Ranking Today’s Top MLS Fantasy Picks from 1 to 9 without goalkeepers

1 – Diego Rossi (F) – LAFC (vs SJ)

2 – Diego Valeri (M) – Portland Timbers (vs VAN)

3 – Alejandro Pozuelo (M) – Toronto FC (vs CLB)

4 – Nicolas Lodeiro (M) – Seattle Sounders (vs LAG)

5 – Kacper Przybylko (F) – Philadelphia Union (vs MIA)

6 – Pedro Santos (M) – Columbus Crew (vs TOR)

7 – Gustavo Bou (F) – New England Revolution (vs DCU)

8 – Franco Jara (F) – FC Dallas (vs ORL)

9 – Cristian Pavon (F) – Los Angeles Galaxy (vs SEA)

Top Goalkeeper Pick

GK – Andre Blake – Philadelphia Union (vs MIA)

Happy drafting!

Posted in EPL/MLS, Top Fantasy Picks

MLS Fantasy Picks ranked from 1 to 6

1 – Diego Rossi (F) – LAFC

2 – Kacper Przybylko (F) – Philadelphia Union

3 – Raul Ruidiaz (F) – Seattle Sounders

4 – Franco Jara (F) – FC Dallas

5 – Cristian Pavon (F) – L.A. Galaxy

6 – Gyasi Zardes (F) – Columbus Crew

Happy drafting!

Posted in EPL/MLS, Top Fantasy Picks

Timbers hope to topple high-powered Atlanta United

The Portland Timbers understand being the underdog for the MLS Cup on Saturday, but that doesn’t mean they will be awed by host Atlanta United’s high-powered offense or the expected record crowd of more than 70,000 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

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“Everyone’s putting it on Atlanta to win at home and they’ve had a great season and this and that, but that don’t make a difference when it comes to playoffs and it certainly don’t make a difference when it comes to a final,” Portland defender Liam Ridgewell said.

Atlanta (21-7-6 regular season) deserves its favorite status after finishing two points behind the New York Red Bulls in the overall standings. The Red Bulls set a Major League record with 71 points, but Atlanta defeated them 4-1 in the total goals, two-leg Eastern Conference final.

The second-year franchise is playing for its first championship.

Portland (15-10-9), fifth in the Western Conference, advanced to its second MLS Cup in four seasons with a 3-2 aggregate series win over Sporting Kansas City.

The Timbers were also on the road for the 2015 MLS Cup but defeated Columbus Crew SC 2-1.

“In 2015 we made the playoffs in similar fashion,” Portland midfielder Diego Chara said. “This time it’s a bit (more) challenging because we are facing Atlanta and people are already saying they’re champions right now.”

It certainly feels that way to some Atlanta city officials.

“I was texting the mayor (Keisha Lance Bottoms) the other evening, Thursday night, and she already planned on a parade,” United owner Arthur Blank told the media earlier this week.

No matter the outcome, the MLS Cup attendance record should fall. The mark is 61,316 at Gillette Stadium in 2002 when the Los Angeles Galaxy defeated the host New England Revolution 1-0 in extra time.

Atlanta boasts 2018 MLS MVP Josef Martinez, who set the MLS-record with 31 goals. United led the league with 70 goals and is the first team to have consecutive 70-goal seasons.

The match has extra meaning for Atlanta teammates Michael Parkhurst and Jeff Larentowicz, who as members of the New England Revolution lost three straight MLS Cups (2005-07).

“I’m happy to be back with him with a chance to win a title,” Parkhurst said. “Hopefully this one goes better than the other three.”

Larentowicz finally won it in 2010 for Colorado, while Parkhurst lost a fourth time for the Crew against Portland.

Posted in EPL/MLS, Top Fantasy Picks

Sporting KC vs. Portland Timbers | 2018 Conference Championship Preview

Sporting Kansas City vs. Portland Timbers
Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs — Conference Championship, Second Leg
Children’s Mercy Park — Kansas City
November 29 — 9:30 pm ET
WATCH: ESPN, TSN2, TVAS2, ESPN Deportes

It is all to play for at Children’s Mercy Park for the second leg of the Western Conference Championship after the Portland Timbers and Sporting Kansas City played to a 0-0 draw at Providence Park on Sunday.

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Heading back home, where they were 10-2-5 during the regular season, Sporting KC will be confident of securing a first trip to MLS Cup since winning the title in 2013, while the Timbers know an away goal can go a long way toward their first MLS Cup appearance since lifting the silverware in 2015.

