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Well, will you look at that? Both expansion teams are hot garbage right now. It's almost like all that pomp and ceremony to welcome in Major League Soccer's two newest franchises means diddly-squat unless you have solid depth to support the likes of Kaká ($11.4m) and [ERROR: New York City FC star not found]. Crazy, right? Despite all this, Orlando City SC are still in a playoff spot - their 2W-3L-2D record is good enough for 5th spot in the Eastern Conference - and Kaká is the second-highest scoring midfielder in MLS Fantasy Manager. Those of you who invested in the legendary Brazilian: a pat on the back and a cookie. Those of you who plan on keeping him for the long haul: a cautionary sideways glance and a glass of water. This is not the MLS of yesteryear; no one player can carry a team to (near-)glory the way Cuauhtémoc Blanco or Guillermo Barros Schelotto did. Over time, Kaká will run out of gas if he doesn't have a supporting cast to back him up, meaning his fantasy points will dip. Don't be afraid to pull the trigger and sell for a profit if you see a good reason to. (Hello, Round 9 bye week!)
That said, picking on expansion teams is low-hanging fruit. There are plenty of good targets to shake our heads at disapprovingly - the Philadelphia Union, for example, who are 1W-4L-3D with their best fantasy player being Fernando Aristeguieta ($7.6m) on a mere 28 points. Another example - Sporting Kansas City, who are in a five-way tie for 5th place in the Western Conference and no longer have the services of Ike Opara ($7.3m) thanks to a ruptured Achilles tendon. A fragile SKC backline has been a recurring theme for a while now and that doesn't appear to be changing any time soon; thankfully, much like Orlando out east, the Sporks have been carried along by Benny Feilhaber ($9.5m) whose 49 points (7.5/game!) is pretty darn solid. The problem is that Kansas City can't seem to score with, y'know, the players whose jobs are to score on a regular basis - your Dom Dwyer ($10.4m, 20pts)-types, your Krisztian Nemeth ($8.0m, 20pts)-types. That's not a sustainable model for the 2013 MLS Cup champions, who are no doubt gazing back across the country to their old conference with wistful looks at Kei Kamara ($8.4m).
Yes, the Columbus Crew SC striker is doing his job quite well - 37 points (7.0/game) is nothing to be sniffed at and Kamara is receiving solid support from the likes of Justin Meram ($7.8m) and Ethan Finlay ($8.1m). The Crew have been frustratingly average for a while now; just when you think they've turned a corner and are primed to light it up, they go back a gear and take the next match off. This makes investing in Columbus long-term a tricky proposition. The only player that approaches Kamara's level of form is goalkeeper Steve Clark ($5.7m) who, like most defenders and goalkeepers this year, have seen their values inflated by a glut of clean sheets and poor finishing. This brings us back to our original problem: are we going to see the hot, 3-0 vs. Orlando side or the cool, 0-0 vs. New England Revolution side? For the next two matches at least - Philly and D.C. United - I'm betting on hot.
Speaking of hot, how about that Tyler Deric ($5.1m) playing out of his mind between the sticks for the Houston Dynamo? Deric's weekly heroics (seriously, go watch his Save of the Week highlights) are the main reason the 2W-2L-3D Dynamo are still in the 5th-to-9th logjam and not languishing on the bottom of the Western Conference alongside the Colorado Rapids. That makes him an attractive pick, to be sure - he's tied for 3rd in points among all fantasy goalkeepers and his form is a blistering 6.3/game - but the team in front of him makes you question how long Deric can keep bailing his teammates out. With the exception of the 3-0 trouncing of the travel-fatigued, we-stopped-caring-about-the-league-in-February Montreal Impact, neither Houston nor their opponents have scored more than one goal in a match. Look at the company Deric keeps around him: SKC's Luis Marin ($5.6m); Colorado's Clint Irwin ($5.1m); Columbus' Steve Clark ($5.7m). See a pattern? Questionable teams give up more chances, forcing more action out of their goalkeepers. As I said earlier, a glut of clean sheets have inflated a lot of these stats. Picking actual, competent goalkeepers is tough. If Houston can find their goal-scoring touch, Deric becomes a no-brainer pick. Until then, there are better options in FC Dallas' Chris Seitz ($4.9m) and Vancouver's David Ousted ($5.5m) - good goalkeepers playing on good teams - to use as starters.
Round 7 Top Score
Welcome back to the top spot, Tony O'Donoghue. The Have A Go Heroes sit atop the Eighty Six Forever leaderboard by some invisible tiebreaker; technically, the Heroes are tied with Guzzlers 2.0 on 457 points, with the Harlem End Hooligans not far behind with 451. There's also some rabble-rouser named Chris Corrigan of Clavin FC tied for 7th with 437, though I think we can all safely assume that aberration won't be permanent. The best score of the round, though, went to someone who rocketed up to 70th place from the lower echelons of the league table: I.P. Freely (sigh) of W. Wanderers NA, who made the number one call of the round by captaining Fabian Castillo ($10.0m):
"I'll sell Castillo", I thought. "FC Dallas are due to dip in form," I thought. "Better get out while I can still profit off him," I thought. This is why I'm not a stock broker, folks.
Matchups To Watch
3. Chicago Fire vs. New York City FC
I have to admit - I'm curious to see if the Fire are actually a legit team in the Eastern Conference or if the mojo has cooled since their back-to-back bye weeks. Against a team like NYCFC (Nick-Fick!), the allegedly super-powered Chicago led by young stud Harrison Shipp ($7.9m) and the seemingly ageless Jeff Larentowicz ($7.5m) should be able to add to their fantasy hauls, though a word of caution - I said "should". Let's be honest; a 9.0/game return for both Shipp and Larentowicz is gob-smackingly good and most certainly unsustainable. Things will cool off for the Fire; the question is, will it be now or later?
2. Columbus Crew SC vs. Philadelphia Union
Second verse, same as the first. Philly are reeling; Columbus are heating up. Kamara should (there's that word again) go ham and cheese for a goal and more. That said, is this the moment where the team lays another egg and scrapes out a 0-0 draw? Kamara owners hope not; Clark and Hernan Grana ($6.6m) owners hope so. Aristeguieta owners just hope he finishes the match uninjured.
1. New York Red Bulls vs. LA Galaxy
The best team in the east versus arguably one of the slowest-starting teams in the west? Yeah, I'll take that action. Obviously, Los Angeles is not San Jose - geography and MLS trophies tell us that. However, with both Robbie Keane ($11.1m) and Gyasi Zardes ($9.4m) cold as ice, Red Bull Arena is not where you expect the Galaxy to rediscover their touch. Colorado next week, maybe; New York this week, no way. This all assumes Keane is even fit to play, too.