The five best Mexicans in MLS to watch in 2018

With the 2018 MLS season underway there is plenty of exciting action each week to keep you entertained. The league is continuing to grow at an alarming rate. More top-rated players are joining each season, highlighting an increasing desire to be involved in Major League Soccer. We’ve picked out the five best Mexicans in MLS to watch this season and what they bring to their side.

Carlos Vela – LAFC

The new boys for 2018, LAFC, picked up an impressive win in their first ever MLS outing away at Seattle. At the heart of that performance was Carlos Vela. Many Premier League fans will know of Vela from his time at Arsenal and brief spell at West Brom.

Although his time in England didn’t quite meet high expectations, the 29-year-old forward is a full international and has come to MLS off the back of the most consistent spell of his career. He is going to be one to watch this season.

Giovani Dos Santos – LA Galaxy

Arguably one of the most naturally gifted players in MLS. Giovani Dos Santos is in his fourth season with LA Galaxy, having scored 23 goals in 64 games. He has played for the likes of FC Barcelona, Tottenham Hotspur and Villarreal – so has plenty of experience to his name.

At 28 he has a lot to offer LA Galaxy, including the ability to change a game at any moment. Dos Santos plays in a number of attacking roles and will be hoping to spearhead his side to better fortunes this season after a disappointing 2017.

Jonathan Dos Santos – LA Galaxy

Younger brother of Gio, Jonathan Dos Santos is also at LA Galaxy. He has made 29 appearances for the national team so far but fans haven’t yet seen his full potential in MLS as this will be his first full season.

The 27-year-old midfielder plays in a deeper role than his brother, but similarly can fit into a number of different roles.

Victor Ulloa – FC Dallas

The most experienced of the Mexicans in MLS in terms of appearances. Victor Ulloa has played 117 games since joining FC Dallas in 2011. A Homegrown player who has made a name for himself anchoring the Dallas midfield.

Although Ulloa isn’t always a guaranteed name on the team sheet, he is reliable and ready when called upon. At 26 he is yet to be called up for the Mexican side, but that is no reflection on his qualities.

Efrain Juarez – Vancouver Whitecaps

Signed from Monterrey using Targeted Allocation Money in January 2018, Efrain Juarez is a versatile option. He has played as a right back over the last few seasons, but is likely to be used as a central midfielder at Vancouver Whitecaps.

Juarez made his debut in the middle of the park in week one. Fans will hope his experience can help the Whitecaps go one step further this season to top the Western Conference.

Are these the five best Mexicans in MLS – who else should have made the cut?

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MLS Preview and Prediction: LA Galaxy vs Vancouver Whitecaps

Major League Soccer: LA Galaxy vs Vancouver Whitecaps

StubHub Center – Wednesday, July 19 – 22:30 ET (03:30 BST)

Match Odds: LA Galaxy 5/6 – Draw 5/2 – Vancouver 3/1

LA Galaxy vs Vancouver Whitecaps: Preview

LA Galaxy take on Vancouver Whitecaps at StubHub Center on Wednesday night. Major League Soccer returns after a short break for the Gold Cup, although several players remain absent as they take part in the knockout rounds of the international competition.

The Galaxy were thrashed 5-2 by Manchester United in a friendly on Saturday night. They were ripped apart after making plenty of errors before scoring two late consolation goals. However, they will hope to have learnt something from that game ahead of the visit of the Whitecaps.

Head coach Curt Onalfo knows his side must pick up their form over the second half of the season if they are to make the playoffs. They come into Wednesday’s game two points behind Vancouver, who sit in sixth heading into Week 20.

That makes this a real six pointer. It’s still only July, but head-to-head clashes like this can really change the shape of the standings. LA know that need to capitalise on the home advantage to move back into the top six.

The Whitecaps might sit sixth in the West but they do boast the fourth-best points-per-game ratio. They have 24 points from 17 games and are on track for a top six finish.

Vancouver have only lost one of their last five games. That came in a 4-0 drubbing at Chicago at the start of the month, but they did bounce back by beating NYCFC 3-2 before the Gold Cup break.

Related: Exclusive photos from Vancouver’s 3-2 win over NYCFC

The worry for Vancouver on Wednesday is that they have struggled away from home this term. They have picked up seven points from a possible 24 on the road, and haven’t won any of their last three away games in MLS.

