Fantasy Forecast: When to use your wildcard?
Well, that was a productive double-game week (DGW), wasn't it? Philadelphia Union didn't do horribly against New York Red Bulls to kick things off, then held off Houston Dynamo for a clean sheet. All this made me a very happy fantasy manager, with a captained Zac MacMath ($5.5m) earning me a solid 24 points to boost my round total to a healthy 81. If we learned anything from this past weekend, it's that taking DGWs seriously and skewing your team towards them (within reason) tends to lead to good things.
Good thing we learned that lesson, too, as there are plenty more DGWs on the horizon, starting with the teams that the Union faced this past round: Houston and New York.
Got My Bulls, Got My Orange Crush
Coming into Round 8, neither Houston nor New York could boast many solid options for fantasy owners outside of goalkeeper – Tally Hall ($6.1m) and Luis Robles ($6.0m) are currently 5th and 6th in fantasy scoring, respectively. Add in the form of the two teams and New York's recent injury news – Tim Cahill ($10.8m) is out for the Wednesday match and is questionable for Saturday – and we're looking at a change from the “use the maximum number of DGW players” strategy of Round 7. For my own team, I opted to jettison MacMath while I could still make a small profit and replaced him with Hall, figuring that Houston is the more likely DGW to get a clean sheet this round. Rounding out my two-match crew are Houston's Corey Ashe ($7.2m) and Ricardo Clark ($7.2m), and New York's Lloyd Sam ($7.0m) and Eric Alexander ($6.8m). I'm deliberating weighting towards midfield as that seems to be where the action is happening goals-wise for both teams. I've seen some people advise that Will Bruin ($8.4m) is due for a breakout; I'm less optimistic.
When transferring in Houston players, bear in mind you're getting them for a relatively long haul. Houston has more DGW action in Rounds 10 and 12; yes, there will undoubtedly be some squad rotation but you can bet there'll be workhorse players who go the full 180', much to the delight of your fantasy squad.
Did I mention I picked up Tally Hall?
Cards Gone Wild
In order to prepare for our first glut of double-game weeks, I stuck to my initial plan from the start of the season and exercised my wildcard following the conclusion of Round 7. Ten transfers and a small profit later, I am locked and loaded for not just the current round but at least three rounds into the future. Those of you who still have your wildcard may be holding onto it and wondering what the best time is to use this magical “Get Out Of Transfer Jail Free” card. Truth be told, there's no one “best” time – it all depends on the state of your team and the schedule ahead. Last year, if memory serves, I used my wildcard within the first five rounds to completely overhaul a botched opening roster and it worked like a charm. Sure, I had to take the occasional transfer penalty and missed out on some double-game week points but the end result was far better than if I'd tried to stick it out.
Conversely, those of you who carefully checked the rules for this year's MLS Fantasy Manager may have noticed that there are three “wildcard” rounds already built into the schedule: Rounds 11, 15 and 16. There's a definite advantage, then, to holding onto your wild card until Round 21 or so, roughly midway between Round 16's reshuffle and the end of the season. Playing your wildcard here will allow you to react to a late-emerging trend in league play, be it a hot player or a team-killing injury bug, or simply load up on players for a tantalizing DGW. Round 24, for example, features double-game weeks for Los Angeles, Seattle and San Jose, with Seattle in particular ending their DGW with another Cascadia derby. Mark that one on your calendars for sure.
Ultimately, as long as you're making the most of your wildcard – a five-transfer minimum, let's say – there's no wrong way to reshape your team. Go ahead and reshape with confidence!
Oh, Right, Other Teams Are Playing
Outside of the points-attracting DGWs, there are still matches and players to keep an eye on – a point Aurélien Collin ($9.9m) made emphatically in Round 7 as his goal and clean sheet earned him a whopping 14 points. While I'm not going to predict another Collin-esque outburst in this round, I am going to advise you keep an eye on the San Jose Earthquakes versus Chivas USA match. Shea Salinas ($7.7m) is owned by 7.3% of all fantasy owners which technically means he's still something of a fantasy dark horse. I don't expect that or his price to stay the same for much longer, especially if Salinas can keep up his stellar passing work this weekend against Chivas.
Elsewhere, FC Dallas takes a visit to RFK Stadium for what should be, on paper, a throttling of D.C. United. Then again, pundits like myself said the same thing about Columbus-Toronto a few rounds back and look at how that turned out. Still, I feel pretty good about having picked up Mauro Diaz ($8.6m) and Michel ($7.9m) to wreak havoc on D.C. this week and get me some DGW points in the rounds to come.
My Team For Round 8:
Rituro is a freelance writer and contributor to Eighty Six Forever, the SB Nation blog devoted to Vancouver Whitecaps FC. He also hosts the Eighty Six Forever MLS Fantasy League, which you should definitely join.