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Fantasy MLS Corner


(With Fantasy MLS growing more and more popular, I figured it was time to incorporate a segment to help provide SBI readers with some insight into the fantasy game. Stephen Zaffuto will serve as the SBI Fantasy MLS expert and give us his weekly take on the action in the official MLS Fantasy Game. Here is this week’s report.)


With a lot of changes to the rules and scoring system from last year’s version, this year’s game is sometimes better, sometimes worse, and always confusing.  Because we’re pessimists, we’ll start with the bad: the new scoring system is very unbalanced, awarding a disproportionate amount of points for the achievements of goalies (clean sheets are 20 points!) and making field players more of a crapshoot. 

All players are going to be more hit-or-miss due to the fact that players are no longer rewarded points for minutes played, but only personal stats and team performance.  Defenders are almost worthless – in fact, picking the wrong guy could be more of a liability than an asset, due to point penalties from receiving bookings.  Midfielders and forwards also have it a little bit rougher than before, but there’s still the possibility that a few guys will put up a decent amount of points in any given week. 

Now what’s the good news, you ask?  You can make money!   Well, not real money, but fantasy money to spend toward future transfers.  It’s almost like managing a real soccer team, except virtual Wilman Conde won’t beg for a trade and you can unceremoniously dump Dema without worrying about him destroying your entire team, femur by femur, later in the year.

On a basic level, your whole goal is to buy low and sell high on players whenever possible.  Well, your goal is really to score the most points, but increasing your budget should help with that in the long haul.  Ok, now we sound like Alexi Lalas…

Anyway, it’s pretty intuitive that increasing your team’s budget will allow you to get better players, who in turn will score more points.  Since there is only a minimum salary cap ($5 million), your team’s payroll can potentially increase exponentially throughout the year with consistently savvy moves. Each week, we’ll break down certain players into three categories: Fortunes Rising, Fortunes Falling and Off the Radar Sleepers.  Without further Edu…

Fortunes Rising

Jon Busch, GK, CHI ($250K) – In this year’s scoring format, goalies are king.  A vast majority of the top scorers are keepers, and you will find no better value among them than Mr. Busch.  Coming off two consecutive clean sheets, his price tag has inexplicably remained the same, making him much like his namesake in beer: cheap, but effective.  Even though the woodwork helped him several times against San Jose, Busch should be a solid play against a KC team that has yet to play a game on proper soccer pitch.

Michael Harrington, D, KC ($443K) – Defenders are nearly worthless.  There is no reason to spend money on a defender…unless that defender can score.  Harrington is a true midfielder and will probably lead all D-eligible players in points by season’s end.  Other than Burciaga and Bornstein, no one else really figures to play much of a role in their team’s offense The best strategy is to lock up Harrington – whose price doesn’t figure to come down – and fill the other two spots with sub $200K contracts who figure to go 90 minutes for a winning side.  Which brings me to…

Sean Franklin, D, LAG ($175K) – Home vs. struggling Dynamo

Kosuke Kimura, D, COL ($175K) – Home vs. impotent SJ

Stephen Keel, D, COL ($200K) – Home vs. punchless SJ

Devon McTavish, MF, DC ($220K) – DC’s exit from the Champions Cup allows them to return their focus to league play, and while I like a good number of their players, McTavish provides the best value.  Playing games at home against Columbus and Real Salt Lake over the next two weeks could spell an offensive outburst, and while guys like Emilio, Gallardo, Fred and Moreno should get in on the scoring action, McTavish only costs half as much and could potentially put up nearly as many points. 

Arturo Alvarez, MF, DAL ($408K) – While Alvarez’ price has already shot up $68K, there is still a decent amount of value here.  FC Dallas has shown a very potent offense thus far, and though fellow forward Kenny Cooper might be a better scorer, Alvarez is Midfield eligible and therefore allows you to effectively have up to 4 forwards in your lineup. This week, he will line up against what amounts to a reserve Chivas USA squad missing two key midfielders due to expulsion and nearly every forward on their roster due to injury.  Grab him before he jumps to the next price bracket.

Santino Quaranta, F, DC ($200K) – See: McTavish, Devon.

