Here it is, the most important round to date. The first double-game week is upon us and fantasy managers need to utilize these weeks if they want to stay in contention for prizes. As the masses rush towards the teams that play the most, the players in demand increase in cost.
As Sporting Kansas City and the New York Red Bulls are the only teams with two games this week, we take a change from our usual pattern and profile both teams.
We're tight for time before the 4:15pm PT deadline, so let’s get to it!
Sporting Kansas City - If you aren't part of the 44.4% of the league who currently own Graham Zusi ($9.9m) then there's a problem, he will be the most captained player of Round 8. If you think SKC will have a successful offensive production while visiting LA Galaxy and New York Red Bulls, then Claudio Bieler ($9.3m) is your man, he's scored twice in the last two games. The safe play though is Kansas' defense. With four straight shutouts this team has finally found their form of last year.
The trio of Aurelien Collin ($6.4m), Matt Besler ($6.1m) and keeper Jimmy Nielsen ($6.0m) are the best in the business. Can't go wrong with any of those three. If managers don't have 3 players from Kansas this round, they will significantly fall behind.
New York Red Bulls – New York faces two strong opponents as both Kansas City and New England Revolution are significantly strong on defense. The saving grace is they are likely to earn a clean sheet versus the Revolution who have only one goal on the season. Not nearly as much can be expected in their matchup against Kansas City who are strong on all fronts: lethal at scoring and stringent on conceding. That being said, it is better to have defenders in difficult games.
So we start with the Red Bull’s back line. Best value by far comes from Markus Holgersson ($4.8m) as his value means he should be able to be slotted on any team and receive an uptick in price. The more expensive option is Jamison Olave ($6.0m). Olave’s value is significantly inflated though as he has scored as a defender in 2 straight games and many managers have jumped on board and driven up his price tag. We prefer Markus for straight up value.
Goalkeeper Luis Robles ($5.6m) should pick up a good number of points in New England but could be in for quite the rough night at Kansas so we prefer to avoid him and use our max 3 players from one team another way.
And that way is Thierry Henry ($10.5m), he's had a very rough year so far and has struggled with injury, but If anyone from the Red Bull lineup is going to score/create this round it will be him. He has the ability to take over games at any moment and at a steep $10.5m he's expensive but we like the gamble as the risk versus return has tremendous potential.
As always, keep an eye on the latest injury report updates HERE. Good luck in Round 8.
For more information on prizing and how to sign up for the Official Whitecaps Fantasy League click: HERE
Hold or Sell?
That’s the theme of this week’s forecast considering Sporting Kansas City are the only team on a bye this round. With the likes of Jimmy Nielsen ($6.0m), Aurélien Collin ($6.2m), Matt Besler ($6.0m), Graham Zusi ($9.9m) and Claudio Bieler ($9.3m) being so widely owned, fantasy managers have some tough questions to ask themselves.
With the impending double game next week, we've elected to hold all three of our Kansas' players. However, if you decide to sell make sure to buy them back as quickly as possible following the round lock, as their prices will surely increase from the rush of additions.
So with that being said, we're here to give you the value you seek, assuming you're holding 2 or 3 Kansas players on your bench.
Corey Ashe ($5.0m), Houston Dynamo – Houston look to rebound at home versus Chicago Fire. With Houston only conceding once at home this season, and Chicago yet to score when away, we expect a clean sheet further extending Houston's home unbeaten streak to 35 games.
Chris Korb ($4.6m), D.C. United – Although struggling as of late D.C. United have a relatively decent match up against the enigma that is the New York Red Bulls this weekend. We believe throwing Korb in could net a decent return, and at only $4.6m he’s an affordable option with your stars on your bench this week.
Team of the week (Round 7), Seattle Sounders – Fresh off their elimination from CONCACAF Champions league Seattle finds themselves at the bottom of the MLS standings. The Sounders are off to their worst start in franchise history so it’s fortunate for them that they face the second last New England Revolution this weekend. Keep in mind that defense doesn’t seem to the problem for the Revs. Believe it or not, they have only conceded two goals so far this year, but they’ve also only managed to score one.
