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MLS Week 24 Fantasy Player Picks: Accruing Wealth

The fall season’s first double game week is just around the corner, but there is still one week to build your bankroll and pile on the points.

Yamil Asad & Luciano Acosta - MLS - D.C. United
Luciano Acosta celebrates with Yamil Asad.
Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

There are plenty of colloquial maxims expressing the explicit and implicit benefits of money, or wealth. I do not need to reiterate any of those to you to explain its importance in the MLS fantasy game. Accruing wealth has a twofold impact on our teams this week:

First, MLS teams have been accruing their own wealth during the open transfer period, which saw three notable transactions this week. Second, our first double game week (DGW) takes place in week 25, placing a high importance on our ability as managers to maximize our cash to ease the constraints of our current budgets.

The three notable transactions this week:

Justin Meram returns to the Columbus Crew after a short, unsuccessful stint with Orlando City. Upon his return, Meram should have an immediate impact on the Crew. Their bye last week should have bought him some time reacquaint himself with his teammates, both new and old.

Second, Los Angeles F.C. acquired Christian Ramirez from Minnesota United. On the surface, this deal does not appear to make much sense from either side of the deal. Minnesota United have had a difficult time scoring throughout the year. For Minnesota, I wonder if there is a replacement signing in the wings that they could announce prior to the closing of the window. For LAFC, they already have too many attacking players for the limited number of positions. I do wonder, however, if this speaks to the severity of the injury that Adama Diomande picked up against the New York Red Bulls. If Ramirez sees time in Dio’s absence, then he could be a nice value option in the potent LAFC attack.

Finally, Sporting Kansas City made their long awaited move for a number-nine. Krisztian Nemeth, returning for a second stint at SKC, was acquired from the New England Revolution. While he may not slot into the lineup immediately, having not seen much game action under Brad Friedel, Nemeth will command managers’ attention with his nice $7.5m price and proven ability to score in Peter Vermes’ system, 10 goals and 6 assists with Sporting KC in 2015.

While we wait for the players above to settle in, and for the transfer window to shut completely, we have a game week to prepare for. With the aforementioned DGW on the horizon, I went out of my way to find players who should, even in the very worst scenario, see a price increase next week. However, we will want to hunt out some current match-ups that will yield a maximum increase with a strong week 24 showing.

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Premium Players

New York Red Bulls

With the budget constraints we are all currently under, this is the most succinct way to sum up my pro-Red Bulls stance this week. There are premium options all over the pitch that make sense: Bradley Wright-Phillips, Kaku, and the entire defensive half of the formation. The Chicago Fire’s lineup last weekend showed their intent to chase U.S. Open Cup silverware. It is likely they could run out a similar lineup following this Wednesday’s midweek match. Should that happen, I would expect the usual suspects from the red side of New York to feast. The only decision that remains is how to fit them into your budget. I would rank the premium assets in this order, as relates to my team: Kemar Lawrence (Defender; $7.5m), Bradley Wright-Phillips (Forward; $10.0m), then Kaku (Midfielder; $10.8m).

Portland Timbers

Similar to NYRB, the Timbers’ opponent this weekend is vying for the Canadian Championship. Against a watered-down Vancouver Whitecaps lineup there persists plenty of fantasy point upside for Portland’s more expensive players. Larrys Mabiala (Defender; $7.5m) is the most expensive of the defensive options with plenty of goal scoring upside, having netted 4 this season. And, as always, there is ‘The Maestro,’ Diego Valeri (Midfielder; $11.5m). Again, with an eye on your budget, it is about making all the pieces fit. If I could only choose one, it would be Valeri.

Nicolas Lodiero, Midfielder (Seattle Sounders, $12.0m)

‘Nico’ is one of three active players in gameweek 24 to have the maximum cost. And, you would be foolish to say he does not deserve it, averaging 8.69 points per game. He has scored or assisted in seven of his last eight matches, demonstrating the safety in having him in your squad. His only blank was the Sounders’ all-around listless midweek performance against the San Jose Earthquakes. Rave Green looks to be turning CenturyLink Field into a second-half fortress once again, and Lodiero is the king of the castle.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Forward (Los Angeles Galaxy, $11.0m)

Dear Fantasy MLS Managers,

I am back from suspension.

You’re Welcome.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic
#9 LA Galaxy

...at least, that is what I imagine the back page of a proverbial MLS Fantasy newspaper would read. In his 17 appearances for the Galaxy he has supplied 14 goals and 6 assists. Zlatan is the star at the center of the Galaxy. He should attract your attention.