This will be the 18th MLS clash between the two sides and the second of two this season. LA hold the advantage based on past meetings, having won nine of the previous 17. Vancouver have only won once at LA. That came in a 1-0 win at StubHub in June 2015.Embed from Getty Images

LA Galaxy vs Vancouver Whitecaps: Team News

LA Galaxy welcomed back Daniel Steres and Jermaine Jones in their 5-2 friendly defeat to Manchester United on Saturday night, so both will be in contention to start here. Robbie Rogers, Sebastian Lletget and Baggio Husidic are all still out. Curt Onalfo used 21 players in Saturday’s friendly, so he will hope fatigue is not an issue here. Gyasi Zardes is still away with the USMNT at the ongoing Gold Cup.

Vancouver Whitecaps are set to remain without Brett Levis and David Edgar, while Kendall Waston has been called up to the Costa Rican squad at the Gold Cup. Russell Teibert, Marcel De Jong and Alphonso Davies are with the Canada squad. Matias Laba will be available again after serving a suspension.

LA Galaxy vs Vancouver Whitecaps: Key Points

LA Galaxy’s last five: D/W/L/L/L
Vancouver Whitecaps’ last five: W/D/D/L/W
Key Stat: LA Galaxy haven’t won at home in MLS for more than three months. Their last win at StubHub came on April 8 against Montreal Impact. They’ve drawn three and lost three since.
Key Player: Giovani Dos Santos – The Mexican attacker has only played 12 time this season but remains crucial to the Galaxy. He has been away with Mexico at the Confederations Cup over the past month but is now ready to see his first MLS minutes for six weeks. He scored twice late on against Man Utd on Saturday and will look to prove the difference against Vancouver here.

LA Galaxy vs Vancouver Whitecaps: Prediction

LA Galaxy 1-1 Vancouver Whitecaps – Both sides might be a little rusty on Wednesday night, having not played an MLS game for two weeks. But that won’t change the fact that both sides will be out to win. There are still some key absences for both to contend with, however, and ultimately we see this one ending all square.

MLS Preview and Prediction: LA Galaxy vs Montreal Impact

Competition: Major League Soccer – LA Galaxy vs. Montreal Impact
Venue: StubHub Center – Friday, April 7 – 22:30 ET (03:30 BST) 
Match Odds: LA Galaxy 4/6 – Draw 11/4 – Montreal 15/4

Match Preview

LA Galaxy welcome Montreal Impact to StubHub Center on Friday night as Week 6 kicks off with a battle between two sides that have combined for just one win in eight games so far this season.

The Galaxy started with back-to-back home defeats but looked to be back on track after a 2-1 win at RSL. However, last weekend’s 4-2 defeat at Vancouver worsened their problems and they come into the game in 10th place in the West.

Head coach Curt Onalfo needs to start getting the Galaxy firing. They may have lost some key players over the offseason but the squad is much better than results suggest so far. A first home win of the season is undoubtedly needed on Friday.

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Montreal are also desperate for a win. They’ve not picked up a victory yet through four games and are likely to struggle without Ignacio Piatti once again, with the playmaker sidelined with a groin problem.

The Impact have drawn three-straight games but are 10th themselves over in the East and must start climbing the table to prevent the need for a late-season surge if they are to be playing postseason football again.

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Montreal have not won away at Western Conference opposition since the opening day of last season and face an uphill task if they are to take anything away from their long journey to California on Friday, even if the Galaxy are underperforming.

This will be the sixth MLS meeting between the two sides since Montreal entered the league five years ago. Both sides have won win each, with the Impact winning last season’s lone meeting 3-2 in an entertaining shootout at Stade Saputo.

Team News

LA Galaxy remain without Robbie Rogers and Sebastian Lletget but should have everyone else available for their third home game of the campaign. Giovani Dos Santos, Ashley Cole and Gyasi Zardes all returned at Vancouver last week and should start on Friday night.

Montreal will be without Victor Cabrera after the centre-back was sent off in last week’s draw in Chicago. Ignacio Piatti is set to miss out again with a groin injury, while Andres Romero and Shamit Shome are also sidelined. Laurent Ciman is listed as ‘questionable’ but is expected to be passed fit in time to return to the side here.