In a fiercely competitive opening leg, both teams laid claim to solid chances to score the lone goal, with Jorge Villafana firing off the post in the first half. David Guzman slipped the ball past Tim Melia on a set piece in the 70th minute, but the goal was called back following Video Review when it was ruled Liam Ridgewell was in an offside position.

SKC’s best opportunities were by Johnny Russell, who fired over the crossbar early in the second half and Daniel Salloi, whose stoppage-time attempt inside the box was blocked by Ridgewell.

Sporting Kansas City

Of course, it wasn’t a perfect result for Sporting, especially since they didn’t score an away goal, but they have the advantage of the “Blue Hell” on Thursday and the knowledge that a home win sends them back to the MLS Cup.

“It’s a final at home. You know you’ve got to win,” Peter Vermes said. “But at the end of the day, whether it’s here or there, it’s a final now for both teams and we have to be very disciplined going back, but it’s a good result going back home. Obviously, we would have preferred to win. It didn’t happen, but now we get to go home and have the next game.”

It was the third time SKC shut the Timbers out this season. And there’s a strong confidence in the Sporting locker room that they can keep Diego Valeri and Portland off the scoreboard again on Thursday.

“I can’t tell you other than that it’s a credit to the guys. They work hard,” Vermes said. “They were very disciplined here. I think they have been throughout the season. I think we’re a pretty good defensive team and we’ve been consistently that for a long time. And at the same time I think it also takes guys to be concentrated and a lot of hard work, and I think we did that tonight.”

Suspended: None
Suspended after next caution: None
International duty: None
Injury Report: OUT: D – Jimmy Medranda (knee surgery), M – Cristian Lobato (quad injury)

Projected Starting XI
(4-3-3, right to left)
GK: Tim Melia — Graham Zusi, Ike Opara, Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic — Roger Espinoza, Ilie Sanchez, Felipe Gutierrez — Johnny Russell, Diego Rubio, Daniel Salloi

Notes: Melia saved six shots against Portland in the first leg, tied for the most saves by a Kansas City goalkeeper in the MLS Cup Playoffs since 2007. He is the 20th keeper since 2010 to keep 3+ clean sheets against one team in a single season (inc. playoffs). … Sporting Kansas City are 15W-2L-4D at home all-time in the MLS Cup Playoffs, conceding an average of 0.8 goals per game.

Portland Timbers

The Timbers haven’t scored a goal against SKC all season, but they’ve found the back of the net multiple times in each of their last two Audi MLS Cup Playoffs games and believe they can do the same at Children’s Mercy Park.

Pressure after a scoreless first leg? What pressure, says Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese.

“I don’t see it as what kind of pressure. We have to go there and try to get a win,” Savarese said. “We have to go there with the mentality that it’s one game, like it is in the regular season, and we have to go there to try and get a win. Prepare the plan, prepare the players to make sure that we get there, recover a few of the guys that today were not available and then make sure we go there to win.”

Savarese was forced to make a change in the first half when central defender Larrys Mabiala went down with an ankle injury. It was the second change Savarese had to make, with Andy Polo suffering a calf strain.

“I’ve been very proud because anybody that steps on the field does the job and Bill did that,” Savarese said of Bill Tuiloma. “It’s very difficult to come in, having to replace a guy like Mabiala, coming in and I thought he did with the right mentality, did everything the right way. Unfortunately [he] could have had a goal right there, but a great save by Melia. I thought [Tuiloma] played very, very well.”

Suspended: None
Suspended after next caution: None
International duty: None
Injury Report: OUT: D – Roy Miller (right thigh injury), GK – Jake Gleeson (bilateral tibial stress fracture); QUESTIONABLE: F – Samuel Armenteros (thigh injury), M – Andy Polo (calf strain), D – Larrys Mabiala (ankle injury)

Projected Starting XI
(4-2-3-1, right to left)
GK: Jeff Attinella — Zarek Valentin, Bill Tuiloma, Liam Ridgewell, Jorge Villafana — Diego Chara, David Guzman — Dairon Asprilla, Diego Valeri, Sebastian Blanco — Jeremy Ebobisse

Notes: Valeri created seven chances in the first leg of the series, becoming the ninth player since 2007 to record 7+ chances created in a MLS Cup Playoff match and the first to do so since Sacha Kljestan against Montreal in 2016. … The Timbers are 4W-2L-2D on the road in the MLS Cup Playoffs, scoring multiple goals in all but two of those games.

