This is my first season as a Fantasy Manager. Like many new managers, it took me a while to find my bearings in the fantasy system that MLS uses. I haven't done poorly, but for weeks I've been mired in the 100-150th place range in the Sounder@Heart League and hovering around 50th place in the SBNation League. There is a tight battle at the top of our league and all hail Damaged Goods who is currently leading with a whopping 1,101 points. (That's good enough for 6th place out of over 22,500 players in the overall standings for the entire game!) There are 33 players in our league with over 1,000 points through Round 15. Not a bad showing at all.
But what about the rest of us? Tough to move up through the ranks if you stumbled out of the gate, particularly in a league as popular as ours. What options remain to keep the season interesting?
One option is to see how your team stacks up in other leagues or statistical categories. Earlier this week the staff at MLS took a look at the cost of a Fantasy All Star roster made of the top players at each position within the game. The roster they outlined isn't available to anyone currently playing the game because it would cost over $114 million and the top value team is currently sitting at $113.1 million. That number jumped out at me because my team, Blacksmith Abbey, was sitting at a value of over $110 million. Turns out I cracked the top 20 in overall value among all players and didn't even realize it.
Another option is to use this season to hone your skills. Work your roster and try to gain on the 5 players directly above you in the standings. A few things that I've learned for what it's worth:
- Don't lead with your emotions. Your favorite player may not be good at scoring points in this system. Your favorite team may have too many byes in the immediate future. (Dave, it may be time to leave the chapel of the Church of Fucito.) I currently don't have any Sounders on my roster. They are not playing this week or again in two weeks. Last week I had both Oba and Lamar on my team. I even held onto Oba on my bench in the hope that his red card would be rescinded. But this week I traded them both because of the pending byes. Yet, once Round 18 is over I will probably load up on Sounders. And, yes, I do currently have two Timbers on my roster. They're playing well and they play two games this week. But they get dropped after next week because the Timbers have two bye weeks coming up.
- Chart ahead for the next 5-10 rounds of the schedule. The schedule really does matter in the Fantasy game. Teams with byes in multiple close rounds can decimate the effectiveness of your roster. Teams with byes in weeks that other teams have two games are devastating. This week Colorado, Vancouver, Montreal and Portland all play twice. But next week Vancouver and Montreal don't play. And then Portland has two weeks off in rapid succession. NY and KC both just had a period where neither team played two weeks in a row. Also look at the opponents and who is playing at home. Some teams are awful on the road. Other teams leak goals. Be careful not to have more than 5 field players and one Keeper on your roster each week who won't play or you will take a hit.
- Watch out for the impact of other competitions, suspensions and injuries. Pay close attention to rosters and schedules for the WC Qualifiers, the USOC, the Gold Cup and the U20 WC. This week FC Dallas played almost all their starters in the USOC. This weekend they travel to Portland. This should benefit Portland.
- Scout the Sounders opposition for possible players for your Fantasy team. You are going to watch the Sounders each week anyway. Why not take advantage to see who is playing well on the other team. You can only have 3 Sounders. Each week I watch the free games on TV to see who is playing well and might be a good pickup for my team. I've used this tactic all season and it has led to some really good choices. For example I added Michel from FCD really early in the season based on their game against Houston.
- Form, position and playing time matter. I want to add Kelyn Rowe to my roster. But until he is starting and seeing regular playing time, I won't add him. Players who are routinely only coming in late in games are a bad investment in this game unless you are right up against the cap. At this point I have too much value on my team to choose those players. Is a player taking set pieces or PKs? Also remember, Forwards are the worst investment in the game. They have the most erratic scoring and their cost to benefit ratio is atrocious. Don't believe me? Open the transfer window and search for top scorers by position. How many forwards have more than 40 points? Compare that to all of the other positions.
And don't overlook the possibility of leagues with weekly prizes or the other MLS Fantasy game, 3 Goal Monte. Two weeks ago I scored my first hat trick in that game and a week later the league informed me that I had won a two year subscription to MLS Live. Very cool.
Remember that as the season progresses, the bloom wears off the lily. Many players will lose interest and stop managing. If you keep working your roster, you just might find yourself creeping up the leader board. And heck, if nothing else MLS Fantasy Manager is a great excuse to follow the rest of the league and watch some soccer. And that is never a bad thing.