Key Points

LA Galaxy’s form: L/L/W/L

Montreal Impact’s form: L/D/D/D

Key Stat: Montreal Impact have yet to score an away goal at LA Galaxy in MLS, although they’ve only ever conceded one at StubHub Center in two previous trips.

Key Player: Giovani Dos Santos – The Mexican star scored the Galaxy’s first goal of the season but hasn’t had a consistent run in the team yet because of injuries. He will be hoping to get his head down now and start firing LA up the Western Conference.

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Score Prediction

LA Galaxy 2-1 Montreal Impact – This is certain to be a cagey game between two out-of-form sides that know they must go for all three points in Friday night’s clash. LA have the pressure of being at home and must deliver for their own fans, while Montreal are not going to be at full strength because of injuries and suspensions, which could cost them as they look set to remain without a win this term.

MLS Preview and Prediction: LA Galaxy vs FC Dallas

Competition: Major League Soccer – LA Galaxy vs. FC Dallas
Venue: StubHub Center – Saturday, March 4th – 21:00 GMT (16:00 ET) 
Match Odds: LA Galaxy 5/4 – Draw 11/5 – Dallas 21/10

Match Preview

LA Galaxy welcome FC Dallas to StubHub Center on Saturday night as two Western Conference powerhouses open their 2017 MLS season in the exact same fixture that closed out their regular season campaigns last term.

FC Dallas lifted the Supporters’ Shield at StubHub after that 0-0 draw last October but neither side fared as well in the MLS Cup Playoffs as they would have liked. However, a new season offers new hope for both, and Saturday’s game offers both sides the chance to get off to the perfect start with a win against a Western Conference rival.

LA Galaxy are set for an intriguing year. Bruce Arena has gone, along with Landon Donovan (again), Steven Gerrard and Robbie Keane. Curt Onalfo is the man tasked with getting this new-look Galaxy side ticking as they look to remain a force in the West.

Bruce Arena and Curt Onalfo LA Galaxy

It will surely take time for the Galaxy to click into gear, while injuries have already hurt them before the new season has even kicked off, with Gyasi Zardes, Ashley Cole and Robbie Rogers all sidelined for Saturday’s opener.

For Dallas and Oscar Pareja, the challenge is sustaining last year’s form as they look to finish at the top of the Western Conference for a third-successive year in 2017.

Dallas have proven to be one of the league’s most impressive teams over the past couple of seasons. They develop young players from within, play attacking football and are a real force at home. However, they start the new season on the road and have new players that are still getting used to life in the team.

That said, Dallas have had the advantage of playing competitive football ahead of the new season as they have already played their two-legged CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal against Arabe Unido. They advanced 5-2 on aggregate – a 4-0 win in the first-leg at Toyota Stadium put them in a very strong position – and will now play in the competition’s semi’s for the first time in club history.

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The only downside to that success is that the club has had to travel back from Thursday night’s game in Panama and have only had one day’s rest before their clash in Los Angeles.

These two sides met three times in total last season, twice during the regular season and once in the US Open Cup. Dallas won two of those ties before the two sides played out that 0-0 draw at StubHub Center on the final day of last term. Dallas have not won away at the Galaxy in MLS since 2009.

Team News

LA Galaxy are going to have to start the new season without three key players, as Gyasi Zardes, Ashley Cole and Robbie Rogers are all ruled out here. Jermaine Jones, Romain Alessandrini and Joao Pedro could all make their debuts in midfield, with Giovani Dos Santos tasked with firing the side to three points.

FC Dallas will be without Mauro Diaz and Ryan Hollingshead for a lengthy period of time, but have made moves over the offseason to ensure they still have enough depth to compete across all fronts again this season. Cristian Colman has been brought in to score the goals for Dallas and he will start his first MLS game this weekend.

Key Points

LA Galaxy’s preseason form: D/L/W/L

FC Dallas’ preseason form: D/D/W/W/L

Key Stat: LA Galaxy are unbeaten in nine home games against FC Dallas in regular season play. Dallas have not won in LA since the 2009 season, drawing twice and losing seven times since.

Key Player: Giovani Dos Santos – The Galaxy are far from the force they are used to being – on paper at least – but Dos Santos remains their biggest threat to opposition defences and will be looking to start the new season with a goal in front of the home crowd. If he can inspire his Galaxy teammates, they have a good chance of getting off to a fine start here.

