In the last post, we looked at the basics and I gave general advice for the game, now it’s time to look at the players that will be relevant to fantasy in MLS this year.
March and April will be a little rough for us, I think we’ll gut out some wins but I expect that the team will really come together by May and by then we’ll start to boss the league.
I’m staying away from our defense, Eales has said over and over that the team is built to win high scoring games, that doesn’t help you a lot in fantasy for defenders. I have no doubt that Garza will re-establish himself as an international level defender and that Parkhurst will lead the team capably while Gonzalez Pirez emerges as a dominant force in the league, but we’re going to let in some goals.
Miguel Almiron (M - $9): This is what you want - a #10 who is the focal point of a team’s offense and take some set pieces on an offense that moves the ball on the ground a lot. Chris McCann (M - $7) as a holding/defensive midfielder who will look to be getting the ball up field from defense to the attacking mids and forwards.
Otherwise, Yamil Asad (M - $8.5) is on this list and should be on your mind if he’s starting. Tito Villalba (F - $9.5) and Josef Martinez (F - $9.0) round out the list. I don’t want to build too much hype around Martinez, but he is going to put so many MLS defenders in the freezer this year Don Garber might make Atlanta play with just 2 DPs by the time June hits in something that he’ll call reverse parity.
I like the Fire, I think they added the pieces in midfield that will link their surprisingly decent defense with their very promising attack to have a nice turnaround this year.
Jonathan Campbell (D - $5.5): The center back had just 8 clean sheets last year but managed to be 10th in defender scoring for 2016. With Dax McCarty playing in front of him, I think Chicago will defend better as a unit this year and he’ll benefit fantasy teams.
Aside from him I like Juninho (M, $7.5) in midfield and their forwards David Accam (F, $9.5), Michael de Leeuw (F $9.0), and newcomer Nemanja Nikolic (F, $9.5) are all worth a look.
This is still a Colorado team that is going to park the bus and rely on playing at altitude to fatigue their opponents and prevent late goals to win at home. On the road, they’ll park the bus and hope teams see the mountains on their crest and think about how tired they get when the play at altitude. What I’m saying is they park the bus, the movie Speed would have ended differently if Pablo Mastroeni was playing the Keanu Reeves role.
Tim Howard (G - $6), Axel Sjoberg (D - $6.5) and Marc Burch (D - $5.5) should be considered almost every home game Colorado has. Zac MacMath (G - $4.5) should be almost 100% owned at his price when Howard is injured or with the national team.
Shkelzen Gashi (F - $9.5) can slam home a free kick and could live up to his price after having a year in the league behind him and Dominique Badji (F - $6.5) is a good cheap option up top.
I think the Crew will be better this year and not just because they were the only team to beat the 2017 MLS Cup Champions in preseason. After making some changes, the Crew should get back to playing Gregg Berkhalter’s attacking and possessing style that he instilled the team in 2015.
Zach Steffen (G - $4.5) should be the opening day starter for the team and Harrison Afful (D - $6.0) are the only pieces of the defense I’d look at. Justin Meram (M - $9.5) is running things for Columbus and I think he’ll live up to his high price while Ola Kamara (F - $10) scores goals in bunches but disappears at times for the Crew, when he heats up be sure you have him.
I don’t trust what I see with them. Like on the one hand they scored so many goals to end the season but I know in my soul that Ben Olsen has no patience for soccer that looks nice and scores points. That said, I like all of their usual starters, they have so many sneaky good fantasy guys it almost makes me believe Ben Olsen learned that scoring goals means you will win more games but I still don’t trust it.
Taylor Kemp (D - $6) is a rare outside back who I think is worth the high price for a defender, Lloyd Sam takes some set pieces and played very well with DCU when he came over from New York last season. Don’t sleep on Marcelo Sarvas (M - $7), a great value pick that bounced back after a down 2015. Luciano ‘La Joya’ Acosta (M-$8.5) emerged for them down the stretch and should score goals and bonus points. Finally, look at a player I think will be one of the best forwards in the East: Patrick Mullins (F - $8.5).
