On the surface, fantasy soccer looks really hard--a concept that we'll demonstrate through a totally made up concept that I just invented: the Drake Equation for Fantasy Soccer.
So there are 20 teams in Major League Soccer, right? And each team has about 15 players who get regular playing time? And then, depending on injuries, you might need to know about six more who could become starters at any moment? And then, MLSsoccer.com's fantasy setup gives you about 37 different pieces of data on which you can weigh a player. Let's see how that adds up.
20 x 15 x 1.4 x 37 = 15,540
Daunting, isn't it? How can one human sort through 15,540 data points each week and come up with a winning lineup, while simultaneously weighing bye weeks and the salary cap?
Let's help you cut through the noise. Here are three pieces of advice I regularly use to guide my decisions:
History repeats: The single most tried-and-true strategy in fantasy soccer is to wait a few weeks, then pick the top-ranked players. More often than not, the guys who start out hot will continue to play well. Especially in the ESPN format, where one of the few variables you can sort on is position rank, it's super-easy to find the top 5 defenders and add every last one of them.
We're far enough in the season to do that now, and luckily Fantasy Soccer Manager offers a similar sorting mechanism. Just select all Defenders and sort by "value (form)".
The resulting list will give you a pretty good idea of who's playing well -- it's basically a points per game query, but it excludes outliers like Nana Attakora (he has only played one game but posted 8 points). Personally, I am comforted by the fact my entire back line (Hedges, Parke, Ashe, Williams, and Dunivant) shows up on the first page of results.
Good teams prosper: When in doubt, I always try to figure out three teams are going to be in contention for the Supporters Shield. Then, I grab at least two players from each, because as a general rule they're going to be scoring more goals than they're giving up. Right now, I think the top three teams are LA, SKC, and Houston (in that order). Stuck on which defender to get? Omar Gonzalez and Kofi Sarkodie are better options than Michel and Jose Goncalves, in my book.
The trick, of course, is making sure you've picked the correct teams to load up on. And bye weeks can also be a bit tricky, so scout that out in advance as well.
Follow the wisdom of the crowds: Part of me feels guilty every time I do this, but here's a really simple, time-thrifty way to scout transfers: sort on "Transfers In (round)". You'll see the most popular adds for that given week -- and more often than not, the crowd won't steer you wrong. You probably won't be surprised by the forwards who top the list: Robert Earnshaw, Federico Higuain, and Deshorn Brown. Solid choices, all three. Plus another player I like, Ben Speas, pops up in there too.
(We all remember the inherent fallacy of the ad populum argument, right? I mean sure, but screw it, you know? We can't spend all night on fantasy soccer -- we got stuff to do.)
Hot adds: I really liked what MLSsoccer.com did earlier this week with this table. You can see why Graham Zusi is so valuable--even on the days when he doesn't score or assist, he's a good bet to rack up some extra points in the bonus categories.
Based on this list, here are five under-the-radar players worth a long-term add:
Goalkeeper: Troy Perkins, Montreal ($5.3) -- Tied for the league lead in recoveries at 70.
Forward: Robert Earnshaw, Toronto FC ($8.2) -- I mean, I guess you just kinda have to add him at this point, right?
Injuries: This is a far-from-complete of big name players and their injury status for this weekend. Take with a grain of salt!
- Out: Dwayne De Rosario, Will Bruin, Joao Plata, Robbie Findley,
- Questionable: Thierry Henry, Fabian Espindola
- Probable: Alvaro Saborio, Arne Friedrich, Tim Cahill
Leaderboard: We have some movement at the top! Shout out to Lucky Number Se11 for taking the lead in the competitive Sounder at Heart league with a hearty 75 points in round 5. With five teams on a bye this weekend, I do believe we'll see some extreme scores on both ends of the bell curve.
What do you think? Do you have any other methods you use to pick your team? Are there any players that you've picked up this week? Chime in on the comments section. And remember, use the #FantasyMLS hashtag this weekend.