Fantasy MLS: Why Carlos Vela is a tougher choice than usual this week

Carlos Vela added two more goals against Seattle. Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

As we enter Matchweek 9, there are no remaining undefeated teams in Major League Soccer. The final three unbeatens -- LAFC, Seattle and Houston -- all lost a game last week. However, LAFC still look like, by far, the team to beat. Yes, they had a hiccup in their 1-0 loss at Vancouver -- the one extra midweek game last week. Still, they bounced back to hand the Sounders their first defeat, in very convincing fashion, 4-1 on Sunday.

LAFC are now 7-1-1 on the season, with 25 goals scored -- eight more than any other team. Not only that, but they've conceded just seven goals, tied for the league lead with the LA Galaxy.

Carlos Vela continues to look like the MLS equivalent of Lionel Messi. He scored two more goals against Seattle, and is now up to 10 on the season -- three more than any other player. Unfortunately, there's a problem. You see, LAFC only has one game this week. Meanwhile, 10 teams will play twice -- there are five extra games on Wednesday -- meaning you'll want to stock your fantasy lineup with players from those teams.

There are two other Tier 1 forwards who stand out this week: the LA Galaxy's Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and Minnesota's Darwin Quintero. Those teams will play each other on Wednesday. Both players scored this past weekend (Quintero had a brace), and each took six shots. Ibrahimovic has outscored Quintero 7-5 so far this season, despite playing one fewer game.

Also, the Galaxy's second game of the week looks a little easier -- at home against Real Salt Lake (seventh in the West), while Minnesota hosts D.C. (first in the East). Ibra will be my Tier 1 forward and captain, as long as he starts on Wednesday. If he's rested -- the game is in Minnesota -- I'll just switch to Quintero.

At Tier 1 midfielder, the name that immediately jumps out is Nicolas Lodeiro. He was one of the stars last season, with nine goals, 12 assists and 101 chances created in 29 games. However, Lodeiro has been underwhelming of late with just 9.4 fantasy points in his past two games combined, including a paltry 2.7 against LAFC on Sunday. Plus, one of Seattle's two games this week is a rematch against the league leaders.

Maximiliano Moralez had very similar numbers to Lodeiro last season -- nine goals, 11 assists and 111 chances created. He missed three games earlier this season due to injury, but has started the past two contests. He also took a team-high five shots in NYCFC's 2-0 win at D.C. on Sunday. One of those shots was a penalty kick which hit the post. Otherwise, Moralez's fantasy score would have been much higher.

That was NYCFC's first win of the season, but they've also lost only once -- five of their first six games were draws. They should be favored at home against both Chicago and Orlando this week. Moralez will be my Tier 1 midfielder.

Fired up

Speaking of Chicago, Nemanja Nikolic got off to a slow start this season (as did his team). However, he has now scored a goal in each of the past three games, after netting the opener in the Fire's 4-1 win over Colorado on Saturday.

This is a player with a very good track record in MLS -- 15 goals in 31 appearances last season, and 24 goals in 35 appearances the season before. Chicago has two away games this week, but NYCFC and Montreal aren't too intimidating. The Impact have won just one of their past five games, are coming off a 3-0 loss at Philadelphia, and conceded seven goals to Kansas City earlier this season. Nikolic will be my Tier 2 forward.

Moving on to Tier 2 midfielder, there are four players available whose teams will play twice. Carles Gil has the highest fantasy points average, but his three goals came in the first three games of the season. He's now gone scoreless in five straight games. New England has scored just six goals in eight games, with only Atlanta having scored fewer (five tallies in six games).

Jonathan Dos Santos has a higher floor than Gil -- he's second in the league in passes completed (behind LAFC's Eduard Atuesta), averaging 72.3 per game. I expect the Galaxy to have lots of the ball this week against Minnesota and RSL, the teams with the two lowest possession percentages in the league (42.7 and 42.9 percent, respectively). Dos Santos will be my Tier 2 midfielder.

Wil Trapp will be my Tier 3 midfielder for the same reason -- his high floor. Trapp is fourth in the league in passes completed, averaging 70.6 per game. He has averaged over 100 connections for the past two weeks. Columbus is seventh in the league in possession, at 54.2 percent, and their opponents this week -- D.C. and Houston -- rank 15th and 13th, respectively, at 47.9 and 49.2 percent.

Double trouble

If you want to pick a goalkeeper who will play twice this week, be my guest. It's too risky in my book, given the frequency of keepers finishing with negative point totals.

For instance, Columbus' Zack Steffen has been the best goalkeeper in the league so far this season and is tied for the lead with four clean sheets in seven games -- with only five goals conceded. Even so, Steffen just gave up three goals to previously winless Portland on Saturday, finishing with minus-9.0 points.

Jesse Gonzalez is coming off an excellent game in a 2-1 victory for Dallas at Atlanta. He made seven saves and the only goal he conceded was via a penalty kick. Gonzalez only has one clean sheet in seven games, but he's only conceded seven total goals. In other words, he's given up more than one goal just once.

Dallas will host San Jose this week, who are coming off a 4-1 home win over Kansas City, but had scored just six goals in their previous six games. They are 20th in the league in xG (expected goals) at 8.93. I'm playing it safe and going with Gonzalez in a single game.

Other picks

  • Daniel Steres, LA Galaxy (Tier 1 defender): He should, at the very least, rack up decent passing numbers in the Galaxy's two games this week, just like Dos Santos. Plus, Steres already has two goals this season and has taken at least one shot in six of seven games.

  • Alexander Callens, NYCFC (Tier 2 defender): Callens has averaged a solid 44.4 passes completed in his five games so far this season, finishing with 7.5-plus fantasy points each time. NYCFC are fifth in the league in possession (55.8 percent), and have two home games this week.