DraftKings Fantasy Soccer: Saturday MLS (Early) Picks

DraftKings Fantasy Soccer: Saturday MLS (Early) Picks

This article is part of our DraftKings Fantasy Soccer series.

Barreling towards Week 2, we once again have three separate MLS slates and a lot to unpack from the opening weekend. Here, we'll focus on the Saturday afternoon set of four matches.

While this article focuses on DraftKings contests, it should translate well to the official MLS version that now comes with unlimited weekly transfers. For a deeper dive into both formats, check out our weekly RotoWire Fantasy Soccer Podcast - MLS edition. You would also be remiss to not take a peek at Andrew Laird's MLS Cheat Sheet.

v.
2:00 p.m. (EST)

This match features two teams who ground out impressive results in Week 1. Real Salt Lake fielded a weakened back line, but were able to keep a Sebastian-Giovinco-and-Jozy Altidore-led attack off the score sheet. Chicago went down a goal in Columbus and fought to a one-one draw without midfield star Juninho. Both teams still carry some questions on defense, and bring not-yet-unlocked attacking potential.

Salt Lake face even more questions at center-back with Chris Schuler set to miss the match after a fantastic opener and Justin Glad not ready to return. Meanwhile, Chicago will see the return of Juninho for their home opener, and he is likely to steal most, if not all, set piece duties from Arturo Alvarez.

Favorite Plays:

David Accam, CHI v. RSL ($8,400): Accam's opening week was exactly what we have come to expect from the lightning-quick Ghanaian winger. While opposing defenses rarely have an answer if he catches them on even the slightest wrong footing, he remains a uniquely selfish attacker. Before, it was excusable since the rest of the team was a dumpster fire, pun intended. Now, he must adapt to the talented pieces around him if he's going to push into fantasy "must play" territory and make his teammates valuable picks as well. He's nearly in that territory this weekend, but opposition player Tony Beltran is one of Major League Soccer's sturdiest right backs.

Albert Rusnak, RSL at CHI ($5,100): Salt Lake general manager Craig Waibel continues to preach patience as Rusnak acclimates to MLS, but I suspect he's just trying to get a leg up on us with his fantasy team and am not falling for it! Rusnak certainly will grow into the season, but he's already a roster-worthy playmaker at a great DraftKings price. RSL had the third-highest expected goals total in the opening weekend, and Rusnak was behind only David Villa with four key passes. He will have a tough time with Dax McCarty locking down Chicago's defensive midfield, but don't let one underwhelming box score on DraftKings chase you away from considering a quality player.

Other notables:

Nemanja Nikolic ($6,900) becomes an intriguing option given RSL's centerback woes. On the flip side, Joao Plata ($8,600), who attempted five shots last match, is an attractive option going against "weak link" Michael Harrington on the right side of Chicago's defense. Brandon Vincent ($4,400) is a decent choice on a slate devoid of good value defenders.

Note: this match has been canceled due to inclement weather.

v.
2:00 p.m.

In Week 1, New England couldn't solve the Rapids' defense. Not surprising. New York City being unable to crack the Orlando City defense was quite the surprise though. Without Kaka, Orlando will take their good start on the road for an extremely chilly match at Gillette Stadium and I think things could go either way. For their part, New England playmaker Lee Nguyen is day-to-day with an ankle contusion, and I'm not sure they'll want to throw him out in bad weather and on turf this early in the season.

Favorite Plays:

Kelyn Rowe, NER v. ORL ($6,100): Should Nguyen sit, New England likely will push Juan Agudelo up top beside Kei Kamara and let Rowe assume the attacking midfield spot. Without being a focal point of the attack, Rowe has managed to grab at least five goals and five assists in four straight seasons. Last season was a big step forward in terms of quality for Rowe, and this could be the season he finally earns the respect he deserves. While it's unlikely he will take most set pieces, I'm still expecting him to fill in admirably on Saturday, with two dangerous forwards threatening in front of him.

Carlos Rivas ($4,900): I'm personally hesitant about Rivas, but he deserves some discussion here. The Orlando forward, eligible as a midfielder, could be a popular play thanks to his cheap price and encouraging start to the season. Rivas looked like Orlando's most aggressive player, taking three shots and grabbing a secondary assist on the Lions' only goal. At just 22 years old, he makes plenty of mistakes and may ruin a few-too-many Orlando opportunities for my liking, but the positives matter more in fantasy and he certainly has the ability tally some points.

Other notables:

Cyle Larin ($7,300) picked up a knock in the last match but appears all set to go for the weekend, while teammate Matias Perez Garcia ($5,700) should assume a more attacking role, including set pieces, with Kaka out for an extended period. I stand by my thoughts that Kei Kamara ($6,000) will have a bounce back season and am not sure Jonathan Spector has the physical tools to match him in Orlando's central defense.

v.
4:00 p.m.

It's only been on match, but Colorado appear to be literally the same dull, boring but effective team they were last season. Meanwhile, the Red Bulls remain a bit of a mystery through two CONCACAF Champions League matches and their MLS opener. After being outmaneuvered by Atlanta United last week, they stole a result. New York manager Jesse Marsch will have a much simpler task tactically against a predictable Colorado side than he did against Tata Martino, but I haven't seen much to suggest Marsch's team can fully take advantage. I would be fairly surprised to see more than two goals combined in this one.

Tim Howard and Shkelzen Gashi are both looking like game-time decisions for the Rapids, but I wouldn't bank on either starting.