If Seattle plans to mount a comeback this season it will need to start from the back, and that's where our focus will be for them this week. Thanks to the Seattle struggles this year many of their players have dropped in value. Goalkeeper Michael Gspurning ($5.8m) was one of the best keepers last year, only conceding 15 times. On the backline we start with Djimi Traore ($5.5m) he's only played the last 3 games for Seattle but has averaged between 4 and 5 fantasy points per game. DeAndre Yedlin ($4.6m) probably falls right into place in this week’s blog, as he's the cheapest defender that Seattle plays, and because of that, his value has actually increased.
We suggest steering clear of Seattle's attack until they show they have rebounded this season, but when they do, grab them when they're cheap, as many fantasy managers have an eye on this under-performing team with a very deep midfield.
As always, keep an eye on the latest injury report updates HERE. Good luck in Round 7.
For more information on prizing and how to sign up for the Official Whitecaps Fantasy League click: HERE
Another round under the belt, how has your MLS Fantasy team done so far? Middle of the pack? Trailing behind? Or leading the show? It's still very early in the season but by now we should start to see the teams who have lost interest and fallen off, and on the other end of the spectrum, see who's the real deal.
With Seattle Sounders and LA Galaxy both having byes this week for the second time in five rounds, it enough to frustrate Fantasy goers immensely. Looking at the stats for Teams selected by % it appears an overwhelming amount of players have either a Galaxy forward (Robbie Keane 21.2%), midfielder (Mike Magee 27.8%) or defender (Omar Gonzalez 24.2%) on their roster. This week we’ll provide you with some secondary cover while you await the return of the reigning MLS Champions to your squad.
Claudio Bieler ($9.2m), Sporting Kansas City – Bieler had quite an active game last weekend with one goal and two fluffed chances. If he had converted all three you could imagine his price increase! With double-header rounds 8 and 11 coming up, we are going to grab him now and hold him through his bye week in round 7. We don't want to risk missing a goal scored versus DC United this weekend.
Abdoulie Mansally ($4.6m), Real Salt Lake – Mansally had a hot start to the season but cooled off thanks to international duty and a game suspension due to violent conduct. We weren't sure how his position in the team would fare when he returned last weekend but he played 80 minutes in a 2-1 victory over the Seattle Sounders and secured five fantasy points. Facing a Colorado Rapids team who are still winless on the year we like Mansally's chances of a clean sheet.
Team of the week (Round 6), Houston Dynamo – With their elimination from CONCACAF Champions league earlier in March, the Dynamo can now focus on their MLS schedule. Facing Portland Timbers at Jeld-Wen Field they’re looking to claim 3 points and the top spot in the Eastern Conference. After Portland, Houston's schedule gets even more favourable with matches versus Chicago (H) Toronto (A) and Colorado (H). Those four teams have a grand total of two wins this season.
Brad Davis ($8.9m) is a must have considering his price tag, and he won't get cheaper than this. Adding him to your team will also bring a significant increase in value over the next several months. He's the man in the engine room and any success Houston has, he's the one pulling the strings. Will Bruin ($8.7m) has also fallen from his $9m value, but with a goal and an assist in his last 2 games means he's looking likely to reclaim last years stellar form.
On defense Houston have some amazing value. Fullbacks Corey Ashe ($5.0m) and Kofi Sarkodie ($5.0m) pose a better bang for your buck than centre backs Bobby Boswell ($5.9m) and Jermaine Taylor ($5.5m). That recommendation factors doubly when you consider that through the first five rounds all four defenders have similar fantasy scores.
As always, keep an eye on the latest injury report updates HERE. Good luck in Round 6.
