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We can make few concrete declarations following Round 15, a.k.a "The Round of Five Matches", a.k.a. "ERMAGERD NYCFC WON TWO GAEMS!!1!" (What, me mock the national love-in for New York City FC? Noooooooo yes.) There's not a ton of new information regarding the teams as a whole and what little we learned isn't that applicable. The LA Galaxy and Columbus Crew are still iffy, the New England Revolution are still streaky, the Chicago Fire are still a mess, the Seattle Sounders can still win blindfolded and FC Dallas are still tailspinning like they were just strafed by the Red Baron. We did learn a little, though, and it can be boiled down as such:
- D.C. United's luck may be running out if they can't score against a depleted Orlando City SC; and
- Laurent Ciman ($7.7m) is now a serious "must buy" for your fantasy team.
To the former point, we have to cut D.C. some slack as their fixture congestion has been nothing short of "sinus-passages-during-allergy-season" levels. Exhaustion is running rampant through the side and extreme heat in Orlando - to the point where hydration breaks were necessary during the game - certainly isn't going to make life any easier for you. That said, this is Orlando City we're talking about here. Unless your name is Kaká ($11.8m) or Cyle Larin ($5.9m), you're not scoring goals. Heck, in the top ten fantasy players for OCSC, six are defenders and nine have form below 4.0. (Kaká is the outlier there, sitting at an appreciable 6.0.) If you're D.C. United - the top team in the Eastern Conference, remember - Orlando is a team you should be putting out of its misery, especially since Larin was away with Canada on international duty. Yes, they got a penalty save from the still-phenomenal Bill Hamid ($6.5m) but they need somebody to step up and provide some goal support. Jairo Arrieta ($6.4m) is the only player on D.C. with any semblance of form (4.0) and the rest aren't exactly lighting the world on fire. Now might be a good time to cut bait on the Black-and-Red, barring a budget option like Arrieta or Perry Kitchen ($7.5m).
To the latter point, if you can bank eight points in a 3-1 loss as a defender, you're doing something right. Ciman was a beast against NYCFC (Nick-Fick!) and has a price-point that is still very appealing for a starting defender. His 5.2 form is quite nice and his ownership numbers - 7.4%, the same as Ignacio Piatti ($9.8m) and his 6.2 form - mean you have a good shot at picking up points where others might not. Ciman should be on your bench going forward if not starting; considering you'll need to be careful with your transfers getting out of this round, Ciman should be far down your list of priority transfers out.
The other big thing to come out of this past fantasy supreme-bye-round-of-doom was a table laid bare for U.S. Open Cup results. We received the first batch of those results Tuesday night, with seven more matches coming Wednesday. Of those, the biggest thing to take away - the thing that will likely cause your fantasy rosters some minor consternation at least - is that Obafemi Martins ($11.7m) had to be stretchered off the field in the 87th minute. Sure, Martins hasn't exactly been on form as of late - 3.2 is hardly acceptable for a player above the $10m threshold - but he does play for (and score for) Seattle, who are very much a "success by association" team. Being around talented and/or in-form players tends to bring up those around you and Seattle do that with regularity. Losing Martins means the keys to the attack will likely fall to either Chad Barrett ($6.7m) or Lamar Neagle ($8.8m), with the more likely option being Neagle. Considering he's listed as a midfielder in fantasy, that might make him tough to fit into your squad; if you can, though, that's a higher bonus for scoring goals awaiting you plus a small clean sheet bonus should one show up.
As for the rest of the USOC teams, keep a very close eye on player fitness reports as we approach the roster lock on Friday at 6pm PT. Hold off on your transfers as long as you can until you're absolutely, 100% sure a player that took to the pitch midweek is going to play on the weekend.
Round 15 Top Score
Big scores weren't in high supply in the Eighty Six Forever fantasy league, mostly due to the mechanics of a five-match round limiting your squad choice. That didn't stop our current leader, Barbara Red of Paisley SC, from further opening up her lead atop the table with a 62-point round to cross into four-digit territory for her overall score (1,014pts). As good as that was, there were still even better scores to be found including a pair of 70s as the highest scores in the round courtesy of Houston Honduras and Adam Polles' AdNazzyP FC. Since only one team can be featured as our "Top Score", I give the edge to Honduras who manged the feat without relying on an automatic substitution:
Dear Ethan Finlay ($8.5m): please follow in the footsteps of Tesho Akindele ($8.1m) and Mallan Roberts and cap-tie yourself to Canada this World Cup qualifying cycle. Regards, everyone in Canada.
Matchups To Watch
3. New York Red Bulls vs. Vancouver Whitecaps
Weird as it may be, Vancouver have taken the inverse approach to this season and been great on the road while underperforming at home. After a bye week to rest following their double-game week of Montreal and Los Angeles, they travel out east again to face the slumping Red Bulls, who have a 1W-3L-1D record in their last five. That seven-game unbeaten streak to star the year must seem so far away for Jesse Marsch and company, who will no doubt be giving Bradley Wright-Phillips ($11.3m) plenty of back rubs and massages so that he might carry the team out of mediocrity for the second season in a row. Can't carry with a bad back, don'tchaknow.
2. Seattle Sounders FC vs. San Jose Earthquakes
As mentioned earlier, the loss of Martins is a big one for Seattle. Exactly how big a loss will be found out when they take on the 'Quakes. I've said it before about Dominic Kinnear-coached teams and I'll say it again: they are tricksy. Houston charmed their way into the playoffs against all odds under his watch and San Jose, while not dominant like the "Bash Brothers/Goonies" days under Frank Yallop, are not to be written off when you have the likes of Chris Wondolowski ($11.2m) and the starting-to-find-his-feet-finally Matias Perez Garcia ($8.3m).
1. Toronto FC vs. New York City FC
In the "Who Has The Bigger Pot Of Money To Burn" Derby between MLSE FC and Man City Jr., I fully expect Sebastian Giovinco ($12.1m) to go ham and demolish the men in teal. Yes, Giovinco's blistering form of 10.0(?!?) is unsustainable; yes, Giovinco is still that good that it's becoming more and more wise to bet on him rather than against him. The "Atomic Ant" could end up single-handedly dragging TFC into the playoffs and the fringes of relevancy - something Jermain Defoe never did and Michael Bradley ($10.2m) and Jozy Altidore ($9.9m) still haven't done.