MLS Fantasy: The Portland Timbers question

Steve Dykes

Diego Valeri's strong early season performances are forcing an uncomfortable decision for Seattle fantasy owners.

For the past few years, it hasn't been too tempting to own anyone from that hippie enclave a couple hours to the south. Or the backwater town up north, for that matter. As the Portland and Vancouver franchises fought through their expansion years, you could count the number of fantasy-worthy players on one hand and still--like the scoreboard operators in either city--have a couple of digits to spare.

Cheap shots aside, let's take a look at the history. In the expansion year of 2011, Jack Jewsbury's penalty-spot prowess helped to a respectable 7-goal, 8-assist season in Portland's engine room. Last season, Y. P. Lee's solid play and occasional attacks (1 goal, 4 assists) made the Whitecaps right back a must-have during Vancouver's shutout-heavy opening months. Finally, Darren Mattocks and Darlington Nagbe have shown glimpses of being reliable scoring options for Vancouver and Portland, respectively. (Mattocks, for all the hype, only netted seven times last season and played sparingly toward the end of the campaign.)

History aside, however, I think we may have stumbled upon our first major fantasy player from each franchise.

We'll start in Portland. Diego Valeri's performances to open the season (12 shots, 3 SOG, 1 goal) at the midfield position leapfrogs him over Nagbe as the most ownable Timber, and at $8.2 all players should take a look at him as a potential add. Valeri goes in the books with just one goal, but also deserves credit for creating Nagbe's goal in the first match and the offensive numbers show he has fitted seamlessly into the Caleb Porter's approach. In the bonus categories, Valeri's notched seven key passes on the season and somehow gathered 8 recoveries against Montreal, earning him a defensive point.

Up north, I'm less sold on a standout player but I believe attacking midfielder Diego Kobayashi has been the primary beneficiary of a more settled Whitecaps lineup. Vancouver started the season with home wins over Toronto and Columbus. From what I've seen and read, a solidified midfield featuring Nigel Reo-Coker has freed up the rest of the Whitecaps to attack with more confidence. Kobayashi plays pretty far up the field underneath Kenny Miller, putting him in a position to record an assist and a goal in the season's first two games. However -- be wary. Kobayashi doesn't shoot that often and may not be able to replicate wondergoals on a regular basis. Vancouver's outside backs, Alain Rochat and Y.P. Lee, may prove to be better options.

So, if we've established there are some decent fantasy options in Cascadia's other clubs, it begs the larger question: is it morally acceptable to add a guy like Valeri coming into a Portland-Seattle match? Are Timbers and Whitecaps strictly verboten, no questions asked? Maybe there are shades of gray. Is it slightly more permissible to own a Whitecap? (For me, I'd play Mike Magee Satan himself if he helped win the league.)

Leaderboard

Hats off to Greg McDonald's Incredibles for holding their lead through week 2. It felt like a week of strange results around the league -- RSL and SKC go down, Chivas USA wins -- and it lead to some lower-than-usual fantasy scores. We'll see what Rivalry Week has in store.

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