Fantasy Forecast – Week 1
If you're like me, the lead up to the beginning of a new season is the most stressful part of the fantasy year. Rosters are fiddled with daily, players are transferred in and out (and in and out and in and out), and even the slightest clue as to how the first games of the season will play out is treated like infallible Confucian wisdom. Most fantasy sports vets are prepared for this inevitable preseason stress; however, fantasy newbies may be overwhelmed by the possibilities both good and bad presented by a new season. Fear not, gentle reader – I come to you today with tips and advice designed to ease you into the first few weeks of the 2014 MLS Fantasy Manager season.
Between the Posts
With the expanded roster rules for this season, being miserly with your cash is not only approved but expected. No longer can you grab the likes of Omar Gonzalez and Aurélien Collin and ride them to defensive victories on the cheap; those key players will command much higher salaries this year, which means finding savings wherever you can, starting in goal. Colorado's Clint Irwin remains, for me, a must-have goalkeeper. At $5.0 million, he's a steal considering he grabbed the starter's job from Matt Pickens in 2013 and never looked back. Philadelphia's Zac MacMath is another fine choice at the same price, especially considering the team in front of him improved heavily in the off-season – perhaps more so than Colorado. However, both of those goalkeepers are in poor positions to start the season: Irwin has a bye and MacMath gets the unenviable task of surviving an away trip to Portland. I'd pick one of Irwin or MacMath for Week 1, not both. To fill that second spot in goal, consider Chivas USA's Dan Kennedy, whose price has dropped to the exceptionally reasonable $4.5 million to start the season. A home match against Chicago isn't the worst draw, either, assuming Carlos Bocanegra and the rest of the Chivas backline can hold Mike Magee and company in check. One final note on goalkeepers: keep an eye on MacMath. If he begins to falter, touted draft pick (and cheaper fantasy option) Andre Blake could see some minutes.
Support the Stars
Now that you've saved some cash, it's time to spend it. Avoid the temptation to dive in and grab every big name available – Graham Zusi, Diego Valeri, Robbie Keane, Thierry Henry, Eddie Johnson and so forth – since you'll quickly realize you've blown half of your salary budget and still have two-thirds of a team left to build. Pick one or two star players and build around them with affordable, reliable players who are going to get you minutes and thus points. There's nothing wrong with picking the Zusis and Keanes of the world; just don't try and pick all of them. Focus on filling roster slots with players like LA's Juninho at $7.0 million, Houston's Kofi Sarkodie at $6.5 million or Real Salt Lake's Joao Plata at $7.0 million.
So you've saved your cash and hopefully spent it wisely; now, the final thing to do is check the calendar. As I noted earlier, betting against teams like Portland at home is not smart. Holding onto players with bye weeks isn't earning you points, period. As the season begins to unfold, plan out your transfers and/or roster changes in advance to prepare for the rough times like long road trips followed by a week off. New England, for example, opens their season away to Houston, away to Philadelphia, home to Vancouver and away to San Jose. That's not exactly an inspiring schedule; I'd avoid picking up any New England defenders for the first few weeks since clean sheets will be a tough ask.
My Week 1 Lineup:
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.
Whitecaps FC begin their 2014 MLS season on March 8 versus New York Red Bulls at BC Place. Season tickets start at just $349 and single-match tickets start at $22, subject to applicable fees. The 'Caps also offer a flexible range of ticket products, including half-season tickets ($244), 5-packs ($149), student season tickets ($199), and a youth soccer half-season ticket ($100). For more information on all Whitecaps FC ticket options, call 604.669.9283 ext. 2 or visit whitecapsfc.com/tickets.