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MLS Fantasy top picks for Round 5

Major League Soccer continues! We bring in our expert manager @dmpwright to provide his MLS Fantasy top picks for Round 5. Dan also includes some fantastic differentials to help managers climb the ranks and gain an edge over their mini-league rivals.

Unlike the major European leagues, MLS is not pausing its domestic schedule during the current international break. This poses additional challenges to select a roster for the new round of MLS Fantasy! However there are still some great options so lets take a look at the top picks for Round 5.

Top targets – Julian Gressel, Vancouver Whitecaps – Defender, $9.2m

Yes, he will set you back $9.2m, he’s playing away from home and Reynoso-less Minnesota United haven’t been the complete bin fire we expected. In fact, they’re one of only five undefeated teams at this stage of the season.

However, several of Minnesota’s key players are away on international duty this week and while Vancouver have struggled to keep clean sheets, the out-of-position Gressel continues to deliver fantasy returns from midfield. His returns include three assists in his last four. He also boasts an xG+xA (expected goal and expected assist) per game of 0.49, on a par with heavy-hitting playmakers such as Facundo Torres and Luciano Acosta.

Cristian Espinoza, San Jose Earthquakes – Midfielder, $10.0m

Espinoza should be the first name in your team for Round 5. He is among the top five midfielders for xG+xA per game (0.67) and third in MLS for key passes per game (2.99) among all players who have played at least three games.

He also plays at home against Toronto, who have multiple absences due to injury (Insigne) and international callups (a running theme among my picks this week). Espinoza will likely be my captain this week.

Hany Mukhtar, Nashville SC – Midfielder, $9.5m

Nashville have almost a full squad this week. Despite the international break and Mukhtar, who is the league’s reigning MVP, should prosper in a favourable home encounter against FC Cincinnati.

Differentials- Claudio Bravo, Portland Timbers – Defender, $5.1m

Left-back Claudio Bravo has been eased into action by Portland following a hamstring injury in preseason. He’s known for his offensive potential. He also has a strong home matchup against an LA Galaxy side who have looked defensively suspect and have problems at right-back following the departure of Julián Araujo. Portland vs LA Galaxy is also the first game of the round, so you have an opportunity to see Bravo’s points and pivot to other players should he not do well.

Héctor Herrera, Houston Dynamo – Midfielder, $9.0m

It is strange talking about Herrera as a differential. Especially taking into account his home match ahead. And even more so when considering he’s scored 30 points in his first three matches of the season. However, Houston have a few players on international duty while their opponents this week, NYCFC, have improved markedly since the return of James Sands and playmaker Santi Rodríguez. Nevertheless, Herrera boasts a solid xG+xA per game of 0.40 across his first three games this season. He is definitely one to consider this week.

Johnny Russell, Sporting Kansas City – Forward, $8.5m

This is a bit of a vibes pick and highly dependent on Russell starting. He hasn’t played a minute so far this season and SKC have looked pretty anaemic offensively of late, to say the least. However, they finally have Russell, Daniel Sallói and Alan Pulido all back in training, and Johnny has a bit of a reputation for taking down the Sounders.

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