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SBI MLS Fantasy Corner: Week One

Juan Pablo Angel 2 ( 

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With the 2009 MLS Season about to kick off, it is time to get ready for the start of the MLS Fantasy Season.

In case you missed it, we invited SBI Readers to join the SBI Fantasy MLS League. There is still time to join the league, but for most of you, joining the league has already been taken care of. Now it is time for some strategy.

SBI Fantasy MLS expert Casey Cannon is back this year to bring us more fantasy MLS tips. Here is his report on Week One.

SBI MLS Fantasy Corner


Hello and Welcome to the Soccer by Ives Fantasy Corner – now with more hardware!  Every week I dig through statistics, news, and rumors to provide the reader with the kind of fantasy advice that only a sleeping fan can provide.  I am writing this wellbefore the official injury reports come out, so don't be grumpy if I tell you to pick a hurt player.  For information on MLS Fantasy Football go to

For those of you new to the fantasy corner, let me give an introduction.  A couple years ago I tried this fantasy soccer thing.  It was fun, but I was horrible at it. I would sit next to my wife and we would try to decide if Frankie Hedjuk or Kyle Martino would be the better addition to my team (correct answer: neither).  So my picks were bad and I started loosing every week.  I hate losing.  One week I tried to figure out which forward was the best choice by comparing the average points each earned per game.  I spent 15 minutes with a pencil and paper, before I saw the obvious solution in front of me – literally, I had my computer in front of me.  I started putting numbers in a spreadsheet, calculating all sorts of statistics that make a geek like me happy.  Then because I bore easily, I decided to share the results of my number crunching and here we are.   

To be clear, I use past performance to predict the expected points per game and fantasy cost in dollars per expected point.  I tell my reader – anyone out there? – what the spreadsheet says.  The spreadsheet doesn’t care about home teams and such and therefore has limitations.  When my advice varies from the spreadsheet I will make it clear.  When I do that, ignore me and go with the spreadsheet.  Remember, I built the spreadsheet because I suck.   

Advice for New Players:

1. Read Soccer by Ives every day.  Information is power.  Players on the bench earn no points.  Sites like this one tell you who is hurt, who is in trouble with the coach, and which match-ups look promising.  Keep reading till your eyes bleed. 

2. Never miss the cut off date.   I missed three trade deadlines last summer.  I dropped from top fifty to top 150.  Never, Never procrastinate making trades.  Once a week log on from work and make your trades.  (Not that I would ever do that personally, Boss). 

3. Look at the scoring.  Notice that shots on goal are worth two points.  Think about the balance between a goal scoring defender and one who earns clean sheets.  Learn the rules and make smart choices.  

4.  Each team is allocated five million dollars.  There are fifteen spots to fill.   Strictly speaking an average player should cost $333,333.  Sadly most average players actually cost $350,000.  Every team will have to contain a couple scrubs.  

Advice for everyone:

1. Sweet Moses, they changed the scoring!  If you do nothing else go look at the new scoring and consider how it impacts your team.  Actually let me tell you what the impact is:  Goalies are no longer the auto-pick for captain.   Taking last years stats with this years scoring, the top goalie for points per game – Jon Busch at 13.72 – would place 15 overall just between Sacha Kljestan and Conor Casey.   

2. Take my early season picks with caution.  My statistical data is flawed right now.  I am using last years data to predict this year.  Obviously I don’t know jack about Sigi’s new team, or how DeRo plays in Canadaland.  In a month or so, the numbers will be much more solid. 

3. The formation of choice should only have three defenders.  That fourth defender will cost five points per week.  In special circumstances be flexible, but otherwise three is the magic number. Four is too many.  Five is right out.   

Read below for the top three pre-season player picks.  I applied new scoring to last years stats and crunched the numbers to highlight the top performers. Then continue for somewhat shaky first week team and individual picks.   

Preseason player Picks, GOALIES:

1. Jon Busch – Last years stats with this years scoring has the littlest goalie earning 13.72 points per game. The fire were stout defensively and return the same team.  Busch should have another strong year.

2. Greg Sutton – VALUE PICK! I am surprised to see Sutton up so high.  Toronto in general wasn’t fantasy gold last year, yet under the new scoring Sutton would earn 12.52 points per game.  Sutton only costs $350,000 compared to $475,000 for Busch.  That’s only $27,951 for every fantasy point! 

3. Kevin Hartman – just slightly less of a value of Sutton.  12.45 points per game for the same $350,000 price.  For those who prefer bottle blonds, Kevin Hartman is your kind of guy. 

