MLS Fantasy Manager week 21 brings us to the roughest stretch of the Major League Soccer season. Teams don’t just have to deal with the grueling summer heat and long season but also friendlies, cup competitions, and players away on international duty. Some stars are returning while others are needing rest from the long schedule. This time of year is when roster depth gets and we find out who is the real deal and who isn’t.

TOP FORWARD PICKS

Photograph by: Gerry Kahrmann , PNG
Photograph by: Gerry Kahrmann , PNG

Kekuta Manneh, Vancouver Whitecaps, $7.3

Kekuta Manneh is one of the best young forwards that MLS has to offer. He has yet to blossom into a consistent starting player but has shown enough promise up top to be Vancouver’s choice in that role the past seven games. Manneh is a quick, fast, resilient, smart striker who looks years beyond the age of 20 when on the field. The Whitecaps welcome struggling San José Earthquakes to B.C. Place this Sunday to close out the weekly slate of games. Manneh matches up well against the Earthquakes’ defense with his ability to create chances as well as finish them. The previous meeting between these teams was a low scoring affair won by San ose and I don’t expect this one to play out much different except for the final outcome. Manneh will have a great performance and be an x-factor for whatever goals Vancouver scores.

AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

Alvaro Saborio, D.C. United, $9.6

I think whoever plays forward for D.C. United will score some goals against Philadelphia. The problem here is I’m not 100% sure if it will be newly acquired Alvaro Saborio or Jairo Arrieta ($6.3). Saborio is returning from international duty for his first shot at playing time with his new squad while Arrieta has been inconsistent for the team all season but played well last week against F.C. Dallas. Saborio was struggling for Real Salt Lake but that was more due to R.S.L not playing well than his quality. I think this move to D.C. will jump-start his season since he will get paired again with former teammate Fabian Espindola and, possibly, fellow countryman Arrieta. From reports I’ve read about Saborio in training, he looks like he will get the nod to start. He’s going to play either way and will come up big against Philadelphia.

 

Photo by Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY Sports Images
Photo by Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY Sports Images

David Texeira, F.C. Dallas, $7.4

David Texeira is the starting forward of choice for F.C. Dallas since Blas Perez is still away at the Gold Cup. Dallas has yet to lose since Texeira stepped into the role but this has as much to do with the end of a long road trip as it does with how well he’s been playing. He finally started notching more points a couple of weeks ago but he does everything else right when he plays even if it doesn’t show up as fantasy points. He connects well with the young midfielders and they all have developed a rapport that has resulted in some outstanding play during the month of July. Dallas plays against a Portland team this weekend that thrashed them during their last meeting at Providence Park. This game will be much different as Dallas has been unstoppable at home and Portland is shorthanded. Texeira will make a big difference be it with assists or goals as Dallas continues their amazing form.

 

TOP MIDFIELD PICKS

(Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Steven Gerrard, Los Angeles Galaxy, $10.2

Steven Gerrard is a legend who showed last week that he is all-in for his stint with Los Angeles. During his first game he played with a joy and vigor that he hasn’t shown since his 20’s. Gerrard is already clicking with his teammates on the field as if he’s been playing with them for a few years. This week L.A. travels to Houston but the away game won’t differ in his form. Houston is playing poorly and L.A. will overpower the Dynamo midfield while unable to contain Gerrard. He may not perform as well as last week but he will still tally big fantasy points against a floundering opponent.

 

Isaiah J. Downing / USA Today Sports
Isaiah J. Downing / USA Today Sports

Lee Nguyen, New England Revolution, $11.0

Lee Nguyen hasn’t had a bad season, he just hasn’t had the type of season he had last year. His numbers show that he’s having a good year but he’s not having the season that his high price warrants. I wouldn’t keep him around long but he is a great pick-up this week because Chicago is one of the few teams playing worse than New England has. Nguyen is picking up the pace lately and playing well so look for him to take advantage of the weak Chicago midfield to help his team get a much-needed road win.