For more information on prizing and how to sign up for the Official Whitecaps Fantasy League click: HERE
International week has now come and gone, and hopefully as fantasy managers we're all more experienced because of it. More importantly though is whether or not all your players who were called-up have come back healthy and motivated for Round 5. For certain the US internationals like Matt Besler ($6.0m), Omar Gonzalez ($6.1m), Graham Zusi ($9.8m), Brad Davis ($8.9m) and Eddie Johnson ($9.9m) will be riding high after surviving the Azteca in Mexico and defeating Costa Rica at what looked like the North Pole.
Whether you capitalized or didn’t fare so well last round I still have some good news for you. The powers that be at the MLS Fantasy Manager head office have made a few alterations to transfers in the next two rounds. With CONCACAF scheduling implications they have given us an extra transfer in Round 6. Also if you don't make use of your two transfers in Round 5, one of them will roll over giving Round 6 a potential four free transfers! Plan accordingly.
Graham Zusi ($9.8m), Sporting Kansas City – How to make this as blunt as possible... if this guy isn't in your lineup then you have a problem. A quick glance at the schedule for Sporting Kansas show Round 8 and Round 11 are double game weeks. Zusi is now owned by a whopping 35.7% of the league and will only become more expensive as we get closer to the double headers. Now is the time to bite the bullet and finally find the salary cap to buy him. We like his home match versus Montreal as a nice welcome back from his national team duties.
Clint Irwin ($4.1m), Colorado Rapids – This is a pure value play. With the news of Colorado's starting goalkeeper Matt Pickens ($4.9m) out 3-4 months with a broken arm, it appears it's Clint Irwin's job to lose. We don't believe in having 2 starting goalies in any fantasy formation but considering the cheapest keepers come in at about $3.9m, it's a smart play to have Irwin on your bench. If you have a free transfer handy this addition could net you some good salary growth several weeks down the road.
Team of the week (Round 5), FC Dallas – Fresh off their win last week against a roster depleted Real Salt Lake, Dallas find themselves on top of the Western Conference facing a home contest against New England Revolution. With the Revolution only tallying one goal so far this season, it’s a great match to load up on Dallas defenders.
Matt Hedges ($5.0m) surprise, surprise...Mr. Hedges is on our blog again for a 2nd week in a row. Previously we mentioned the defender's amazing ability to rack up bonus points without a clean sheet, well last week he rewarded us with both and we expect him to do it again. Michel Garbini Pereira ($5.0m) looks like he's taken the role of last years Zach Lloyd ($5.0m). While both are starters for Dallas, Pereira has been getting a fair amount of key passes and crosses into the box for the team, a playing style which many are waiting for Lloyd to recapture.
George John ($5.6m) is the most expensive defender on the roster but we recommend steering clear of him. The cheaper alternatives listed above are much better fantasy savvy plays.
For more advice from the pros check out the latest episode of MLSsoccer.com's Starting Lineup below:
As always, keep an eye on the latest injury report updates HERE. Good luck in Round 5.
It's the dreaded World Cup Qualifying week, a situation that could prove very costly for many owners that haven't planned ahead. It's also something fantasy managers best start getting accustomed to. Why you ask? Well looking at the international qualifying schedule it appears we'll run into this situation at least four or more times in the 36 rounds before playoffs.
This week we address the teams most likely to benefit from having opponents with players on international duty. The complete list of MLS players who have been called up can be found HERE.
First up, FC Dallas have home field advantage versus a gutted Real Salt Lake squad who have lost five starters including their leading goal scorer Alvaro Saborio ($10.1m). Meanwhile, Montreal Impact look to extend their winning streak at home against a New York Red Bulls team without Australian international Tim Cahill ($8.0m), and Costa Rican international Roy Miller ($4.5m). New York will also be missing the likes of Thierry Henry ($10.4m) due to injury and Juninho ($7.8m) remains questionable with a calf strain.
David Ferreira ($9.1m), FC Dallas – Listed at 5'5" the little guy commands a big price and rightfully so! Ferreira has been on the score sheet every game this season with 2 goals and 1 assist and it doesn't look likely to stop facing a destitute Real Salt Lake line up. Expect the reigning 2010 league MVP to be a nuisance all game long, we've captained him.