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Score Prediction

LA Galaxy 1-1 FC Dallas – This could turn out to be a key fixture in the West this season, even if it is on the opening weekend. Dallas might not be at their best considering their CCL commitments on Thursday evening, but still look like the strongest side in the West and will expect to get a point at the very least against a new-look Galaxy side that will need time to gel this term. That said, Curt Onalfo knows that this is a fixture that presents a good opportunity to get the ball rolling and would probably settle for a draw here.

MLS Preview and Prediction: LA Galaxy vs New England Revolution

Competition: Major League Soccer – LA Galaxy vs. New England Revolution

Venue: StubHub Center – Sunday, May 8 – 15:30 ET (20:30 GMT)

Match Odds: LA Galaxy 7/10 – Draw 14/5 – New England  15/4

Match Preview

LA Galaxy welcome New England Revolution to StubHub Center on Sunday evening in a tie we expect to be hotly contested.

Galaxy are sitting 4th in the Western Conference and have been working their way up the table in recent weeks.

Bruce Arena’s side come into this one off the back of their 1-1 away draw against SKC, but he will be pleased on the most part with the performance having seen his side go a goal behind.

LA are the highest scores in Major League Soccer with 18 in their eight games, they are now unbeaten in six games, winning three and drawing three.

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New England Revolution are sitting 7th in the Eastern Conference. They come into this tie off the back of their 2-2 draw with Orlando.

The Revs have only won once all season and are struggling to turn draws into wins. They are the only side who aren’t bottom of either conference to have only won one game.

Jay Heaps will be working on New England’s lack of wins but he could be in a far more difficult position, his side have only lost one in their last seven.

New England are yet to win away from home this season and this would be the perfect place to break that trend. They appear to be lacking a bit of confidence but have the foundation to turn things around.

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Team News

LA Galaxy have four injury concerns. Robbie Keane, Leonardo, Alan Gordon and Steven Gerrard are all doubts. Ashley Cole is suspended following his red card last time out, while Jelle Van Damme is one booking away from suspension.

New England Revolution have five injury concerns. Steve Neumann, Chris Tierney and Charlie Davis are all expected to miss out. Teal Bunbury and Je-Vaughun Watson are both doubts.

Key Points

LA Galaxy’s last five: D/D/W/W/D

New England Revolution’s last five: D/D/L/D/D

Key Stat: Fortress – Galaxy have only lost one of their last 13 home games in Major League Soccer (W10, D2)

Key Player: Giovani Dos Santos – LA Galaxy’s Mexican star has scored four goals in his last three appearances.

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Score Prediction

LA Galaxy 3-1 New England Revolution – Galaxy to brush aside New England and continue their winning streak. Their goalscoring form will give them much confidence against the Revs who will can’t find a win.

MLS Preview and Prediction: Sporting Kansas City vs LA Galaxy

Competition: Major League Soccer – Sporting Kansas City vs. LA Galaxy

Venue: Sporting Park – Sunday, May 1 – 20:00 ET (01:00 GMT)

Match Odds: Sporting Kansas City 29/20 – Draw 23/10 – LA Galaxy 15/8

Match Preview

Sporting Kansas City welcome LA Galaxy to Sporting Park on Sunday in a Western Conference tie which should be action packed.

SKC are sitting 6th in the West and their nine games so far this season have seen 19 goals. Although this is great for the neutral, Peter Vermes will be looking for his defence to tighten up as they have conceded nine of those 19.

Kansas City come into this one off the back of their 1-1 away draw against Vancouver Whitecaps on Wednesday. It was a solid point for SKC which ended a run of three successive defeats.

This is the second game of their double gameweek and Vermes will be delighted if his side can take four points from a possible six by winning this tie.

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LA Galaxy are on fire at the moment and cannot stop scoring. They have breached their opponents backline nine times in the last two games.

Galaxy come into this one off the back of their 5-2 home win over Real Salt Lake which extended their unbeaten run to five.

Bruce Arena will be pleased with his side’s start to the season as they have only lost one of their seven outings.

Galaxy trail top spot Dallas in the Western Conference by three points, but they do have two games in hand, and given their recent form they look a side more than capable of challenging for the Supporters’ Shield this season.

