This article is part of our DraftKings Fantasy Soccer series.
Two great DraftKings slates are up for Saturday night action. We'll look at the first, which features five matches with eight of the teams still fighting for either playoff spots or playoff positioning. The two teams essentially out of the running, D.C. United and Minnesota United, have even been playing well above their early season form, making every team playable for fantasy purposes.
I'm also happy to share that my research for this piece, and now yours too, includes new and improved MLS stats pages and boxscores here at RotoWire!
7:00 p.m. EDT
It would take a major upset for Toronto to be knocked from their Supporters Shield perch and it's downright impressive how successful a year they've had while dealing with international absences and frequent injuries to key players. What was once seen as a top-heavy team a year or two ago has become one of the deepest teams in recent memory, and perhaps in league history. Star striker Jozy Altidore is set to return in a match where they can seal the top overall seed, but Sebastian Giovinco will remain sidelined. On the Red Bulls side, they're winless in six matches but have also only lost one of those. Semi-comfortably sitting in the final spot in the East, I could very well see them sitting back and settling for another draw.
Victor Vazquez, TOR v. NYR ($8,300): Vazquez has been a tremendous addition to the TFC lineup, perhaps giving them the final piece to push them over the top and to their first MLS Cup victory. His production purely in terms of goals and assists has rewarded fantasy owners more often than not lately, and while the underlying creation and crossing metrics aren't the most enticing over the past month or so, having Altidore back in the lineup could take some pressure off and allow Vazquez to thrive. Michael Bradley always poses a threat to siphon some corner kicks, but Vazquez had a monopoly last match and we can hope that continues here.
Tyler Adams, NYR at TOR ($3,600): There are about half-dozen cheap midfielders I want to consider from this match, but Adams stands out for his all-around production from the right wingback spot of late. As a standout midfielder on the US youth national teams, Adams has proven very capable of an attacking role from what often looks like a five-man back line in New York. We shouldn't expect the two goals he grabbed earlier this month, or even one, but Adams has become one of the team's most effective ways of creating attacking chances. At such a cheap price, I'll be content with the crosses, fouls drawn and tackles while using the savings to grab real firepower elsewhere in my lineups.
Bradley Wright-Phillips ($7,200) remains one of the best finishers in the league, but he's been playing a lot of minutes and I don't see him going the full 90 here. On the road against a top defense, that's not a great bet. Marco Delgado ($4,000) and Jonathan Osorio ($3,900) are great alternatives to Adams if you strongly prefer the home side. I like the price of Sacha Kljestan ($6,800) but fear he's set for a more defensive game than usual.
Columbus are jostling for a home match in the first round of the playoffs and should be able to take care of business hosting a United side that, while improved, are still inconsistent and questionably motivated on the road. This should be one of the more lopsided matches on the slate.
Ola Kamara, CLB v. DCU ($7,900): Only Nemanja Nikolic has more shots from inside the box this season than Ola, and only David Villa and Fanendo Adi have more touches inside the box. Guess who allows the second-most touches and shots inside the box to forwards this season? D.C. United. Like your typical Kamara, Ola is fairly goal dependent, but his chances will rarely be better than in this fixture against a United team that's allowed 18 goals in their last six away matches.
Pedro Santos, CLB v. DCU ($6,600): Santos doesn't quite have the ceiling or floor of the more central and expensive Federico Higuain ($9,000) thanks to less set-piece action and assist potential, but he'll save some salary and provide an equal scoring and shooting punch in a match that should see Columbus bag multiple goals. Should Chris Korb get a third start in eight days at left-back, the quick and technical Santos could have an absolute field day and makes for a great stacking partner with Kamara or Higuain.
Zoltan Stieber ($6,000) has become United's primary playmaker and would be my favorite play from the road side. Given the other options on the slate, spending up for Higuain is completely feasible and something I'm strongly considering.
Atlanta's inaugural season could not be going much better, but they've had a busy September and could easily rotate at least half the team for this match. New England have largely squandered their playoff chances, losing three of four, but could still get in if they win their last three. At home, you'd expect a fierce performance against a potential B-Team, but it's been awhile since I've seen the Revs consistently bring the juice in big moments.
Kevin Kratz, ATL at NER ($3,000): With Miguel Almiron injured, Kratz is your best bet to continue taking corners and potentially other set pieces. Given how frequently New England have been conceding goals, it would be irresponsible not to consider an attacking midfielder at minimum price with that kind of safe floor. The upside with Kratz has been fairly low, with just one shot on target in over 400 minutes this season, but if some stars sit, Kratz has the ability to generate more attacking output.