Landon Donovan, F, LAG ($541K) – Okay, okay…so he’s one of the most expensive players in the game.  Sometimes you have to pay for quality.  Coming off a brace against Toronto, Donovan gets to run at a beleaguered Dynamo defense and possibly backup goalkeeper Tony Caig, who, so far, has looked like someone that SUM brought in to Houston specifically to help market opposing teams’ forwards.  In standardized testing terms:

Boswell & Caig vs. Donovan & Beckham = Washington Generals vs. Harlem Globetrotters

Fortunes Falling

Zach Wells & Jose Carvallo, GK, DC ($280K & $245K) – Until this situation is worked out, it’s better to stay away from both.  Wait till someone earns the lion’s share, then pounce (see what I did there?).

Jim Brennan, D, TOR ($323K) – Coming into the year, Brennan had some value as a defender who could get forward and was used last year to take free kicks.  However, with the addition of Robert and Guevara, it’s hard to see Brennan sneaking any goals, thereby negating his entire value.  Save your money.   Other notable defenders not worth their dime:

Wilman Conde, D, CHI ($473K), Chris Albright, D, NE ($425K), Craig Waibel, D, HOU ($450K)

Ronnie O’Brien, MF, SJ ($405K) – Can still make things happen, but with mediocre forwards and a team struggling to figure itself out, don’t bother with O’Brien yet. 

Shea Salinas, MF, SJ ($380K) – I’m hoping no one actually has him on their roster, but…yeah.  Just don’t.

Jeff Cunningham, F, TOR ($400K) – Sure he just scored a game-winner and the team has added a few offensive midfielders who are actually aware that what they are doing is “playing soccer”, but don’t expect much more at this point.  He hasn’t been earning consistent minutes and who knows how much longer he’ll be a part of this team.  At 400 clams you have many better choices.

Off The Radar

Amado Guevara, MF, TOR ($355K) – The man, the myth, the Lobo.  While he may or may not be certifiably insane, Guevara is on form after a successful season in his native Honduras.  For a player capable of putting up another year with 10+ goals and assists, as he did a few years ago for the MetroStars, $355K sounds a little low.  But then again, he could also revert to his teamwrecker ways and wash out of the league by midsummer.  Here’s a loony that says Guevara is kept happy all year through some combination of Mo Johnston’s rosy cheeks, Canadian strip clubs, hockey, and decent beer.

Atiba Harris, F, CHV ($223K) – SOMEONE has to play forward for Chivas USA through all these injuries and suspensions.  If Chivas can break out on a counter-attack, Harris has the pace to get himself a cheap one, and reward you for thinking differently.


  1. this is my second year. I wasn’t to crazy about the points system from last year. this year makes more sense, but there are too many points. it would be worth keeping your goalie as captain to get double points. I had Busch last week, guess who is my captain this week?

    had anybody played the Fantasy Premier League? I really like their scoring and values. maybe its because I’m fighting for 2nd place in the league but overall team ranks 110,000.

  2. I am currently ranked #1 overall with my Corinthians team, however I still have no idea what’s going on with the rules. I recall that in the original rules Midfielders received more points for goals and assists than forwards – I think they changed this after week 1.

  3. This year’s version is for the more hardcore fantasy league players, as there are many more variables to deal with. If you’re a newcomer or want to try it out for the first time, forget about it. The only way you’ll survive a week is by pure luck. 🙁

  4. Ives – wish you came out with the explanation on the changed rules before this! Too many changes and already messed up my team because of it. Cheers to ignorance!

  5. Half way through the season last year i figured the mls fantasy out. I won Ives league and came in 21st overall( 2nd place in the second half of the season) won a game ball and a Red Bulls Jersey. This season I am in 300 something place in the SBI league and 10,000 something overall. i hope to figure out the new scoring system before its too late….. Hub Tiger fc

  6. Moneyball, fair enough. You’re right on about the lack of balance. In my opinion, given how many more points the keepers earn… well let’s just say I think that position is well worth one of your three transfers almost every week. I did have Busch as my captain last week and he propelled my team. It’s crazy to me that I had Busch’s clean sheet and Donovan’s two goals, but the former netted me more than three times as many points as the latter.

    Your defender picks aren’t bad, though there’s no way in hell I’d pick any Galaxy defender right now. I noticed the M/F thing when I first signed up and it’s the reason I always play as many forwards as possible. Anyway, despite my criticisms, I’m really glad to see some Fantasy MLS content here and I appreciate you scouting this stuff out.