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Team News

Sporting Kansas City have five injury concerns heading into this tie. Soni Mustivar and Kevin Ellis are both expected to miss out, while Chance Myers, Paulo Nagamura and Justin Mapp are all doubts.

LA Galaxy have just two injury concerns. Robbie Keane remains out, while Leonardo is a doubt. Nigel de Jong is suspended.

Key Points

Sporting Kansas City’s last five: W/L/L/L/D

LA Galaxy’s last five: W/D/D/W/W

Key Stat: LA Galaxy are unbeaten in their last five Major League Soccer outings.

Key Player: Giovani dos Santos – The forward has played an influential role in the last two games for Galaxy, netting three goals and causing opposition defenders all sorts of problems.

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Score Prediction

Sporting Kansas City 2-2  LA Galaxy – This sides are hard to split ahead of this tie. SKC may have struggled in recent weeks but are unbeaten against Galaxy at home in their last seven. Arena’s side have won just one of their last eight on the road but it’s difficult to see them throwing away their unbeaten streak here.

MLS Preview and Prediction: LA Galaxy vs Real Salt Lake

Competition: Major League Soccer – LA Galaxy vs. Real Salt Lake

Venue: StubHub Center – Saturday, April 23 – 22:30 ET (03:30 BST)

Match Odds: LA Galaxy 3/5 – Draw 3/1 – Real Salt Lake 9/2

Match Preview

LA Galaxy host high-flying Real Salt Lake on Saturday night in a key Western Conference clash between two sides expected to challenge high up the Supporters’ Shield standings after positive starts to 2016.

LA Galaxy have won three of their opening six games and come into this one off the back of an impressive 4-1 away win in Houston last week.

Bruce Arena will be delighted to have seen his side perform so well on the road, with the emphasis now back on remaining unbeaten at home.

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The Galaxy are a seriously strong outfit on home soil and have only lost twice at home since the start of the 2015 season.

Real Salt Lake are in fine form themselves and are the only MLS side yet to suffer defeat in 2016 but face a tough task in keeping that record intact past Saturday’s game.

RSL have been impressive so far, winning their last two games 1-0, and have the best points-per-game record in MLS.

Jeff Cassar’s side have improved dramatically from last season and know that Saturday’s game offers another chance to show their quality to the rest of the league.

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However, the loss of Joao Plata to injury could leave them lacking attacking quality in the final third, and Cassar will have to hope his squad depth has enough quality to cope without the club’s leading scorer.

These two sides met three times last year, with each team winning once, with the other game ending in a 0-0 draw. LA won the only home game 1-0 and have now beaten RSL in each of the last three home meetings between the clubs.

Team News

LA Galaxy will be without suspended midfielder Nigel De Jong once again here, as he serves the second of his three-game ban. Robbie Keane also remains out as he continues to recover from knee surgery, with Dan Kennedy still sidelined with a groin problem. Leonardo and Robbie Rogers are both doubts.

Real Salt Lake have been rocked by the news that Joao Plata will be out for around 10 days with a thigh injury picked up in training. He will join Emery Welshman, Boyd Okwuonu, Omar Holness and Phanuel Kavita on the sidelines, while Javier Morales and Sunday Stephens are both doubts.

Key Points

LA Galaxy’s last five: L/W/D/D/W

Real Salt Lake’s last five: W/D/W/W/W

Key Stat: Real Salt Lake have not scored at StubHub Center in their last three visits and have now gone 280 minutes since scoring against their Western rivals.

Key Player: Giovani Dos Santos – LA Galaxy’s Mexican star played 90 minutes for the first time this season in last week’s 4-1 win in Houston. He was influential, netting twice, and will hope to build on that display against a strong RSL side here.

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Score Prediction

LA Galaxy 2-1 Real Salt Lake – LA Galaxy will look to build on last weekend’s impressive win in Houston. They are a real force at home and know taking three points from this tie will put them in a strong position in the Western Conference. Real Salt Lake have yet to lose a game, but the loss of Joao Plata could prove to be huge. Both will expect to score but LA should narrowly edge this one.

MLS Fantasy Focus: Time to invest in Crew attackers for Week 7?