Matt Hedges ($5.0m), FC Dallas – It's not a typo friends, it's another Dallas player. This season Matt Hedges hasn't received a clean sheet yet, and you know what? That's totally fine with us! Matt is averaging 17 CBIs a game (That's good for being ranked 2nd in the league for clearances, blocks or interceptions) that's close to 3 defensive bonus points per match!. Factor in the 2 points for playing 60+ minutes and the mere chance of 4 points for a clean sheet, and we love it, we love it a lot! HUGE upside, get him in your team.
Team of the week (Round 4), Montreal Impact – With a perfect 3-0 start to the campaign it's no surprise that Montreal is at the top of the MLS Power Rankings. More importantly, the Impact have only Sanna Nyassi ($5.9m) away on international duty and square off against a severely depleted New York Red Bulls side that has struggled to find a win this season even when they do have a full squad.
Jeb Brovksy ($4.8m) is the man to start your Round 4 plan with. His cost will only go north of here with many people looking for value on the back line. Davy Arnaud ($7.3m) is proving to be a poor man's version of Patrice Bernier ($8.0m) or Felipe ($9.0m) as Arnaud has played the same amount of minutes and contributed slightly more in fantasy points than his fellow starting midfielders. That being said, New York has been known to concede a fair amount of penalty kicks and you can be certain that Montreal's PK specialist Bernier will be the one to step up and take them.
Lastly, be sure to avoid Alessandro Nesta ($5.1m). While not yet listed on the injury report he is out for approximately two weeks with an abductor strain. As always, keep an eye on the latest injury report updates HERE and don't forget to watch this week's edition of MLSsoccer.com's fantasy show: Starting Lineup (below). Good luck in Round 4.
With three MLS teams returning from bye weeks after their CONCACAF Champions League exploits, MLS Rivalry Week is gearing up to be a potential windfall for Fantasy Managers. Houston Dynamo, Los Angeles Galaxy and the Seattle Sounders are all back in action and expect to see some high scoring affairs. A word of caution when making your picks this week however, as Round 4 falls on the same week as World Cup Qualifiers for many players, so expect to be without some of your international stars. Make sure you plan ahead!
With that being said, on to this week's players and featured team of the week:
Graham Zusi ($9.7m), Sporting Kansas City – Normally when you pick a midfielder and he doesn't get on the scoresheet you expect the worst. Fortunately for those of you who have Zusi in your lineup he's proving otherwise. With 10 crosses and 7 key passes he controlled the entire pitch last week against Toronto FC and walked away with 8 points. We expect Zusi to continue his stellar play versus Chicago Fire as he doesn't look to have missed a beat from last season.
Jeb Brovsky ($4.7m), Montreal Impact – Former Whitecaps FC defender Jeb Brovsky is not only playing well for Montreal but he’s also a bargain for Fantasy Managers. At only $4.7m he offers tremendous bang for your buck. Facing Toronto FC in Montreal is a good match up for the young American. Even if he picks up the typical 60+ minutes of playing with an additional 2 defending bonus, coming away with 4 fantasy points at his price is a brilliant return on investment.
Team of the week (Round 3), Los Angeles Galaxy – Fresh off their dominating performance in CONCACAF Champions League they now face a favourable opponent at home in Chivas USA. With Chivas being notorious for low scoring, Carlo Cudicini ($5.5m) looks destined for a clean sheet.
We like the bargain of Todd Dunivant ($5m) on the back end, although if you have a bit more to spend, then Omar Gonzalez ($6.1m) is your guy. Sean Franklin ($5.5m) is a player to watch, as a listed defender Galaxy appear to like playing him in the midfield.
Robbie Keane ($10.5m) is currently owned by 33% of the league. The Irishman will turn into the player Fantasy Managers either hate and fear week in and week out, or the player they ride into the sun with. We prefer the latter as we rather not worry about him exploding against us on any given week.