The Supporters Shield winners will be without Mauro Diaz for a good chunk of the year and it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that they’re in the CONCACAF Champions League and might have some variable lineups while they’re in that competition.
Walker Zimmerman (D - $6.5) showed why he’s worth his price in the Jamaica friendly with the USMNT in early February. Here’s a hot take, Kellyn Acosta (M - $7) will break out and be a bargain at his price. Cristian Colman (F - $8.5) joined the team on the biggest transfer fee in FC Dallas history and already has a goal in a competitive game thanks to scoring in the CCL.
Sigh, Houston won’t be good this year, they will get there, but not this year. Wilmer Cabrera is a very talented coach and will get more out of his players but there’s not a lot here that I like.
One player I like is Mauro Manotas (F - $7.5) who is priced nicely and racked up a hat trick against Portland at the end of last season. Watch Cubo Torres (F - $8.5) who scored 15 goals in 2014 but has since... let’s just say he’s had some issues.
With the departure of Bruce Arena LA took an out with the old and in with the newish approach this season. LA kept what worked from last season to form a solid core for the newcomers to solidify around and they could be the best team in the West this year.
Brian Rowe (G - $5.5) kept 10 clean sheets in his first season as a starter and will play in front of center backs Daniel Steres (D - $6) and Jelle van Damme (D - $6) who played very well in their first season together last year.
In midfield I like Sebastian Lletget (M - $7.5) who showed he could be the focal point of the center of the pitch when Gerrard was frequently absent last season. Winger Romain Alessandrini (M - $9) joins the team from the French top flight and is one to watch.
At forward it is all about Giovani dos Santos (F - $10) until Gyasi Zardes (F - $9) comes back from injury.
Minnesota United FC
Welcome to Lake Wobegon where all the players are strong if they were in the NASL, all the DP spots are unfilled, and the team is going to be below average. Sorry Loons, I just think a lot has to fall together for MNUFC to have a decent season and they’ll be in the bottom of the West. They have a lot of players who have either not excelled in the league or don’t have experience in leagues that are better than, or as good as, MLS and I think that they will have trouble keeping up with the rest of the league.
I like one player here and that’s Kevin Molino (M - $9). I think he will emerge as one of the best players in the league this year and should be brought in for favorable matchups.
After sitting near the top of the East for most of last year, Montreal faded late and backed into the playoffs but still managed to make the conference finals. I think this team will go hot and cold a lot this year and will continue having problems letting in late goals.
I’m staying away from their defense and looking at two players. Ignacio, Nacho to his friends, Piatti (M - $10) scored 17 goals with 6 assists last year and while that’s really impressive, I don’t think he’ll match that total again but will have him on my radar. He’s not Didier Drogba, but Matteo Mancosu (F - $8) is at a good price and played well in his limited starts last year.
New England Revolution
The Revs were bad last year and will be bad again this year. The picture of Darren Eales running in a New England kit will be the highlight of their season. There are a few players I like that will get some decent points even if the team doesn’t.
Lee Nguyen (M - $9.5) is good and gets decent points but I think Kelyn Rowe (M - $8.5) will emerge as a star of this team. Kei Kamara might be closer to a player who scores 12 goals like he did last year than one who scores 22 like he did in 2015, but with the right matchup I think he’s worth a look.
New York City Football Club
Patrick Vieira grabbed hold of NYCFC and made it his own last year. He played a WM formation at times to get the most out of Pirlo and Frank Lampard to bring the Pigeons into the playoffs for the first time. Coming into 2017, they made some additions to an already strong squad.
Even with defenders being relatively lower priced this year, I don’t see a lot of value with their defenders so I’m staying away there. In midfield, Pirlo can score the high bonus points and managed a respectable 11 assists last year. Around him is a stable of talented young players like Tommy McNamara (M - $7.5) and Jack Harrison (M - $7.5). Maximiliano Moralez (M - $9) is getting a lot of hype but he just joined the team and I want to see him in MLS before bringing him into my team.