By Jamie Dawe and Sam Martin

Double delirium for the Rapids in Week 6, alongside a duo of poor performances for the Red Bulls made last week a complete reversal of form from the 2015 season. However, FC Dallas have stayed true to last season’s form and top the Supporters’ Shield rankings with 17 points from 8 games, six of which were gained in Week 6 with comfortable wins over SKC and the Timbers. A first goal for Seattle’s Jordan Morris ($8.1) could signal the start of things to come from this much-hyped youngster. Overall, Week 6 was a positive one, with plenty of things to build upon in the coming weeks of the campaign.

Week 6 Review

The Good:

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Only six minutes into his MLS return for Montreal, Didier Drogba’s ($11.5) cheeky back heel leveled the score up at 1-1, as Montreal went on to earn three huge points away to Chicago. Impact teammate Ignacio Piatti ($10.6) netted a stunning 90th-minute winner with a curled effort from the edge of the box in a game dominated by Montreal. Meanwhile, the Sounders’ revival continues as Seattle beat Philadelphia 2-1 with defender Chad Marshall ($8.6) heading home from a corner to score for the second consecutive week. While it may have been a disappointing defeat for New York City, World Cup winning forward ‘El Guaje’, David Villa ($11.3) netted a brace – his third and fourth goals of the season. An emphatic victory for LA Galaxy was was started and continued by a Giovani Dos Santos ($10.9) double, with the Galaxy running away as 4-1 winners in Houston. Portland’s Fanendo Adi ($10.2) also continued his fine form, netting his second brace of the campaign against San Jose. Michael Barrios ($8.1) netted in both of Dallas’ games, which leaves the Western Conference leaders on a six-game unbeaten run. On the theme of unbeaten runs, Real Salt Lake remain the only MLS side yet to lose a league match this season. Juan Manuel Martinez ($8.5) netted early in the second half to make it consecutive 1-0 victories. How long can this incredible run continue for RSL?

The Bad:

Seattle Sounders vs Philadelphia Union Red Card Alberg

Philadelphia midfielder Roland Alberg ($8.1) picked up two yellow cards within 53 minutes of his side’s 2-1 defeat to Seattle. Columbus Crew’s Tyson Wahl ($6.0) conceded a penalty that teammate Michael Parkhurst then saw red for in a case of mistaken identity in his side’s eventual win over NYCFC. Wahl has since been handed the suspension that Parkhurst was wrongly given. Portland’s Diego Valeri ($10.3) also saw red in the dying moments of Portland’s 3-1 triumph, picking up a 90th minute yellow and 95th minute red card. The Red Bulls made it six defeats from seven as the star club from the 2015 season are being let down by key attacking players such as Bradley Wright-Phillips ($10.5), Lloyd Sam ($8.9) and Mike Grella ($7.8), with the team having only netted five goals from their seven matches so far. A club with such high expectations will be expecting to push on sooner rather than later. Houston Dynamo dropped to the bottom of the Western Conference after being outclassed by LA Galaxy, despite taking the lead within the first minute. The Dynamo have only managed one win so far this campaign (admittedly it was a resounding 5-0 romp against Dallas, with this being Dallas’ only defeat). It summarises the thrilling unpredictability of the league!

Week 7 Preview

Must Buy:

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With Columbus finally returning to form in their victory over NYCFC, now’s the time to stock up on their star players. When Kei Kamara ($10.9), Ethan Finlay ($10.7) and Federico Higuain ($10.3) are firing on all cylinders, they are an unbeatable side. Looking ahead to upcoming DGW’s, adding some SKC players would certainly seem wise. Nuno Coelho ($8.3) is quickly building a name for himself in Kansas City, along with their only two other ever-present starters, goalkeeper Tim Melia ($5.7) and French fullback Amadou Dia ($6.0).

Must Sell:

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Chicago Fire only play once in the next three weeks, so budget-hogging players like David Accam ($9.2) and Kennedy Igboananike ($8.1) need to be discarded for now. Portland are relying incredibly heavily on Adi and the now suspended Valeri, and won’t play in Week 7. Even when they do return to action, it might be worth transferring out Lucas Melano ($8.7), who is extremely pricy for a player that’s yet to really shine. Injuries to Marco Pappa ($8.2), Matt Hedges ($9.0) and Alvas Powell ($7.1) mean these three players will be dead weight for at least the next two or three game weeks and replacements should be brought in.

Who will you be transferring in for Week 7?