New guy: Kasey Keller.  The old man in goal, he hasn’t played a competitive game since I was in grade school.  But Mr. Keller deserves our respect for his contribution to the U.S. national team (From Canada and don’t give a frak?  Take off hoser, eh?).  I worry more about the expansion team in front of Mr. Keller, than the keeper forgetting how to stop a ball.  

Preseason player Picks, Defenders:

1. Chad Marshall was a big set piece target with GBS aiming for his head.   Three match winning goals and some defensive minutes later Chad Marshall was the top defender last year at 11.65 points per game.  This year nothing has changed.   

2. Jonathan Bornstein.  VALUE PICK.   Just a bit under Marshall’s points per game at 11.02, he only costs $350,000.  At $30,648 per point, he is worth adding to your team.

3. Jimmy Conrad.  He scored six goals last season.  Fluke?  Well sure, but what’s to keep it from happening again?  I’m just reporting what the spreadsheet tells me.    

4. Bonus, every defender that isn’t overpriced compared to all field players:

Marshall, Petke, Bornstein, Conrad, James.  Petke and James are statistical flukes. 

Preseason player Picks, Midfielders:

1. Darren Huckerby.  Under the new scoring he is expected to average 23.3 points per game. This puts him atop the entire spreadsheet.  San Jose, who knew?   

2. Steve Ralston.  VALUE PICK.  If he has recovered from his broken leg, and if the rest of the Revs play well Ralston is a great pick   He averaged 20.5 points per game, yet only costs $350,000.  For $17,460 per point the spreadsheet likes him. Of course, the spreadsheet doesn’t know that Twellman is hurt.  

3. Javier Damian Morales.  Number four overall on the spreadsheet, he earns 17.89 points per game.  Just don’t pick him for the first week, his scoring will be way down.  

Preseason player Picks, Forwards:

1.  Landon Donovan.  No surprise here. Landon is good, LA isn't. Let’s move on. 

2. Juan Pablo Angel.  Someone told me this guy played in the MLS championship. I only remember the stellar play of Guillermo Barros Schelotto, and amazing clinical quality finishing from Frankie Hejduk.  My spreadsheet tells me JPA is the second best forward available. I’ve heard of the guy, and his 17.54 points per game will be welcome on my team. 

3. Kenny Cooper.   I hesitate to endorse anyone from Dallas; however, the whole Dallas strategy is based on getting this guy the ball.  Heck there are almost 5,000 Dallas fans willing to pay to see this strategy in place.  17.5 points per game, for $550,000 makes Cooper the third forward.   

Team Picks

Take Three – San Jose.  San Jose should win this game at home.  San Jose plays well at home and the injuries and changes I am reading about from New England sound like too much for the Revs can overcome.  

Take Three – Chicago Fire.  Of the 5,000 fans in attendance to watch the Fire play the Burn/Hoops, 3,000 of them will have Club America shirts on.  How long until FC Dallas is mathematically eliminated from the playoffs? 

Avoid – Real Salt Lake, Seattle Sounders 2009 F.C..  I think Seattle has a fair chance to get a goal against New York.  I also am confident that Angel and Co. are going pad their stats in this game.  Ianni and Marshall will be well out of their league.  In fact, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see a Seattle defender earn a red card in this game. Also, in case you hadn't noticed, Real Salt Lake is off this week.

Two Up, Two Down

This is where I identify who is on a hot streak based on the performance of the last two and three weeks.  This section won’t have anything of use until I get some reliable stats.  

Individual picks

Captain – Darren Huckerby.  The best guy based on last year is playing at home against a New England team learning to play without it prime defender, Michael Parkhurst.  Sounds like a good choice for the first week. 

Value – Robbie Rogers.  Technically Huckerby is a better value this week.  Still, young Mr. Rogers only costs $350,000.  He starts for the Crew and has an understanding with GBS – when GBS has the ball go deep.    

Overpriced: Patrick Ianni.  Last year Ianni didn’t start for Houston. The games he did get into didn’t bring him many fantasy points. Last year he only averaged 2.56 points per game. Now he is part of an expansion team, where he will get more starts, but I have less confidence in the team.  We can do better for $350,000 

Tune in next week, when I will enumerate the advantages in Seattle v. Toronto death match.  

(Imagine a Gangs of New York style brawl.  With Kevin Harmse playing the DiCaprio role as a scruffy guy who isn’t nearly as tough as he wants people to think he is.  He leads a parade of militant Toronto fans with a flag and a dead beaver to the porch of the Daniel Day-Lewis Character.  The crazy old immigrant who thinks he represents all that is good with America – obviously Keller.