Finally there is David Villa (F - $10) who scored 23 goals last season, enough said.
New York Red Bulls
Every year it seems like the Red Bulls are written off. Last year it was firing Mike Petke and bringing in Jesse Marsch, this year it is trading Dax McCarty and the departure of Ali Curtis. New York has looked good in preseason and looked OK against Vancouver in CCL which may be encouraging after they started ice cold the last two seasons.
Joel Robles (G - $6) is the only defensive player I like here, he’s bald so you know he’s a good goalie and he scores lots of fantasy points. In midfield they have options at every price point. Sacha Kljestan (M - $10) is a must own when he is hot, Felipe (M - $9) scores consistent points, Mike Grella (M - $8) is surprisingly good at soccer, and for a sleeper look at Sean Davis (M - $6.5) who is expected to fill Dax McCarty’s boots.
At forward Bradley Wright-Phillips (F - $10) has the most goals in any three year period for any player in MLS history.
Orlando City Soccer Club
Orlando has several things working against them. First, the phrase ‘Soccer Club’ sounds funny. Second their team looks like it was put together by a 7 year old playing Monopoly with all the money randomly spent in the wrong places and whose younger brother tricked them into trading their best property for imaginary money. Third, after trading their best player to their younger brother, they didn’t replace him. The kittens are going to be bad this year and Jason Kreis will have to turn into a magical wizard to keep the team out of last in the East.
There are two players you want here: Kaka (M - $10) if you can guess when he’s healthy and Cyle Larin (F - $9) who scores lots of goals and may or may not be paid in Chiplote burritos.
Phily was an amazing story last year going from the bottom of the East to the playoffs but I think this is going to be a tough year for them. The Union will have problems in defense with Josh Yaro (D - $5) out for a few months to start the year and they lost some players last year who weren’t replaced. Until they show you otherwise, I’d just avoid them.
The Timber’s defense was the weakest point of the team last year and they should be better just due to the fact that Nat Borchers retired. He fell off badly from the 2015 season and late goals cost the team a lot of points. In 2017, Portland has some very exciting attacking options this year.
In defense I like Liam Ridgewell (D - $5) at center back, he’s cheap and I think their defense will bounce back. The big one to look for here is Diego Valeri (M - $10) who had an MVP caliber season last year. Don’t overlook their new edition from San Lorenzo in Argentina, Sebastian Blanco (M - $9).
At forward, Fanendo Adi (F - $9) should be among the best in MLS. He scored 16 goals in his last two seasons and that’s what I’d expect from him. Fun fact, when he scores he tends to score braces.
Real Salt Lake
After being eliminated from the 1st round of the playoffs, RSL went into the offseason and parted ways with Javier Morales. They will need cohesion in defense and big plays from the forwards while the midfield solidifies around the team’s young talent and veteran leadership.
In the back Nick Rimando (G - $6) and Justen Glad (D - $5.5) should help keep a decent number of clean sheets. Jordan Allen (M - $6) is a young talent and Albert Rusnak (M - $9), who transferred from the Eredivisie this year, is a potential star to keep an eye on.
RSL has one of the most entertaining attacking pairs in the league with forwards Joao Plata (F - $9) and Yura Movsisyan (F - $7.5).
San Jose Earthquakes
Dom Kinnear coaches this team like it’s 2007, it is unimaginative, bypasses the midfield, and wastes the exciting talent of Tommy Thompson (M - $5.5). By and large San Jose plays a cynical brand of soccer where they clog up the midfield and play the ball long hoping that Wondo poaches a ball that should have been cleared. They’ll do enough to have an outside chance at the playoffs this year though.