As always, keep an eye on injury report updates HERE and don't forget to watch this week's edition of MLSsoccer.com's fantasy show: Starting Lineup (below). Good luck in Round 3.
We’re headed into Round 2 fantasy managers and where do you stand? If your squad performed poorly last weekend, don't fret just yet. It's a marathon after all, not a sprint!
Many teams who had fast starts either went with LA Galaxy or Columbus Crew. With Los Angeles on a bye this week and the Crew facing the defensively sound Vancouver Whitecaps FC on our home turf, that should cool the jets of some of those early leaders this round at least. To help you climb a few rungs on the ladder let’s take a look at two players whose stock is certainly on the rise, and our featured team of the week.
Brad Rusin ($5.0m), Vancouver Whitecaps FC – With his mentor Jay Demerit sidelined after an unfortunate injury now is the time for Brad to Rise & Shine. The 26 year old centre back has big shoes to fill, but looked right at home on Bell Pitch against Toronto FC. Rusin is now likely to feature in Martin Rennie’s starting XI for the foreseeable future and if the ‘Caps back line can hold strong against the Crew this weekend then expect him to haul in 5-8 points.
Fabian Espindola ($8.6m), New York Red Bulls – Pump your breaks kid! It’s no question fantasy managers have made Espindola a favourite pick after his point tally in Round 1; but consider how he got there before jumping on the bandwagon. Portland Timbers left back Mikaël Silvestre made a calamity of his MLS debut, gifting both goals to Espindola. This is one of those situations where it's better to know HOW a player scored, as opposed to IF a player scored.
Team of the week (Round 2), San Jose Earthquakes – The Goonies came up with a tough 2-0 defeat in their home season opener. That result could well have been reversed if the $10.5m Wondolowski didn't hit the bar early, plus miss a sitter and a free header. The goal scoring machine won't have too many of these games and we expect him to quickly right the San Jose attacking ship that made them so feared in 2012 (72 goals).
Keeping with the offense, Michael Fucito ($6.5m) impressed and looks to have good chemistry up front with Wondo, although he may have picked up a knock and is questionable for this Saturday. Former ‘Cap Shea Salinas ($8.0m) comes at a fairly steep price but is expected to be a focal point of San Jose's transition on attack.
Defensively you can't go wrong with any of San Jose’s roster, but Ramiro Corrales ($5.0m) is on our watch-list as he has a knack for putting in crosses as well as getting up field in a hurry. If you’re considering Victor Bernardez ($6.0m) be aware that he was added to Honduras' roster for World Cup qualifying games so will likely miss the Round 4 match versus Seattle Sounders.
As always, keep an eye on injury report updates HERE and good luck in Round 2.
It’s that time of year once again. The game? MLS Fantasy Soccer Manager. What's at stake you ask? Pride and prizes!
Everyone likes new beginnings but the decisions you make today could impact your entire season. Hopefully I can provide some small insight in maximizing your Fantasy team’s points right out of the gate. By the way, if you haven't already done so there’s still time to sign up for the Official Whitecaps Fantasy League HERE but you have to act now before the March 2nd cutoff.
Let’s kick things off by weighing in on two of the most popular pickups in the game so far…
Chris Wondowlowski ($10.5m), San Jose Earthquakes – There’s a reason why 39.2% of Fantasy players have him on their team. Wondowlowski has been the top scorer in the league for three seasons running and is poised to continue his trend. This year the Earthquakes play their home season opener against Real Salt Lake whom he onion bagged 5 times in just 3 games last year. He may not have the media star power of other players in the league, but he's a consistent performer who's well worth the hefty pricetag.
Robbie Keane ($10.5m), LA Galaxy – Along with Wondo, Keane was the only other striker to break 200+ Fantasy points last season. Can he do it again? The Irish international will be needing service to maintain his goal scoring prowess and whether his current roster of teammates can deliver remains a question mark. With Beckham gone to Paris Saint-Germain and Donovan delaying his return until late March, we've decided to take a buyers beware approach and will keep an eye on him for week 3.