Lee Nguyen, NER v. ATL ($8,500): I've been torn on Nguyen's potential this weekend since Wednesday's match that saw him play 90 minutes despite the 10-man Revolution getting blown out in Orlando. He's been in and out of the lineup nursing an injury, that must be significant given his team's need for crucial points. Does the 90 minutes in a meaningless match mean he's all the way back? Or does it mean he had no chance of being able to start again this weekend? Fortunately, we should see the lineup before contests kick off, and if Nguyen is in it, he deserves strong consideration. At home, New England have scored the fourth-most goals in the league and Nguyen has been a key part of that. While he's far from the "MV-Lee" scoring form of 2014, he's tripled his assist total from that famous season and could do well against a rotated Atlanta team.
Julian Gressel ($5,500) was absolutely snubbed on the recent MLS 24 under 24 list, but would have been the fourth Atlanta player. Rounding out the list instead was Diego Fagundez ($5,700), who would be one of my favorite tournament plays if Nguyen sits out. Kei Kamara ($7,200) scores big goals, or at least used to, and I don't hate him in this spot. On the flip side, Brad Guzan ($4,700) could see a lot of shots from a desperate New England team and I like him in tournaments as well.
When healthy and in form, these two sides are some of the best in the league. David Villa and Bastian Schweinsteiger both could feature in this match after nursing injuries for most of the past month. The winner has a solid shot at securing a first-round bye in the playoffs. Expect a back-and-forth match with plenty of exciting attacking play and defensive players who are up to the task of stopping it.
Andraz Struna, NYC at CHI ($4,000): The addition of Struna and return of Ronald Matarrita give NYC FC a pair of fullbacks who can truly change a team's shape. Adding dangerous attackers to either wing who can also defend is one of the biggest things that sets top MLS sides apart, and with all apologies to Ethan White and RJ Allen, they aren't that. Struna has fired at least one shot and crossed four times in each of his two starts, and while he'll likely have to deal with defending lightning quick David Accam, the price is too good to pass up on the potential.
David Accam, CHI v. NYC ($8,600): Speaking of Accam, I think he makes for a great alternative to back-in-form Nemanja Nikolic ($8,100), who scored twice Wednesday while Accam rested at home. Given NYC's aggressive style of attack, there will be a handful of times that they're left susceptible on the counter attack. One of the best players at taking advantage of those situations is Accam. Whether running onto long balls from Schweini or Dax McCarty, or crossing into the imposing Nikolic, Accam should be in great spots to grab either a goal or assist, and his floor is safer than that of other Fire forwards.
We've gone over plenty of value plays already, but another one people may be tempted to use is Djordje Mihailovic ($3,500). I think it'd be irresponsible by manager Veljko Paunovic to trot out the 18-year old against the dominant midfield of NYC FC, but if he does, I certainly would recommend not falling into that trap after his impressive goal and assist last match. Maximiliano Moralez ($7,300) is every bit as good as the plays listed above and should take most set pieces. He'll also have goal-scoring extraordinaire David Villa ($10,500) back in the lineup. Probably. I'm playing Villa's return by investing more in Moralez and less in the expensive striker on the road.
Each of the prior two matches between these teams have resulted in a draw, but it's hard to imagine Houston not getting all three points. Sitting one point out of the playoffs, they need them, too. Minnesota United have gone from flatlining to taking a deep breath of air, with seven goals and a pair of wins across their last two games, but it's just as likely that was their last gasp as it is they'll continue to even be remotely competitive in the attack.
Tomas Martinez, HOU v. MIN ($5,000): Martinez has yet to completely gel with his teammates, but it's very clear he's the team's standout playmaker, and who better to have a breakout performance against than Minnesota United in a must-win match? Houston have options galore to surround Martinez with in the attack, but most importantly, the Argentine has taken over all or nearly all set pieces. Following a goal and nine-cross performance, I think you can expect more of the same at a great value in this match.
Erick Torres, HOU v. MIN ($8,000): Literally any of the Houston starting attackers are worth considering if they start, but for the sake of preparing for any combination, I'd rank my preference as follows: Cubo, Alberth Elis, Romell Quioto, Mauro Manotas, Alex, Vicente Sanchez, Memo Rodriguez. A main component of Cubo Torres' fantasy value, in addition to playing in the center of the attack, is his penalty kick duty. In an important match, Houston will look to their star designated player to step up, and I think he'll reward the team once more for their continued faith and patience in him.
Dylan Remick ($4,100) should start at left-back after DeMarcus Beasley logged a lot of minutes lately, and I always think he's a viable, albeit unexciting, option. On the United side, Bobby Shuttleworth ($3,700) has a lot of tournament appeal. Minnesota have shown they can score lately, and if they sneak a goal in early, Houston could fire plenty of desperation shots on target.