and his ability to pick out a threatening pass.

Luciano Acosta, Midfidler (D.C. United, $9.0m)

In three fall season game-weeks, he has scored 3 goals and provided 2 assists. His hattrick on Sunday evening showed that there is plenty of goal scoring potency to go along with his creative service. The connection he has created with Wayne Rooney should yield bountiful results for the remainder of the season. With so many games in hand, this is a name you are going to see frequently in this column. There is still plenty of room on the bandwagon!

Kellyn Acosta, Midfielder (Colorado Rapids, $8.5m)

Since his move to Colorado, Kellyn Acosta has become a must-have fantasy asset. His price is starting to creep up into the upper tiers, but his production has breathed life into a previously stagnant Rapids attack. Last week, his run of games with a goal came to an end, but he was still able to play the role of provider with 2 assists. He faces an LA Galaxy side he tallied against in their last matchup Tuesday night. As he goes, so goes Colorado.

Sebastian Lletget, Midfiedler (Los Angeles Galaxy, $6.5m)

If you remember the rule above, Lletget falls right on the line of ‘premium players.’ With the injuries to Roman Alessandrini and Giovanni dos Santos last week, a path to playing time should be clear for the up-and-coming USMNT star. In his 45 minute cameo last week, he was able to turn up with a goal. He could be thrust right into a playmaking role due to the loss of the Galaxy’s two best midfield options. I am willing to roll the dice for the tremendous upside, albeit from my bench.

Andre Horta, Midfielder (Los Angeles FC, $8.0m)

If you are looking for an absolute flier this week, I would take a shot on Andre Horta. He made his full debut against Sporting KC over the weekend. The injury to Mark-Anthony Kaye ($8.5m), and the old legs of Benny Feilhaber ($9.5m) and Lee Nguyen ($8.0m) could see Horta feature in both games as a viable LAFC midfielder. Did I mention how good those match-ups are? Otherwise, I am staying away from LAFC midfield due to the uncertainty.

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Defenders

Los Angeles FC Defenders

LAFC have the cushiest match-ups of the week. Given that we have a maximum of four players for each team allowed in our squads, I am considering using three on the defensive half of my lineup. The best options all ring in at $6.8m: Laurent Ciman, Walker Zimmerman, and Steven Beitashour. Take your pick and hope they start both games. Two clean sheets are not out of the question for this squad this week.

Portland Timbers Defenders

The Timbers have shown a renewed defensive resilience under first-year head coach Giovanni Savarese. While their match-ups are not as toothless as those of LAFC, their opportunity to come away with one clean sheet should provide some interest for fantasy owners. Their first match sees them face a D.C. United coming off a hard fought game against Orlando City SC and a Sporting KC side still putting the pieces together in the attack. The lucrative part of the Portland back line is the variance in pricing which LAFC do not have. Larrys Mabiala ($8.0m) is the premium option. But, for value, you could run out Alvas Powell ($7.5m) or reacquired defender Jorge Villafana ($6.5m). All three of these players carry plenty of attacking upside to go with their defensive prowess.

Tommy Smith, Defender (Colorado Rapids, $6.2m)

Defensive options are at a bit of a premium this week. Tommy Smith has proven to be a defender with plenty of attacking intent. He has 2 assists in his last two games, and an earned penalty in the match before that. For a team that is not likely to earn a single clean sheet, I am not willing to pay up for Edgar Castillo, but $6.2m for his lesser counterpart is worth a flier if they can continue to contribute offensively. He should be left on the bench if he makes it into your squad, though.

Aaron Herrera, Defender (Real Salt Lake, $5.0m)

Real Salt Lake are two goalazos from coming into this week’s match-ups on the back of two clean sheets. Two weeks ago, they fell victim to a master class strike from Bastian Schweinsteiger; and, this past week, it was an absolute laser from Jukka Raitala. There are signs of improvement coming from RSL. Their matchups do not look appealing from a clean sheet perspective, but Herrera has provided a fair share of points via the bonus metrics. Should they pop up with a clean sheet, that is just a luxury at his price point.

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Goalkeeper

Tyler Miller, Goalkeeper (Los Angeles FC, $6.0m)

Typically, we look to roll out a tandem of goalkeepers to maximize our clean sheet opportunity in a single game week. The midweek schedule always makes that a bit more difficult with the compressed start times. Miller was listed as questionable for the weekend tilt against Sporting Kansas City. The MLS match preview for LAFC does not list him this week. Being that LAFC have the easiest match-ups, and the last start time, I am rolling with Tyler Miller as my only keeper option so I can maximize my budget elsewhere.

Jeff Attinella, Goalkeeper (Portland Timbers, $7.0m)

The appeal garnered by the defenders on the Portland squad apply for Attinella, as well. If the clean sheets are ultimately squandered, the quality of his opponents should see him earn some save points, at the very least.

David Bingham, Goalkeeper (Los Angeles Galaxy, $5.1m)

If you do want to roll with the classic keeperoo, the LA Galaxy stopper is a good place to start. Might the Galaxy defense be able to hold down the fort at home against a meager Colorado Rapids attack, for once?

At my initial glance, I was concerned there would not be enough quality talent to plug in a full squad for this DGW. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw numerous options across equally as many price tiers. And, I did not have to dig into the bargain price players to do so, as I do not want to take on the risks with those players: boom or bust returns and squad rotation.

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How are you spending your budget this double game-week? What picks do you see paying off? Is there anyone you feel will leave you shortchanged? Let us know in the comments below!

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