MLS Preview and Prediction: LA Galaxy vs Portland Timbers

Competition: Major League Soccer – LA Galaxy vs. Portland Timbers

Venue: StubHub Center – Sunday, April 10 – 21:30 ET (02:30 BST)

Match Odds: LA Galaxy 5/6 – Draw 13/5 – Portland 16/5

Match Preview

LA Galaxy welcome Western Conference rivals Portland Timbers to StubHub Centre on Sunday in a standout MLS fixture this weekend.  

Galaxy currently sit fourth in the West after a solid start to the 2016 campaign which has seen them lose just once in their four outings. They come into the tie off the back of their 0-0 draw against Vancouver Whitecaps – a respectable away point which they will look to build upon this weekend.

Bruce Arena will be pleased with how his side are performing in the early stages of the season and his defensive signings have made a great impact, as they have conceded the joint-second fewest amount of goals across both conferences.

Galaxy will be more than up for this tie and as always should be feeling confident at home. They have won nine of their last 11 ties at StubHub Centre and despite their squad being hit by some injuries to key players, LA will fancy their chances here.

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Portland Timbers have endured a difficult opening four games to the new season and they must now push on and start to pick up points if they are to stand a chance at retaining their MLS Cup title.

Caleb Porter’s side are sitting 9th, in the depths of the West, and that isn’t where the defending MLS Cup holders would have been expecting to be at the start of the 2016 season. There is no need for Timbers fans to panic as the season is still in its early stages.

Portland were thumped 4-1 away at Orlando last weekend, a result that not many would have predicted, and they need to bounce back into action this time out with a much stronger showing.

The Timbers haven’t travelled well against Galaxy, with last season’s win at StubHub their first in eight attempts. Worryingly for Porter, his side have conceded nine goals in their fours outings, something he will be desperately trying to improve on so Portland can work their way back up the table.

If Portland can take at least a point here it gives them a great foundation to build upon heading into their next two games, which are both at home.

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Team News

LA Galaxy could be without up to six players for this tie with some key faces missing through injury. Dan Kennedy, Robbie Keane and Steven Gerrard are all expected to be out, while Giovani Dos Santos, Jeff Larentowicz and Leonardo are all doubts. There will be added pressure for those filling in, but Galaxy are fortunate to have impressive depth to the squad, so they should be able to manage without those key players.

Portland Timbers have just three injury concerns. Defensive duo Andy Thoma and Liam Ridgewell are out, along with midfielder Ben Zemanski.

Key Points

LA Galaxy’s form: W/L/W/D

Portland Timbers’ form: W/L/D/L

Key Stat: Goals – These sides have shared an astonishing 24 goals in their last five meetings. If that is anything to go by we should be in for a cracker here. 

Key Player: Gyasi Zardes – The Galaxy forward will be expected to step up and provide for his side in the absence in some of their key players. He has netted twice already this season and has the ability to provide opposition defenders will problems.

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Score Prediction

LA Galaxy 3-1 Portland Timbers – LA Galaxy are more than capable of winning this tie despite having some key faces missing from the squad. Arena will be expecting his side to take advantage of Portland’s recent struggles and continue a very strong run of home form against their opposition. True to recent meetings between these sides there will be plenty of action and goals are to be expected.

MLS Fantasy 2016: What you need to succeed

By Jamie Dawe

Every year the MLS Fantasy minefield blows up anyone who hasn’t fully considered their team selection or their formation. Many people watch their team slide down the leaderboard for the first month while they helplessly panic behind their computer screens. However, there are a few key things you ought to know before you set up your team for this year’s competition.

The New Rules

There are now only 16 players on your roster (rather than 18), but each team still has the same $120.0 budget, meaning you can fill your side with more stars than ever in 2016.

Points are now scored for players who suffer four fouls in a game, for every 35 passes that are completed with 85% accuracy and also for every four shots taken in a game. In addition, defenders and defensive midfielders can score points for clearances, interceptions, tackles and blocks. This will make players like Osvaldo Alonso ($8.5) and Matias Laba ($7.5) even more attractive propositions.

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The Roster

Having two goalkeepers gives you room to have a week-in-week-out starting goalkeeper and also a young up-and-coming ‘keeper who may get game time later in the season. I wouldn’t recommend spending anymore than $11.0 of your budget on the two goalkeeper positions.