Icon Sportswire via AP Images

Mauro Diaz, F.C. Dallas, $9.9

I know I’ve picked Mauro Diaz in the past month but he’s been unstoppable lately. Take a look at his highlight reel from this past weekend’s game and you’ll see that it’s almost impossible to deny him a spot on any roster when his team is at home. Diaz likes to attack players with the ball and shows no fear when going forward so he’s either going to make it through towards goal or draw the foul, both outcomes are perfect for F.C.D.’s fast style of play. The F.C.D. midfield is going to use every bit of speed they have this week to pick apart Portland. The scariest thing about all of this is that Diaz and the F.C.D. midfield are only getting better and smarter as the season goes along.

TOP DEFENSIVE PICKS

Darryl Dyck/AP
Darryl Dyck/AP

Bobby Boswell, D.C. United, $9.5

Another appearance on my list for Bobby Boswell because he’s so clutch this year. He finds a way to put in great performances on the back line every week even if his team doesn’t. He gets a nod this week because of his match-up with Philadelphia Union’s lacking attack. Philadelphia can put on a great offensive show but not on the road and not against one of the best defenses in the league this year. Boswell is a stay-at-home defender that doesn’t contribute much going forward but he makes up for it with plenty of clearances that usually contribute to a clean sheet. Philadelphia won’t have an answer for the D.C. defense this weekend and that means a higher score for Boswell.

 

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Atiba Harris, F.C. Dallas, $6.1

I’m just as surprised as you are by this pick but Atiba Harris has turned into F.C. Dallas’ best option at right back. Harris has always been the type of player who is good at a few positions but not great at a single spot. He’s the soccer version of baseball’s utility fielder and he always contributes to a team’s depth when on a roster. Someone had to step up with Je-Vaughn Watson away at the Gold Cup and the versatile Harris has been more than adequate. I wouldn’t be surprised if he stays at the position when Watson does return to league play. His speed and awareness are perfect for the breakneck style of play that F.C.D. has adopted. He’s also become a much more reliable passer that has the pace to get forward to push the attack and get back on defense fast enough to not be a liability. Portland has some pace to match Dallas but not the kind that can go 90 minutes in the North Texas Heat. Harris could see some assists this weekend but he’s going to get most of his points from bonuses and possibly a clean sheet.

 

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

London Woodberry, New England Revolution, $4.2

London Woodberry is the type of player who has great weeks and horrible weeks but not much in between. It’s rough to look at his history since he has become a starter because he either has brilliant six-plus-points weeks or zero-two point weeks. His price is his best asset because he’s a starting defender cheaper than $4.5 which is rare. I’m giving him a nod this week because Chicago is the type of team that Woodberry matches up well against. Chicago gets frustrated very easily and their amount of mistakes skyrocket when that happens. If I could pick one word to describe Woodberry, it’s frustrating. Whether he’s frustrating opponents or frustrating his own team, well that’s another thing, but this week I think he’s going to give Chicago a headache. He’s getting smarter as the season goes along and he’ll take advantage of any mistakes the Fire make. New England may not pick up the clean sheet but Woodberry is going to pick up bonus points.

GOALKEEPER PICK OF THE WEEK

LM Otero-AP

Dan Kennedy, F.C. Dallas, $4.9

Dan Kennedy is another F.C. Dallas player who has benefited from their current form. He’s been an outstanding goalkeeper for the past few seasons and F.C.D. was lucky to pick him up in the Chivas U.S.A. dispersal draft. Kennedy just had a 349 minute shutout streak broken this past weekend and, while I doubt he has that kind of run in him again this season, I don’t think Portland will have answer for him during F.C.D.’s current form at home. Kennedy is not just a brilliant shot stopper but also has a great rapport with his defense which means less shots on goal. Portland isn’t going to get many shots on goal this weekend so Kennedy won’t get many points from saves but he will get them for defending and probably a clean sheet as well.

Cesar Gutierrez covers MLS for MyFantasySportsTalk, you can follow him on Twitter @namcopunk

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