After each round of matches for MLS Fantasy players, we'll be providing our Player of the Week, the player who we think is deserving of top spot, even if they didn't finish on the most points for a week. We'll take a look at the impact the player is having on his team, as well as the MLS Fantasy returns that they are providing. Strap in, it's time to get nostalgic. All aboard.
MLS Fantasy: Gameweek 9
For us in the UK, the first game of the week starts bright and early on Saturday morning, with Vancouver Whitecaps hosting Real Salt Lake in a Western Conference encounter (which is another Friday night MLS fixture). You can check out the fixture list in full below.
You can also read all of our MLS Fantasy articles on our specialist page, by clicking here.
Gameweek 8: Sporting Kansas City 6-0 Vancouver Whitecaps
The opening game in each MLS fixture this season is proving to be must-see television, and Gameweek 8's fixture between Sporting KC and Vancouver Whitecaps would most likely be at the top of the running order in terms of thrilling and exciting games this season.
One side from first whistle to last, Kansas ran out eventual 6-0 winners, with winger Johnny Russell taking the headlines this week, adding much needed quality to a Kansas side who are flying high at the top of the Western Conference.
In an encounter packed with action from the first whistle, Kansas found themselves with an early lead after Johnny Russell swept home with his weaker right foot to give SKC a lead against their weary visitors from Vancouver. Russell doubled his tally before the twenty-minute mark, tapping in a rebound.
Jimmy Medranda's brilliant strike from outside the box on the left put an end to this match as a contest before the half-hour mark, and with the opening match in MLS for the past two weeks being a 4-0 scoreline, it looked like Sporting were going to replicate that against Vancouver.
The contest then went from over, to dead and buried before 40 minutes on the clock. After a lengthy VAR dispute, the referee sent off both Efraín Juárez and Yordy Reyna, leaving Vancouver with just 9 men for the remainder of the match. The pair were involved in an altercation with man of the moment, Russell, with both Vancouver players rightly sent their marching orders, though the VAR review took an eternity to reach a verdict. Russell was also booked in the skirmish, putting a slight dampener on the points potential for MLS Fantasy players.
The second-half only compounded Vancouver's visit to the mid-west when Johnny Russell was brought down for a penalty kick, though Stefan Marinovic easily saved the spot-kick from Ilie Sanchez.
Russell then completed his hat-trick with a wonderful flick over Marinovic from a well-worked corner routine, with all aspects of the attacking move easy on the eyes for viewers at home, and adored by those in attendance.
Substitute Cristian Lobato then added a fifth for Sporting KC from close range, before Yohan Croizet scored his first goal of the season after converting an Ilie Sanchez cross.
The damage was done in the first half, and Sportking cemented their place at the top of the Western Conference with 17 points, 5 more than FC Dallas and LAFC, who both have amassed 12 points so far this season.
MLS Fantasy Gameweek 8 - Player of the Week: Johnny Russell (SKC)
With Gameweek 8 opening with a 6-0 rout between Sporting KC and Vancouver Whitecaps it looked like Johnny Russell's inclusion as our Player of the Week was a foregone conclusion.
Then Ignacio Piatti scored a hat-trick for Montreal in the second game, and then Houston Dynamo's Romell Quioto came out of nowhere to amass a 19 point haul in MLS Fantasy after scoring once and assisting twice against MLS Cup holders, Toronto. There was also internal competition from SKC's Yohan Croizet (17pts), and right-back Graham Zusi (16pts), to contend with.
All weekend we tussled with our pick, but ultimately we have decided to stick track with Russell. Not only did SKC win their fixture, with Piatti's hat-trick on the losing end against LAFC, but the former Derby man quickly became the talk of the town. Every commentary team throughout the weekend were referencing and buzzing about Russell, who is quickly becoming a player that is making the league his own.
A Sporting win put Russell's team 5 points clear at the top of the Western Conference, and when left reflecting on the weekend, it is Russell who is putting eyes on MLS, and that's ultimately where our decision lies this week.
Johnny Russell's Gameweek 8 Points:
52 mins played: 1pt
3 goals: 15pts
1 penalty earned: 2pts
6 shots: 1pt
Yellow card: -1pt
Sporting's win against Vancouver was absorbing and thrilling to watch as a neutral, even if the contest was done and dusted by 40 minutes. SKC's attacking play and set-piece strategy was a joy to watch. Of all 23 clubs in MLS, Sporting feel like a real team, and one who is on course to challenge at the very top of table this season if they're able to maintain their start to the season.
Last season SKC were a defensive unit, only conceding 29 goals, but only scoring 40 goals in the process in a 5th placed Western Conference finish. This season, Russell's inclusion has already yielded great results with SKC already scoring 20 goals this season, half their tally from last season, an achievement earned after just 8 matches of the season.
Next week brings a very interesting challenge, with SKC travelling to a New England Revolution side who have been rejuvenated by Brad Friedel in his first season in charge of the club. FC Dallas, the only undefeated side in MLS this season, beat New England during their last home encounter, but will pose several question marks on the counter-attack with Penilla and Fagundez picking up some good form.
The 2018 MLS Fantasy Season
MLS has returned, and you can join our very own MLS Fantasy League by clicking here, or alternatively by using the league code RDPUAHR2 whilst on the MLS Fantasy site, or checking out our pinned tweet on our @HypeTrainMLS Twitter account. We'd love to have you aboard for the ride.
You can read more of our latest news from in the FPL, Premier League, and around the footballing world on our Football page by clicking here, or by clicking the image below.
Want to know more about The Hype Train?
The Hype Train is an entertainment website founded in 2015, specialising in the Fantasy Premier League (#FPL), providing beautiful graphics and weekly insight for hopeful players attempting to climb ranking tables. We are also occasional media reviewers, with a keen interest to review movies, live sport, and professional wrestling.
As well as providing FPL articles on our website, we are a founding Contributor to the new Fantasy Football Hub, where you can find more unique articles, including weekly Power Rankings, from The Hype Team. You can support us and read exclusive members only content for just £2 per-month by clicking here.
The Hype Train were nominated and shortlisted for the 'Best Football Blog 2016' by the Football Bloggers Association at their annual Football Blogging Awards (The FBA's), with the final presentation held at Old Trafford in Manchester.