    Dominghosa – I had the exact same problem and then realized that for some reason they changed my username to all lowercase (the first letter is supposed to be capitalized). When I changed that, it worked.

  7. Funny. I had Jon Busch as my captain last week and that’s the only thing that saved my a$$…

    Gotta pick against SJ’s offense at this point in the season.

  8. My team has tanked every week despite having the likes of Blanco, Emilio, Angel and Harrington. And now mlsnet isn’t accepting my password even though my Firefox browser has saved it.

    I may just give up on it. The system is frustrating as is the site itself…SLLLLOOOWWWWWW.

  9. Does anyone else see the tremendous irony here that the values given to some of these players is no where near what they are paid.

  10. Here’s something nuts, If you had Jon Busch this past week as your captain you would have earned 96 points I believe from him alone…

  11. Better format than what ESPN switched to this year. Last year, it was simple and clean, like most of their games. This year, they junk it up with flash so that you can barely tell who has even played recently.

  12. Sure, defenders get big points for clean sheets, but good luck figuring out which team is gonna keep a clean sheet in this year’s ludicrous MLS early season.

    And I know the minute I pick whoever is playing against SJ, Kei Kamara’s gonna get a cheap goal and screw it all up.

    I think the biggest plus about this fantasy league is they dont count goals conceded against your defenders.

    Doing well in this fantasy league is a mixture of paying attention (not putting an injured player on your roster) and pure LUCK.

    Week 1: I pick the Houston backline against NE. Who woulda thunk?

    Week 2: I pick the NE offense against CHI. Again, who wouldn’t have done so?

    And Chad Barrett? Really?

    Carlos Ruiz goes down, and the LA offense picks up? Really?

    The only thing I did see was Will Hesmer not holding on to his fantasy golden boy status after week 1.

    There’s no rhyme or reason to picking fantasy players at this stage of the season. For the recent CHI game, I pick Blanco, set him as my captain, and f**king Chad Barrett scores, unassisted. Only 2 points for Blanco.


  13. After spending the last few months playing the offical Barclay’s Premier League fantasy game, I found the MLS version a far inferior product (go figure). Leave it to MLS to screw up something that should be simple. The goalie clean sheet, the no automatic substitutions if a starter doesn’t play, the “coach”, and the slowness of the website are all leading me to forget about it. It’s way too hard to find accurate team and injury information to make the game worthwhile for me.

    Best of luck to all who continue playing!

  14. You know if I was betting man I wouldn’t bet anything on LA to ever get a clean sheet. So I wouldn’t ever get a defender from them.

  15. This is my first year of fantasy league. My team took a hit the first two weeks because I didn’t know how they scored things or really even ran the thing. But for my 3rd week I had a very good team. I got rid of many people that were good players but weren’t going to get points due to the team they played on. I pulled in about 130 pts from last week and look to pull more this week. Its about finding a solid 8 and then transfer 3 people every week according to the teams being played.

  16. Joamiq – it’s not meant to be a definitive manual on how to compose your team, but rather a guide that gives a few ideas. It would be boring if everyone had the same team every week, so differing strategies are appreciated.

    Playing whatever keeper goes against San Jose has certainly been a good strategy thus far and will be most of the season, but I would not say it should be “the law”, especially considering price differences between keepers and the 3 move per week maximum.

    Since you can only get 3 new guys into your club, it’s good to have a few rock solid guys that you can keep for most of the season. That’s why I recommended guys like Harrington. If you read it again, I DID recommend getting cheap defenders who have a good chance at getting a clean sheet (Kimura, Keel, possibly even Franklin).

    Re: MF/F being scored the same: Noted. I could swear that a few weeks ago when I studied the scoring they were different categories, but I could be wrong. I’ll make sure to get it right in the future. Discount Alvarez value slightly, but I still think he’s a decent play.

  17. Uh, nice effort, but…

    -Your keeper should almost always be whoever is facing San Jose

    -Defenders are not worthless – clean sheets are worth as much as goals from forwards/midfielders and easier to predict

    -Midfielders and forwards are scored the same, so Alvarez has no midfield advantage


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