All-Time Series (Regular Season)

Overall: Sporting Kansas City 7 wins, 15 goals … Portland Timbers 3 wins, 10 goals … 4 draws
At Kansas City: Sporting KC 3 wins, 10 goals … Timbers 1 win, 5 goals … 2 draws
Last meeting at Kansas City: Sporting Kansas City 3, Portland Timbers 0 (August 18, 2018)

Officials

Referee: Mark Geiger
Assistant Referees: Joe Fletcher, Matthew Nelson
4th Official: Baldomero Toledo
VAR: Dave Gantar

Posted in EPL/MLS, Top Fantasy Picks

New York Red Bulls vs. Atlanta United
Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs — Conference Championship, Second Leg

Red Bull Arena — Harrison
November 29 — 7:30 pm ET
WATCH: FS1, TSN2, TVAS2

Atlanta United’s first win over the New York Red Bulls in history put the Five Stripes on the brink of history as “Tata” Martino’s squad takes a commanding 3-0 aggregate lead into the second leg of the Eastern Conference Championship Thursday night at Red Bull Arena.

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While Atlanta are looking to book a first MLS Cup Final berth, the Red Bulls will need a historic comeback to reach the final for the second time 10 years after their first trip.

MLS Golden Boot winner Josef Martinez opened the scoring on Sunday, chesting down a perfect Jeff Larentowicz cross and beating Luis Robles.

The Red Bulls thought they had the equalizer, and a critical away goal, when Bradley Wright-Phillips put a low shot past Brad Guzan. But the goal was called back following Video Review when it was ruled Alex Muyl screened the Atlanta goalkeeper in an offside position.

Franco Escobar fired home an insurance tally with a sensational first-time strike in the 71st minute and Hector Villalba came off the bench to score what could prove to be the decisive goal in the series, a low stoppage-time strike to give Atlanta a comfortable 3-0 lead after 90 minutes.

New York Red Bulls

No team has ever won a two-leg aggregate playoff series in MLS after after a three-goal deficit in the first leg.

The Red Bulls, though, have a strong belief that they can buck the odds.

Head coach Chris Armas, who was criticized heavily for changing his team’s tactics in Atlanta, uses the example of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, when the Red Bulls won 3-0 at home against Columbus Crew SC after losing the opening leg, 1-0, at MAPFRE Stadium.

“Look, it is going to be difficult. It always was going to be,” Armas said after the game. “We put ourselves in a hole, but we came out of a series where we scored three in our building. That is the goal. That’s the starting point. We will score the first goal, and the rest will follow. We will come out a little bit differently with the energy and the fight that is going to be needed. It is pretty clear what is needed to be done. We are going to go home, and we are going to get it done.”

The health of star fullback Kemar Lawrence will be a big talking point until kickoff. The Jamaican international suffered a meniscus injury in training leading up to the first leg. He was replaced by Connor Lade.

“Kemar is a big part of things around here. He has had a great year, we all know that,” Armas said. “Maybe he will be back for Leg 2, we’ll see, he is day-to-day. But more importantly, Connor Lade stepped in and did a good job. He was solid. He gave everything like we knew that he would. It was a big test, a lot of direct play. He was fearless on the night. Connor stood up admirably, I believe.”

Suspended: None
Suspended after next caution: None
International duty: None
Injury Report: OUT: M – Florian Valot (torn left ACL), D – Kyle Duncan (torn right ACL), M – Vincent Bezecourt (right MCL surgery), D – Tommy Redding (shoulder surgery), M – Ben Mines (broken left clavicle surgery); QUESTIONABLE: D – Kemar Lawrence (meniscus injury)

Projected Starting XI

(4-2-3-1, right to left)
GK: Luis Robles — Michael Murillo, Tim Parker, Aaron Long, Connor Lade — Tyler Adams, Sean Davis — Alex Muyl, Kaku, Danny Royer — Bradley Wright-Phillips

Notes: New York won just one possession in the attacking third in their 3-0 defeat on Sunday, tied for their fewest in a game this season. They are 0W-2L-1D in those games in 2018. … The Red Bulls scored 3+ goals in seven league home games in 2018 (7W). Five of the seven games had scorelines that would send this matchup to extra time or allow New York to advance to the MLS Cup Final.

Atlanta United

He is not the most heralded Atlanta United player, not even close. But fullback Franco Escobar came up with a man-of-the-match performance in the opening leg, with a sensational goal and a huge assist in the second half to send the Five Stripes to Harrison with a 3-0 cushion.