Having five defenders gives you the opportunity to splash out on a back five if you’re the kind of manager who likes banking on reliable centre-backs who rack up clean sheets, interceptions and the odd headed goal. Many prefer to use just three defenders, with attacking full-backs becoming increasingly popular too.

The limit of five midfielders now means that building a successful five-man midfield is significantly harder to achieve. However, the increased budget per player could mean that a spend of $45.0 on your midfield may not be terminal.

Four strikers gives you the chance to have at least one low priced striker to make room elsewhere for a big golden boot challenger. Cheap options like Dominic Oduro ($7.5) and Tesho Akindele ($7.5) could become great investments for the season.

The Formation

There’s only one formation I can recommend for the first weeks of the fantasy season and that’s a 3-5-2. In the unpredictable and occasionally maddening league which is Major League Soccer, the only position you can truly rely on is that of the central midfielder. Regardless of the match, quality of the team or the scoreline – passing bonuses are sure to be gained and so I see players like Dax McCarty ($9.0) and Tony Tchani ($8.0) as safe bets for early points. You could also try a 3-4-3 or 4-4-2 if one of your strikers/defenders is likely to play in a midfield role. In my view, any other formation would be complete anarchism before the tone for the season has been set.

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The Must Haves

The increased budget per player has opened up teams to have three or four massive stars in their starting XI. This is why players like last year’s top points scorer Sebastian Giovinco ($11.5) are definitely worth having in your team for the start of the season. Another player along these lines is Ethan Finlay ($10.5), who will also benefit from the new passing bonus points.

However, this doesn’t mean that the most expensive players are always going to be the highest scoring. Strikers like Innocent Emeghara ($9.0) and Maximiliano Urruti ($8.5) are sure to get more playing time this season and they are both proven goalscorers. In defence, Dallas’ No. 1 Jesse Gonzalez ($6.0) might be worth an investment as FC Dallas have four home games in their first six. This home start makes Zach Loyd ($7.5) a steal at this value. On the cheaper side, Josh Saunders ($5.0) may suddenly have a less porous defensive line in front of him as NYCFC have dramatically bolstered their defensive options this offseason. Four home games in the first five won’t hurt either.

The Risks

A few players picked in this year’s SuperDraft may go straight into the starting lineup of some MLS sides. For example, Joshua Yaro ($6.0) and Brandon Vincent ($5.0) are bound to get plenty of playing time. Jordan Morris ($8.5) joining Seattle Sounders was possibly the biggest deal of the offseason and it’s anyone’s guess whether he’ll hit the ground running, or whether he’ll take more time to progress. The Colorado Rapids’ biggest offseason signing was Shkelzen Gashi ($9.0), who had been the top scorer in the Swiss Super League for the last two seasons. Whether he can single-handedly turn around the Rapids’ dreadful scoring record, I don’t know. The Rapids also have talented defender/midfielder Marlon Hairston ($5.0) returning from injury, but he might not be thrown straight back into the Starting XI from the outset.

The No-No’s

DC United goalkeeper Bill Hamid ($6.0) will be out for at least the first three months of the season and should be ignored. MLS Cup winners Portland have a new left back in Chris Klute ($7.0) but he could easily miss the first games of the season with a knee injury. Nigel De Jong ($9.0) is a new presence in the LA Galaxy midfield, but he is not known for his scoring exploits and is rather more known for racking up yellow cards, so I personally would wait and see if the new scoring system favours him. Also, for his price and his position as a forward in a fantasy squad Giovanni Dos Santos ($11.0) is probably worth a miss until he settles into his new role on the right side of in the Galaxy side.

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The Best Bench Warmers

Cameron Porter ($5.0) should gain significant value if he gets the playing time he was in line to receive before his horrific injury at the beginning of the 2015 season. Along these same lines, Andre Blake ($5.0) could be a starting ‘keeper for Philadelphia this year – and if he’s given the chance – he could become the best bargain ‘keeper in the league. Hadji Barry ($5.0) could also be given the chance to prove himself in a faster, more fluent Orlando City attack – and if he plays to his potential, his price will skyrocket very quickly.

This is just a brief overview of what can be an extremely in-depth game. However, if I were to tell you anymore of my secrets, there would be no point in picking your own team…

All I can do is wish you luck and may the fantasy force be with you!

Who do you think is an absolute must-have in MLS Fantasy 2016?