Favorite Plays:

Luis Robles, NYRB v. COL ($5,500): This should come as no surprise given my goal total prediction. Robles, a perennial goalkeeper of the year consideration, is a home favorite against the team that scored the second-fewest goals in 2016. In Week 1, Colorado had the second-fewest expected goals of any home side, and they were playing a New England team whose center-backs were playing their first real match together, and first matches in MLS period. While Robles is my favorite clean sheet play, he's pricey and might not tally as many save points as some other options.

Daniel Royer, NYRB v. COL ($4,700): The Red Bulls winger remains a good value, considering he's probably a mid-$6,000 fantasy talent. He put three shots on target last match, including an impressive headed goal that tied the game. Royer isn't the flashiest, as he puts in work on both sides of the ball, and he will never accumulate crosses like Sacha Kljestan, but he's a low cost option that should have an easy time giving you what you paid for.

Other notables:

While I think star forward Bradley Wright-Phillips ($10,600) is tough to pay up for, Sacha Kljestan ($9,500) has one of the safer floors in the league, and especially on the slate. Kemar Lawrence ($4,300) has the most potential versus price ratio of this slate's defensive options, but I've been waiting a while for his 2015 form to return. Marlon Hairston ($4,000) didn't do much in Week 1, but if you need a piece of the Rapids attack, he's a good way to keep cost down while getting a talented player.

v.
4:30 p.m.

This match has some serious potential to fool you. Toronto were held scoreless last week against a makeshift Salt Lake backline, Giovinco disappointed with a measly four fantasy points, Philadelphia flew to Vancouver and held them scoreless and now the Union are at home favorite.

I'm willing to write the RSL match as a one-off for Toronto, while also noting that they kept a clean sheet of their own. Philadelphia looked to have grabbed a good result, but Vancouver had played a tough Champions League match days earlier and started Erik Hurtado, less of a goal-scoring threat than late-career Freddy Adu, at striker. Philadelphia also checked in with the fourth-lowest expected goal total of all 22 teams. I'm notoriously more open to playing road teams than most, and the bookmakers naturally lean towards the home side, but we all know who the better team is in this match.

Favorite Plays:

Sebastian-Giovinco, TOR at PHI ($12,000): Even Oguchi Onyewu's mom is starting Giovinco on her fantasy team this week. Had he made rather than missed a penalty last week, Seba would have ended on a respectable score, albeit not the massive returns we are used to from him. While you may be disappointed with him from last weekend, I strongly suspect he gets back on track in this one. Exhibit A is a rusty Onyewu, who has only played a handful of meaningful soccer matches more than readers of this article since 2014 and is also just plain lethargic. Exhibit B is Philadelphia's central midfield, where you'll find the promising, but still 20-years-old Derrick Jones, who just debuted last week, and his midfield partner, the creative but defensively lacking Haris Medunjanin. Richie Marquez is a solid central defender, but the Union have some work to do to keep Giovinco and Jozy Altidore off the score sheet for a second week running.

Chris Pontius, PHI v. TOR ($6,300): It looks likely that Toronto FC will be without starting right-back Steven Beitashour (concussion), and they have few obvious replacements for him. Talented left-back Justin Morrow may bump over if Chris Mavinga slots in at left-back, but just as likely is one of Tsubasa Endoh or Marco Delgado, who are midfielders by trade that manager Greg Vanney is attempting to convert to wing-backs. Pontius feasted on opposing fullbacks last year, quality or not, so I doubt he'd have much trouble with the 5-foot-7 kid whose Wikipedia page still describes him as a forward (Endoh). Pontius is a more boom-or-bust goal scorer than teammates Alejandro Bedoya and Medunjanin, but he'll likely have few owners on DraftKings and is probably the best threat to score for Philly.

Other notables:

Bedoya ($4,500) is playing the no. 10 role for Philadelphia, but Medunjanin ($4,800) is more likely to take set pieces. Both should be decent options to round out your attack. Jones ($3,600) will play a more defensive role, but drew universal praise after his promising debut, and he is the energetic type who can rack up peripheral points. Both keepers in this match could have high save totals.

The author(s) of this article may play in daily fantasy contests including – but not limited to – games that they have provided recommendations or advice on in this article. In the course of playing in these games using their personal accounts, it's possible that they will use players in their lineups or other strategies that differ from the recommendations they have provided above. The recommendations in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of RotoWire. JD Bazzo plays in daily fantasy contests using the following accounts: DraftKings: OfficerBo, Yahoo: DeNirosDinero.
RotoWire Community
Join Our Subscriber-Only Soccer Chat
Chat with our writers and other RotoWire Soccer fans for all the pre-game info and in-game banter.
Join The Discussion
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
JD Bazzo
JD is a contributing soccer writer at RotoWire and was a finalist for the 2017 FSWA Soccer Writer of the Year award. JD has been writing for RotoWire since 2015. He is a proud Pittsburgh native, purveyor of fantasy sports, and likely the first Penn State Basketball fan you've ever met.
Fantrax Finds: Waiver Wire Pickups For Gameweek 22
Fantrax Finds: Waiver Wire Pickups For Gameweek 22
Fantrax Premier League Player Rankings: Gameweek 22
Fantrax Premier League Player Rankings: Gameweek 22
Fantasy Premier League Player Rankings: Gameweek 22
Fantasy Premier League Player Rankings: Gameweek 22
DFS Soccer: DraftKings Showdown Preview for Fulham vs. Tottenham
DFS Soccer: DraftKings Showdown Preview for Fulham vs. Tottenham
FanDuel Fantasy Soccer: EPL Targets for Saturday, Jan. 21
FanDuel Fantasy Soccer: EPL Targets for Saturday, Jan. 21
DraftKings DFS Soccer: Saturday EPL Picks for Jan. 21
DraftKings DFS Soccer: Saturday EPL Picks for Jan. 21