All that said, their defense benefits greatly from their style of play. David Bingham (G - $6) is a great option in goal while San Jose is at home and defenders Victor Bernardez (D - $5.5), Marvelle Wynn (D - $5.0), and Nick Lima (D - $4.5) offer options at nearly every price point.
The aforementioned Tommy Thompson (M - $5.5) had a backheel goal in preseason and people have been waiting a long time for him to make a mark in MLS, maybe this is the year he does it. Otherwise, Chris Wondolowski (F - $8.5) will have a good matchup here and there so keep him in mind because his price is OK.
The Sounders will have to recover after an MLS Cup Final that saw them register zero shots on goal. They’ll have to do a lot better than that if they want to repeat as champions. By that I mean, they look scary good.
A lot of people don’t know this but the song Wrecking Ball by Miley Cyrus is about the three headed monster of Nico Lodeiro (M - $11), Clint Dempsey (F - $9.5), and Jordan Morris (F - $9). Some weeks Lodeiro will be a must own but if you can’t get him he’ll benefit Dempsey and Morris. Ozzie Alonso (M - $9.5) really benefited from the midfield bonuses last year but is priced pretty high for a player who won’t score a lot of goals. Joevin Jones (D - $5) is on his way to becoming one of the best outside backs in the league, keep an eye on him.
Sporting Kansas City
SKC faced a few challenges last year and I don’t think they did much to address them this offseason. For one, their defense was bad and rather than bring in another defender it looks like the plan is to hope the players they still have just play better. Another problem was that forward Krisztian Nemeth left after 2015 and wasn’t replaced in 2016 and hasn’t been replaced for 2017. I think the team has some MLS 2.0 contracts being paid to Graham Zusi (M - 8.5) and Matt Besler (D - $6) that they need to unload if they hope to get impact players into make a deep run in the MLS Playoffs any time soon.
I only like two of their players, creative midfielder and bonus point machine Benny Feilhaber (M - $10) and Dom Dwyer (F - $9.5). Dwyer scored 22 goals in his first season as an MLS starter in 2014, 12 goal the next year, and in 2016 he put 16 balls in the onion bag. I think the 16 goals we saw from him last year is a good floor for 2017 and he could be in the 20 goal range as well.
The Reds have strength up and down their lineup and should challenge for the Supporters Shield this year. What’s scary about them is that I think they’ve only gotten better.
In the back Clint Irwin (G - $5.5) is among the best keepers in the league while defenders Justin Morrow (D - $6) and Drew Moor (D - $6) are one of the best center back pairings in MLS.
The midfield has Michael Bradley (M - $9) who I think is a little over priced but is a reliable option for a player with a solid 5 point floor. Armando Cooper (M - $9) had a great postseason and this will be his first full season in MLS. TFC added Victor Vazquez (M - $8.5) who could be an extreme bargain if he is able to start connecting with their forwards.
Speaking of forwards, Toronto has two of the best in the business. Sebastian Giovinco (F - $12) ushered in the MLS 3.0 era and simply scores goals. Several months went by last year until TFC scored a goal that Gio either didn’t assist or score himself, he’s the best value forward in the league for what you get in return and he’s basically fixture proof. Keep him out of your lineup at your own peril. When he’s healthy and confident, Jozy Altidore (F - $9.5) is one of the top forwards in MLS as he showed at the end of last year. In 21 games from the end of July to the MLS Cup Final, he scored 15 goals and chipped in 7 assists in a ridiculous run of form.
The Caps had a forgettable 2016 that in many ways showed their 2nd place finish in 2015 to be a mirage. Last year, the team’s defensive cohesion broke down and they had no ideas going forward aside from generating chances on counter attacks. If the cohesion comes back and they can strike quickly on the counter they could pull off what Colorado did last year, but they need a lot to fall into place for that to happen.
Picking their players will be totally matchup dependent. David Ousted (G - $5.5) and Tim Parker (D - $5) are good options and look at Christian Bolanos (M - $8.5) and Fredy Montero (F - $9) if they are against some of the weaker sides in MLS.