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Mid-Tier Players

I have already waxed poetic about the scoring potential of the New York Red Bulls and the Portland Timbers, above. The same logic applies to players at this price level, namely: Daniel Royer, Midfielder (New York Red Bulls, $8.5m); Michael Murillo, Defender (New York Red Bulls, $6.7m); Julio Cascante, Defender (Portland Timbers, $6.0m); and Samuel Armenteros, Forward (Portland Timbers, $9.2m).

Harrison Afful, Defender (Columbus Crew, $6.5m)

We always like to exploit out of position players in fantasy soccer. Afful typically occupies a holding midfield position in Columbus’ 4-2-3-1 formation. With Houston coming unhinged against Sporting Kansas City last weekend, they will be without the most dangerous attacker, Alberth Elis, due to his red card. Plus, Houston are another team with a Wednesday evening tilt in the U.S. Open Cup. It all fits together for an opportunistic clean sheet, and the Crew midfielder has been in fine attacking form as well, with 2 assists in as many matches.

Luciano Acosta, Midfielder (D.C. United, $8.5m)

D.C. United are the beneficiaries facing the toothless Orlando City defense this week. Over the past two weeks, the attack for United has started to show signs of life. While Wayne Rooney may be the go-to play for many managers this week, I will take the creator in the number-ten role. Over the past two weeks, Acosta has notched 2 assists and compiled 9 shots, the same quantity as Rooney. All of that on top of 8 bonus points makes for a safe midfield starter with plenty of desirable upside.

Kellyn Acosta, Midfielder (Colorado Rapids, $8.0m)

Since his move to Colorado, Acosta is running rampant! He has accumulated 18 points over two weeks. The goals are nice, of course, but there are plenty of other bright spots in his game that make him a desirable asset. His bonus point accumulation covers all aspects of the game: key passes, shots, passes completed, and recoveries. Despite being a Rapid, he is establishing a nice enough floor to develop into a solid cut-price option. And, there is plenty of meat left on the bone, should his teammates begin to convert on some of his key passes and big chances created.

Vako, Midfielder (San Jose, $8.5m)

Chasing a guy coming off of a brace feels like really poor analysis. However, I believe there will be all sorts of points coming from the Colorado versus San Jose match (see Kellyn Acosta, above). He has failed to reach 5 points in only three of his last ten games. If the brace is a sign of an upcoming rich vein of form, a goal or an assist sees you with a double-digit tally against a side we have picked on in fantasy all season.

Justin Meram, Midfielder (Columbus Crew, $7.5)

I do not have anything to back up this call. But the price looks good, and Meram has something to prove after a brief (and tumultuous) time in Orlando. The Crew could be without Federico Higuain, while facing a depleted and fatigued Dynamo side. Something about this just feels good — storybook even.

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Value Picks

Matteo Mancosu, Forward (Motreal Impact, $6.5m)

He has scored or assisted in three of the last four games. Real Salt Lake have not been able completely seal the defensive half of the field. Mancosu is a cheap bench piece with some point-producing ability.

Shea Salinas, Defender (San Jose Earthquakes, $5.5m)

Should my high scoring inclination be wrong for this game, I see a more favorable outcome for the Quakes. This could be a good safety option to pair with Kellyn Acosta on your bench for a switcheroo.

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Goalkeepers

How could I not start with the Red Bull and Timber stoppers? Luis Robles (New York Red Bulls, $6.5m) and Jeff Attinella (Portland Timbers, $6.5m) command a nice chunk of change if you want to pair them in your ‘keeperoo.’ The woes facing the Houston Dynamo have been well documented, making Zach Steffen (Columbus Crew, $6.0m) a viable option at a marginally cheaper cost.

Delving below $6 million, Andrew Tarbell (San Jose Earthquakes, $5.5m) and David Ousted (D.C. United, $4.9m) are decent value picks. Tarbell is attractive for the same reasons as Salinas, above. And, Ousted looks to be facing an Orlando City side without Sacha Kljestan (injury) and Yoshimar Yotun (red card), leaving very little attacking threat to be worrisome, on paper at least.

With an eye on the DGW in week 25, assembling a team that maximizes the opportunity for player price increases seems to carry more weight when deciphering between players. The strong showing last week from Luciano Acosta, Kellyn Acosta, and Vako, make a convincing argument to have them included in your side to simply reap the benefits of another expected price increase in addition to week 24 match-ups that could yield a bounty of fantasy points.

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The MLS transfer window will close in the run up to game-week 24. Who are you bringing in to help your team move up the table? Please let us know in the comment section below!

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