“Challenge, Eh?” says a glaring Harmse in his flannel shirt

“Das challenge ist accepted” replies Keller) 


  1. Casey, Casey, Casey…

    Let’s see how accurate your fantasy predictions for the Sounders FC-Red Bulls match turned out to be.

    “I think Seattle has a fair chance to get a goal against New York.”

    Seattle: 3 goals
    New York: 0

    -You nailed this one Casey!

    “I also am confident that Angel and Co. are going pad their stats in this game.”

    Angel: 0 points
    NYRB: -9 points total
    SEA: 179 points total

    -If by pad, you mean flush down the toilet…

    “Ianni and Marshall will be well out of their league.”

    Marshall: 10 points (tie for second among all defenders)

    -You were half-right, Casey-Ianni is a reserve for us and not even in the MLS fantasy game!
    FYI: The name of the other Sounder center back is Jhon Kennedy Hurtado(8 points).

    “In fact, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see a Seattle defender earn a red card in this game.”

    Seattle red cards: 0

    -I bet you were surprised by a few other things in that match!

    Ouch! You might want to pay attention to pre-season results when you’re researching your opening-week picks… or you could keep betting against Seattle and help me win the MLS fantasy challenge this year!

    Better luck next week, Casey.

  2. Do the three bench players you can select earn you any points? If not, I guess I’ll look for the cheapest three I can get..

  3. With Fred and Santino Quaranta out for DC – look at Chris Pontius too. The dude scored two pretty sick goals in preseason friendlies and will most likely get a start at wing

  4. ^^ im expecting another solid year out of standout sean franklin, while I also thought richards and beckherman for 350,000 wasnt bad, also will johnson for only 250,000

    I rolled the dice a little and put sebastian le toux on my bench,I was thinking about getting kandji on ny for my bench, NY will he start?

  5. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I imagine what wins these leagues isn’t the big players we all know who will win you points, but instead, the small surprising players who you fill your cap with. I’d be interested in a piece with bargain players to complete one’s roster with. I don’t know of any definite starters for week 1 under $250k but here are a few 250k guys who are worth a shot:

    Matt Pickens- Good goalkeeper for cheap
    Alan Gordon- The brunt of many jokes, but plays on a team with a lot of offensive ability and two wings who can cross the ball, and should start until Beckham gets back
    Cam Weaver- Starter going against suspect New England Defense
    Ryan Johnson- Starter going against suspect New England Defense
    Pablo Vitti- In many ways, Vitti is Toronto’s hope for this season
    Santiago Hirsig- And in many ways, Hirsig is the Wizard’s hope
    James Riley- wing back who gets into the offense with a coach who likes to use wing backs

    Chris Klein is also a good defender at 350k this year as he will be playing midfield, his natural position, which should give more assists and goals than last year.

    Other bargains?

  6. oops totally forgot that^^^ I apperciate it,

    so I took out iro,put in jim brennan,

    took out beckerman,put in rico clark

    took out barrett and put in bornstein

    and put in the legend known as bobby boswell for hedjuk

  7. I can’t stand reading these fantasy tip peices but…this was intresting and made me laugh a couple times. I give it a thumbs up. Thanks.

  8. Joamiq: STAT Flukes= They didn’t play enough games for me to have any confidence in the results.

    Bornstein as a mid this year? Aweseome. Check out the scoring for defenders. IMO, a defender who can get assists beats one who earns clean sheats. Correct to be careful of mis-classed posisitions tho. It can be great, or horrible. GBS as a mid would be the best player available. As a Forward, sadly, not so much.

    Sean: Frankie and Iro? Frankie is Questionable. I don’t think Iro will get into the game, unless something odd happens between now and game time.

  9. Hey Sean, you’re going to be disappointed by Beckerman’s output if you choose to start him this week…because his team is off.

  10. I trust you people:





    Subs: Dunivant,Myers,McCarty

  11. Glad to see they changed the scoring this year. It was ridiculous last year with the keepers, especially in the first half of the year when captaining the keeper facing the Quakes was a no-brainer.

    Question: what do you mean by “Petke and James are statistical flukes”?

  12. As a past winner of MLS SBI fantasy (07 edition), I was guilty of not paying attention to the double points for goalkeeper last year, payed dearly for my oversight. I plan to regain my crown this season.

    Hub Tiger fc.

  13. Bornstein is set to play ML for Chivas this year. Don’t you think that it’s an issue? On one hand his forward contribution should be greater, but on the other his defence behind him looks a mess for this season and no good option in goal. I wouldn’t touch him myself no matter what the spreadsheet tells you.

    Have to be careful with the MLS Fantasy game – it doesn’t allow for players changign positions and has several rookies/new signings mis-classed.


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