Major League Soccer begins its season on March 2nd and the preseason matches will continue through next weekend. Some coaches are still juggling lineups to see what players work best together while some have all but settled on their opening day starters. This is a good time to look at what players can help you win your MLS fantasy pool, but of course we would really like for you to join our league and compete for a gift card to World Soccer Shop. Here is a little help in creating your lineup.
The MLS fantasy manager game points system is what we will use as a basis for this preview. It is as follows:
|For playing in a game||1|
|For playing at least 60 minutes in a game (includes playing points mentioned above)||2|
|For each goal scored by your goalkeeper or defenders||6|
|For each goal scored by your midfielders or forwards||5|
|For each assist *||3|
|For your goalkeeper conceding 0 goals (must also play at least 60 minutes)||4|
|For your defenders conceding 0 goals (must also play at least 60 minutes)||4|
|For your midfielders conceding 0 goals (must also play at least 60 minutes)||1|
|For every penalty miss||-2|
|For every penalty save||5|
|For every 2 goals conceded by your goalkeeper or defenders||-1|
|For every yellow card||-1|
|For every red card (includes any yellow card points)||-3|
|For every 3 saves||1|
The asterisk next to assists means that all assists will be reviewed as any touching by a defender cancels it out. This is a very subjective stat and will not be the make or break for your team. Given this break down you can be rewarded highly by your goalkeeper and defense. Obviously the goals are hard to come by in those positions and so a lot of people will spend highly on midfield and forward, which makes complete sense.
If you want to go by 2012 stats then you need a keeper that makes a lot of saves. Andy Gruenebaum, Dan Kennedy, and Sean Johnson were at the top of that list last year. The starting keeper in Dallas could be near the top of the saves list in 2013 and right now Chris Seitz looks to be the front runner. It is not settled though. Don’t expect too many points for saved penalties as the rate of conversion in the MLS has been very high. Kennedy and Matt Pickens are among the keepers that had a high number of saves, but also play on teams that are expected to be exploited at the back. Risk-reward with them.
In reality, spending a lot on a keeper isn’t going to make your club the strongest. The best method has been finding two relatively cheap starting keepers and rotating them based on their match ups. This would work into the bonuses you can receive for clearances in the MLS game. However if you take a statistical approach at predicting goals conceded the best teams are Houston and Seattle. Kansas City is also expected to be stingy, but does this translate to clean saves and clearances? Stick with two keepers that keep their value at or under $11 and upgrade elsewhere.
For defenders you have to assume that using a player from Salt Lake means you believe in the entire back line unit. So the easiest thing to do is to take the cheapest player from those units. You may have a reason to believe one of those players in the top units can get more bonuses so spending extra on Aurélien Collin can be justified. Kansas City, Seattle, and New York are units that you could pick from to get your season started right. Vancouver could sneak into this discussion as well given the points per game from Jay DeMerit and Alain Rochat.
The midfield and forward positions come with a lot of second guessing. There are points to be had and getting a good start means a lot. Many would love to put Landon Donovan on their squad, but no one knows when he is coming back. Still this is where the big spending must occur for the big reward. Mauro Rosales, Chris Pontius, Graham Zusi, Brad Davis, Patrice Bernier, and Marvin Chavez give the best points per game options. Also, pay close attention to players that may see more action this year like Christian Tiffert and Boniak Garcia.
In the forward category there are some standouts that will cost you a lot. San Jose does not have any bye weeks to start the season so you can expect Chris Wondolowski to begin scoring early. Alan Gordon may still be hampered by injury. Thierry Henry seems to be playing a different role but will still find many chances to score. Federico Higuan lit it up for Columbus in the second half of last year. Robbie Keane doesn’t have Donovan or David Beckham for service so his value goes down a little. Kenny Cooper has switched teams providing a lot of unknown to him and Blas Perez. Add Eric Hassli and Dallas is an enigma. Danny Koevermans is a dark horse having produced a lot last year in limited duty.
If you are looking for value, you are also looking to take a risk. Fabian Espindola could overreach his current value if he plays the same role Cooper did last year. If Gordon is healthy he immediately becomes the biggest value as he is consistently listed on the second page of forwards in most games. David Estrada and Sherjill MacDonald have both slipped into second striker roles on their team. Personally I have had Juan Agudelo in and out of my line up several times trying to balance his team’s defensive inabilities versus his talents in a new coaching scheme.
Logan Pause and Kelyn Rowe are good buy low candidates in the midfield. Stay away from defensive mids and really do research prior to March 2 about starting lineups. Remember that defense should always be looked at through a team lens making Chris Tierney a great option for price based on the number of clean sheets the Revs have managed. James Riley’s recent move makes him more appealing as well. Daniel Woolard could also produce good numbers for his price.
In case you were wondering, here is my team as it stands right now.