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Attention Major League Soccer fans who have just emerged from cryogenic statis: the LA Galaxy are still very, very good. Having debuted Steven Gerrard ($10.2m) in a 5-2 romp over the San Jose Earthquakes, I feel confident in making that assessment with the added knowledge that the Galaxy will be adding Giovanni Dos Santos and making their starting lineup even more disgusting. For fantasy owners, this seeming lack of parity is the bat-signal to start investing with gusto. 12 points in your first MLS game is no small potatoes, and Gerrard was only outdone by hat-trick-scoring Robbie Keane ($11.6m). Gerrard's price point is ludicrously good for a top-tier midfielder, putting him only $0.2m below Sporting Kansas City's Benny Feilhaber ($10.4m), who also cracked off a 12-point Round 20. That Benny's still going to be good - the acquisition of Amobi Okugo ($7.8m) will only help SKC - so don't go dropping him to penny-pinch. If you have room for both, though, seriously consider making that move. (Well, unless you have the option of bringing in Sebastian Giovinco ($12.6m), in which case... yeah.)
On the other side of that 5-2 scoreline, Quincy Amarikwa ($7.0m) - who you may recall I talked up last week - score both of San Jose's goals, validating my theory that he was due to profit in the absence of Chris Wondolowski ($11.3m). Heck, managers who jumped at him profited, too, with an instant $0.2m bump in Amarikwa's price. I don't see him getting two-goal outings every game but I do see him being a credible threat during SJ's life without Wondo. More importantly, he's a great bargain option for those of you trying to upgrade your bench with a view to getting even bigger players down the road.
With that in mind, let's take a look at the best budget players to date in the $7.0m-and-under category. As I've tried to drive home these last few weeks, this is the time of year where squeezing every last dollar out of your transfer profits is crucial; finding high-performing budget talent you can move on next round without scuppering your overall chances is nearly mandatory in order to bring in the likes of Giovinco, Gerrard, Feilhaber et al. So, where can those pennies be pinched? Well, how about...
The fact that you can get three well-performing New York Red Bulls players for $7.0m each or less tells you NYRB has taken a shocking about-face from their typical "import high-priced talent and hope they carry the team" strategy. Maybe they've finally learned that cultivating and encouraging Homegrown depth results in a more complete team. What a scary thought. A quick note about NYRB: yes, they're on a bye in Round 21 but they have a DGW in Round 23. Plan your transfers accordingly.
Round 19 Top Score
See if you can guess what this week's Eighty Six Forever fantasy league update will open with. Go on, I'll wait. If you guessed "Barbara Red of Paisley SC still has a healthy lead", you're correct! 119 points from our current leader means her lead has ballooned to 67 points over her nearest competitors. Triple-digit scores were not uncommon this round, thanks in no small part to a massive buy-in on Columbus Crew SC's DGW and the expected captainings of Keane and Giovinco. The best of the lot was a 123-point haul from Cameron Miller of Soulpatch828. Here's how he did it:
Looks like somebody reaped the benefits of the "early adopter of summer DP signing" gamble! Captaining Ethan Finlay ($9.0m) isn't a bad idea these days, either.
Matchups To Watch
3. Montreal Impact vs. Seattle Sounders FC
As Seattle continues their downward spiral without their two top (only?) goal-scorers, it's Montreal who now get a chance to earn valuable points in the latter half of the season. Laurent Ciman ($7.7m) is still doing his thing for L'Impact and I expect him to have a field day against Seattle's "B"-team attackers.
2. FC Dallas vs. Portland Timbers
The Hoops have got something special cooking in their midfield, with the quartet of Ulloa, Kellyn Acosta ($6.1m), Mauro Diaz ($9.9m) and Fabian Castillo ($10.7m) firing on all cylinders. Pair that up with a Portland midfield that will be in disarray yet again with the suspension of motormouth Will Johnson ($8.1m) and I like FCD's chances of getting league and fantasy points in Frisco.
1. Houston Dynamo vs. LA Galaxy
Was the result against San Jose a one-time thing or a harbinger of doom for the Western Conference? Houston isn't exactly the sternest opponent these days but they won't give up a home game without a fight. If LA posts another five-spot - this time on the road - all questions about Bruce Arena's latest juggernaut will be put to rest and we can start engraving the Supporters' Shield and MLS Cup right now to save time.