“When we wanted to sign Franco, this is the player we wanted to sign: the Franco we’ve seen the last five or six games,” Martino said after the game. “He’s adapted very well to the position, he’s able to get forward, is versatile and physical. He’s scored two goals in the last six or seven games for us that have been very important.”

In addition to sparking the offense, Escobar was part of a defensive unit that has conceded just once in three playoff games.

“We knew that we had to be solid defensively,” Martino said. “We knew going into the playoffs it was going to be very important to be able to keep clean sheets. And that’s what we tried to do. And we’ve played three games now against top teams in the Eastern Conference, and we’ve held them to one goal. So, we knew that was going to be key.”

Suspended: None
Suspended after next caution: None
International duty: None
Injury Report: OUT: D – Sal Zizzo (right knee injury), D – Mikey Ambrose (right knee surgery), F – Brandon Vazquez (foot injury)

Projected Starting XI

(5-3-2, right to left)
GK: Brad Guzan — Franco Escobar, Jeff Larentowicz, Michael Parkhurst, Leonardo Gonzalez Pirez, Greg Garza — Darlington Nagbe, Eric Remedi, Julian Gressel — Josef Martinez, Miguel Almiron

Notes: Atlanta allowed New York to complete just 62.0% of their passes in the first leg of the series, the fifth-lowest passing accuracy they have ever allowed in a MLS match (inc. postseason). … Atlanta have won six of their last nine road games (3L), conceding multiple goals in four of the matches. They have allowed 3+ goals in a league road game seven times in franchise history (1W-6L).

All-Time Series (Regular Season)

Overall: New York Red Bulls 3 wins, 7 goals … Atlanta United 0 wins, 2 goals … 1 draw
At New York: Red Bulls 1 win, 2 goals … Atlanta United 0 wins, 0 goals … 1 draw
Last meeting at New York: New York Red Bulls 2, Atlanta United 0 (Sept. 30, 2018)

Officials

Referee: Jair Marrufo
Assistant Referees: Frank Anderson, Brian Poeschel
4th Official: Ismail Elfath
VAR: Christopher Penso

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Posted in EPL/MLS, Top Fantasy Picks

Conference Semi-Finals Recap

The Seattle Sounders are in the Western Final

The Seattle Sounders eliminated the Vancouver Whitecaps by winning the second leg of the Western Semi-Final by a score of 2-0. Clint Dempsey scored twice in the second half. Dempsey scored the first and second goal of the series, as the first game came to a 0-0 draw. The Sounders won it 2-0 in aggregates. The Sounders are looking to become the fourth team in MLS to win back-to-back championships.

The Dynamo have the last word over the Timbers

Dylan Remick and Mauro Manotas both scored in favor of the Houston Dynamo. The final score for the Western Semi-Final was 2-1 against the Portland Timbers. The first-leg of the series came to a 0-0 draw, meaning the Dynamo pulled off the series win with a 2-1 aggregate score. The Timbers had already a few players sidelined due to injury, but it was a huge blow when defender Roy Miller went down during training session the day before the game.

The Toronto FC holds on to eliminate the New York Red Bulls

The Toronto FC lost 1-0 against the New York Red Bulls, but still managed to qualify for the Eastern Finals. The aggregate score was 2-2 with the away goals coming in as a factor, favoring the TFC. Toronto, who has taken the supporter shield this year, won the first leg of the series 2-1 in New York. It was Bradley Wright-Phillips who caused the surprise in Toronto, when he scored in the 53rd minute of the game. TFC thought they had the tying goal from Jonathan Osorio in the 78th minute of the game to increase their lead, but the goal was denied by the referee because of a fault caused on the Red Bull.

Despite all of that, the story of the game came off camera. An altercation took place in the tunnels between the two teams during halftime. Both Jozy Altidore and Sacha Kljestan were expelled in the second half due to that skirmish. To make matters worse for Toronto, both Altidore and MVP Sebastian Giovinco have been carded, which means they will miss the first leg of the Eastern final.

The Crew join TFC in the Eastern Finals

The Columbus Crew obtained their ticket to the Eastern final by beating New York City FC in the aggregates by a score of 4-3. They lossed the second tilt 2-0 but won the first one 4-1. After the game, legendary Italian midfielder Andrea Pirlo announce his retirement. He has spent the last three season with the New York City FC.

Next Matchups:

Columbus Crew versus Toronto FC and Houston Dynamo versus Seattle Sounders on November 21st.

