Copa America ... the Africa Cup of Nations ... the Gold Cup ... the Women's World Cup -- if you like soccer, you're certainly being provided with plenty of entertainment! And now, Major League Soccer is back as well after a short break, which means it's time to once again build yourself a competitive fantasy roster.
Matchweek 16 begins on Wednesday, with six games, in addition to the usual 12 over the weekend. That means a full dozen teams will play twice -- and your fantasy lineup should be full of players from those teams.
Drilling a little deeper, three teams have two home games this week: D.C., New England and San Jose. They each deserve particular attention, and I'll be plucking my Tier 1 forward from one of them.
Wayne Rooney is having a very solid first full season in MLS. He's tied for fourth in the league with eight goals, behind only Carlos Vela (16), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (11) and Josef Martinez (10). However, Rooney is doing much more than just scoring goals. He also has four assists, and is fourth in the league in chances created with 48, behind only Diego Valeri (57), Vela (53) and Alejandro Pozuelo (50).
What's more, D.C. are currently third in the Eastern Conference, and will be hosting both seventh-place Toronto and ninth-place Orlando this week. Not only will Rooney be my Tier 1 forward, but he'll also be my captain. I would have strongly considered Martinez as well, but he's off playing with Venezuela at Copa America.
I'll also be grabbing my Tier 2 forward from that trio of teams with two home matches. Chris Wondolowski is one of the players tied with Rooney on eight goals, and Wondo has scored all of them in San Jose's past four games! The Earthquakes have lost only once in their past nine games, and will host both Houston and the LA Galaxy this week. While those opponents are ahead of San Jose in the standings, the Dynamo just lost 4-0 to Portland this past Saturday, and the Galaxy have lost five of their past eight games.
Speaking of Portland, their new designated player, Brian Fernandez, is off to a flying start in MLS. Fernandez has scored at least one goal in all four of his league appearances so far (five goals in total), and also has three goals in two U.S. Open Cup appearances.
It gets better. Fernandez has taken 19 shots in his four MLS games, including eight and six in the past two games, respectively. It's a small sample size, yes, but Fernandez is averaging 5.86 shots per 90 minutes. That's the highest average in the league among players who have played at least one full game.
Portland are second-from-bottom in the Western Conference, but they had to play their first 12 games of the season on the road, as their stadium renovations were getting completed. They've actually won five of their past eight, including that blowout of Houston mentioned above. This week they travel to Montreal, and then host Dallas. That's not a particularly difficult schedule.
You can also make an argument for choosing a second member of the Timbers -- Diego Valeri -- in this spot. Valeri had a goal and two assists against Houston, finishing with a much higher fantasy score. But Valeri's goal came from the penalty spot, and he only took two shots in that game. In fact, he's only taken 29 shots in 14 appearances this season -- just barely over two per game. Fernandez's upside is much higher.
Haris Medunjanin, Philadelphia (Tier 2 midfielder): Medunjanin only has one goal and one assist, but he leads the league in passes completed (averaging 64.8 per game), and is 11th in chances created (34). That's why he's finished with double-digit fantasy points for the past seven games in a row.
Sebastian Blanco, Portland (Tier 2 midfielder): Blanco was suspended for the game against Houston last Saturday due to yellow-card accumulation. Even missing out on the fun there, he already has two goals and five assists, and is tied for 12th in the league in chances created (32). Blanco is coming off a 13-goal, eight-assist season just one year ago.
Reto Ziegler, Dallas (Tier 1 defender): Ziegler is 12th in the league in passes completed, averaging 56.6 per game. He's handled both of Dallas' penalty kicks so far this season, which gives him an extra edge in this tier. He's certainly got more goal upside than the rest.
Miles Robinson, Atlanta (Tier 2 defender): Shea Salinas was my original choice here, but he's coming off an injury, and I'm not confident he will start on Wednesday. Robinson is a safer choice, ranked 15th in the league in passes completed (averaging 54.8 per game), and tied for 19th in clearances (53). He won't be available if you wait on Salinas and he ends up sitting.
Brad Guzan, Atlanta (Goalkeeper): Guzan now leads the league in clean sheets, with eight in 15 games. He's coming off two shutouts in a row, with seven in his past nine games. He only has 34 saves, which ranks him near the bottom of the league. Still, I like Guzan's chances of picking up two more clean sheets at Toronto (who are winless in their past eight games), and at home against Montreal.