Team of the week (Round 1), Sporting Kansas City – Out with the old and in with the new is the story upfront for Kansas City. Roger Espinoza and Kei Kamara have both traveled across the pond and are already making waves in the English Premier League. As a result Kansas City have brought in forward Claudio Bieler ($9.5m), the team's only designated player, to fill the gap. We don't anticipate it will be very long until Graham Zusi ($9.5m) welcomes Bieler to the club with a nice through ball assist...or two.
Sporting also only conceded 27 times last season (16 clean sheets) and there's a reason why! How does a backline consisting of Aurelian Collin ($6.0m) and MLS' Defender of the Year Matt Besler ($6.0m) sound? If opposing strikers are fortunate enough to get through those two warriors then all they have to do is beat the Goalkeeper of the Year Jimmy Nielsen ($6.0m), no big deal right?
All I can say is good luck to anybody with a Philadelphia player in your starting eleven. You're going to need it.
Have I mentioned how excited I am to watch the ‘Caps this season?
Well I have, but hey, now is the time for excitement, and this certainly looks to be a very entertaining team!
What continues to intrigue me the most about this side is our rookie wingers.
WATCH: Manneh shows what he's got
I grew up watching my home team Manchester United, who for the most part have always used two wingers. When they were in full flow there was no better sight. They went right at the opponent’s fullbacks and looked to get dangerous crosses into the box for their strikers to finish.
So what does make a great winger?
Stick to the plan
First of all you, have to be patient. You spend a great deal of time holding your position out wide and relying on your teammates to get you the ball. This can be frustrating at times if you’re not getting involved in the match, and naturally you will want to start wandering inside to go look for the ball and try to get more involved.
Sticking to the plan, that is how I got my nickname Chalkie.
Back in the day I was playing in a game for Oldham Athletic. I hadn’t seen the ball for ages, so I decided to leave my position on the wing and go hunt for the ball. It was not long before our manager Jimmy Frizzel screamed at me to get back out wide and put some chalk on my boots (the touch lines were marked with white chalk), which I promptly did. Hence my new nickname, which has stuck with me even until today.
WATCH: Dane Richards gets compared to the Legend
It’s not always about taking on defenders …
Having dribbling skills certainly is a plus for a winger, but it is not necessary (I was told by one fan I only had two moves).
A certain fellow named David Beckham was not known for his moves with the ball, but you would find it very hard to find a better crosser of the ball than Mr. Beckham. He would only need a yard of space to cross the ball or bend it around the defender.
Another similar player that had the same type of game was someone some of you longtime ‘Caps fans will remember as “the Silver Fox” Alan Hinton. He was not very tricky or fast, but he too would find that yard of space to whip in a dangerous cross for his strikers to attack.
… But speed and dribbling certainly help
Of course, if you do have dribbling skills that makes things very frightening for defenders. Cristiano Ronaldo was the king of the step-overs when he first came to play for Manchester United. There have been other wingers like Ryan Giggs (sorry another United player) who could do amazing things with the ball while running at full speed. These types of wing men would beat you inside or outside, or just twist you into the ground then run away from you.
WATCH: Giggs in his prime
If you have speed, then you can knock the ball past a defender and find a cross or make the runs into space and look for balls over the top of defenders to create breakaways. With or without the ball, these players with speed stretch defences and excite the crowd with their play.
There are different types of wingers, but one thing they have to have is courage. As a winger, you will be kicked because you have too much skill for the defender – sometimes by accident, but many times just to slow you down.
You also have to have a certain fearlessnesses. You can’t be afraid to take on one, two, maybe even three defenders at a time. Of course you may not get through, but if you do you’ve opened up the play and set your team up with a good chance to create a goal.
I am probably biased when I say that there’s no better sight than seeing teams that play with two wingers to open up the game and play attacking soccer.
And that’s why I am excited to see this year’s ‘Caps – and in particular Manneh and Hurtado. All the weapons we have will make this MLS season a very entertaining one.
Bring it on.