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Posted in EPL/MLS

MLS Mid-Season Report 2017

The MLS 2017 season is on break and since most teams have played 17 to 20 games out of 34, it’s a perfect opportunity to establish an assessment of the first half of the 2017 campaign in the Garber circuit. FanPicks is offering daily fantasy soccer, get started now!

The resurgence of the East

For the first time in several years, it seems that the Eastern Association is stronger than its Western counterpart.

The three best MLS teams from all over the country come from the East: the astonishing Chicago Fire and Toronto FC share first place with a 38-point crop, while New York City FC follows up on its last season push by gathering a total 33-point in 2017.

The FC Dallas and the Kansas City Sporting, two clubs in the West, close out the top five with 31-point each.

The Fire, who has scoured the bottom of the standings over the last three seasons, is certainly the best story of the season so far. The arrival of Bastian Schweinsteiger, winner of the last FIFA World Cup, garnered immediate result for the team. But that would underestimate the contribution of middle Dax McCarty and especially striker Nemanja Nikolic, the two other newcomers.

Nikolic is currently the top scorer of the MLS with 17 goals in only 19 games. He could very well beat the record of goals in a season in MLS, which is 27.

The other surprise is Houston’s Dynamo, with a collection of 28 point (third in the West). They seem to be on their way to the MLS playoffs for the first time since 2013. The Dynamo went on to hunt two Honduran internationals, Alberth Elis and Romell Quioto, who added a lot of heat to an attack also revitalized by the revival of the Mexican striker Erick Torres, author of 12 nets since beginning of the season.

High expectations, disappointing results

Meanwhile, those who were expected to be at the top are failing. It’s the case of the Los Angeles Galaxy, five time MLS Cup winners. David Beckham’s former club, whose iconic coach, Bruce Arena, has left his side to take over the reins of the US national team.

Now headed by Curt Onalfo, the California team still lacks the confidence that has characterized them in recent years. Despite an interesting number of players, the club is capable of the best and the worst, especially at home: the Galaxy loses matches at the StubHub Center more than ever, a trend that reached a climax last Tuesday when Real Salt Lake, one of the worst clubs of the MLS this season, won 6-2.

The Galaxy are ranked eighth in the West, but with only two points behind the sixth and last place giving access to the playoffs, it is not yet time to throw the season away. Especially with a quality core that contains Giovani Dos Santos, Romain Alessandrini and Jelle Van Damme, they are able to achieve the best “comeback” of the second half of the season.

The other big market team in trouble this season are the New York Red Bulls. They are unrecognizable this season. With 20 assists last year, midfielder Sacha Kljestan has collected only six to date. As the year progresses, the loss of Dax McCarty to the Fire is felt, but a good summer transfer could help. Like the Galaxy, the Red Bulls are not completely out of it and can still aim for the playoffs spot. But to finish at the top of the MLS ranking as was the case in 2015 and 2013, well they can forget about that.

There is also no choice to mention the Montreal Impact as a complete disappointment this year. They do not perform to the quality of its strength. A lack of off season recruitment did not help either. Injuries to Nacho Piatti, Ballou Tabla and Matteo Mancosu detracted from the pace of a team that also has an unfortunate and recurring propensity to be a victim of defensive brain cramps. Fortunately, the addition of Blerim Dzemaili to the squad in May has given them a slight boost. Nevertheless, the rotten season smells are getting stronger around the Impact.

The winners of the last MLS Cup, the Seattle Sounders, sleep peacefully in the soft belly of the standings. Their journey is neither bad nor impressive, but they too are candidates for an awakening in the coming months… a bit like they did last season. Still, the return to play of their leader Clint Dempsey, who suffered heart problems last year, remains a beautiful story. Despite that, Sounders fan are still expecting more from designated player Nicolas Lodeiro.

Atlanta, the expansion team that is making some noise

It should not be forgotten that the 2017 season saw the introduction of two new teams: Atlanta United and Minnesota United. At mid-season, the results are the same as in March. Atlanta has put in the money and it shows, while Minnesota has chosen humility … and it shows.

The club from Georgia, propelled (literally) by the rocket Miguel Almiron in midfield, currently stands in fourth place in the East. Led by former Barcelona coach “Tata” Martino, the club currently counts on the return of striker Josef Martinez. The Venezuelan had shown very good things in March before suffering an injury that made him miss several matches. With the return of Martinez, who has nine goals in nine games, it would be surprising to see Atlanta go down in the standings.

After a disastrous start to the season, Minnesota took a certain time to get going. In mid-season, the “Loons” stand at the bottom of the standings with 18 points, and it should not change too much by the end of the year.

Posted in EPL/MLS