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MLS Fantasy: At the Quarter Pole

One quarter down, three to go. Hang on to your knickers, because the next 8 rounds are going to be wild.

Trevor Ruszkowksi-USA TODAY Spor

The Standings

One quarter of this year's MLS Fantasy season is in the books. Hopefully, your team is doing well. This week saw new leaders emerge in both the Sounder at Heart classic league and Sounder at Heart contributor's head to head league. Clockwork Oranje is now the leader of our classic league with 560 points. This is good enough for 3rd overall in MLS Fantasy.  -Eternal- sits in second place with 551 points and Rave Green is in 3rd place with 534 points. 18 players within the league have over earned over 500 fantasy points so far. Well done.

Friberg Tacos is leading our head to head competition among the S@H contributors with a 7-1 overall record and 465 points.  FC Transparency is in second at 7-1with 460 points.  And Bedir Than Average is now third with a 6-2 record and 471 points.

Having Fun for the Rest of Us

My team, Blacksmith Abbey, is doing well. I've earned 444 points and cracked the top 150 in our classic league for the first time this year. But more importantly, I've climbed into the top 4 of our head to head competition. Why should you care? Like most of the players in the classic league, I have almost no chance to compete for the overall victory at this point. But I can set my sights to hit other targets. The key is to pick your target now and play the game accordingly. Sitting at 400 in the Sounder at Heart classic league? Try to move up 50 places. Or maybe you focus on learning something about the game, like learning how to build team value. My hope is to do well in the head to head league and it makes the game fun for me to see how I am doing each week relative to that goal.

This is my second year of playing MLS Fantasy. Last year I finished the season at a respectable top 20% in overall points. But where I excelled was in building team value. I finished the season with one of the top 20 teams in overall value in all of MLS Fantasy. This year I've been able to leverage what I learned about building value last year. My team is currently worth $125.5 M after 8 rounds. This value has enabled me to raise the overall caliber of my roster on a weekly basis. I used that leverage to win two very difficult head to head matches in the last two weeks. And it all stemmed from the goals I set myself last year.

The Maelstrom

The next 8 rounds are going to be critical if you want your team to do well.  Here's a look at some of the key features of Rounds 9-16.

-          Six of the eight rounds see multiple teams playing double game weeks starting with 6 teams in Round 10.  Navigating your roster through those rounds will have a huge impact on how your team fares.

-          Conversely, Round 15 only sees 4 teams playing. Fall asleep that week and your team may be toast.

-          Rounds 11, 15 & 16 all have unlimited transfers. In other words, they are free wildcards.  Use those shrewdly and you can laugh at your competition.

-          The World Cup camps will open and the World Cup will be played in Brazil. This will dramatically impact the Fantasy Game. Pay attention to the WC roster announcements if you want to do well in MLS Fantasy.

Each Year is a Bit Different

MLS Fantasy 2014 is shaping up to have some very specific quirks. Here are a few pointers to help navigate the vagaries of this season.

-          After last year's glut of bargain Defenders, the managers of the game overcompensated. All of this year's top defenders are expensive and the few bargain defenders who are available are on everyone's team.

-          By contrast, the top Goal Keepers are all reasonably priced. Choosing wisely at the Keeper position makes a big difference this year.

-          This year's deeper rosters are rewarding fantasy players who are looking to build value with their bench slots rather than just grabbing the cheapest players they can find. The deep benches also enable you to ride out late week injuries if you manage your roster during the run of play. Remember that there are no automatic substitutions this year.

-          Expensive players generally don't shift value much. This is because of the mechanics of how player value grows.  Value is tied to the quantity of teams bringing an individual into their roster each week. Expensive players don't move as much as mid-priced players and so they tend not to gain value as quickly. This has two consequences. You can add and dump these players as needed because their value isn't likely to shift much.  Secondly, you won't build the overall value of your roster with them.

-          The top Forwards in the game almost always earn assists rather than simply scoring goals. Most Forwards are streaky scorers. If you hit the right week, you can make hay. But if you want consistent results, look at a Forward's assist stats.

-          In order to score, a player needs to play. Duh. But you would be surprised how many fantasy players grab a substitute player who had a good week. Then they find themselves stuck with a player who is languishing on the bench.  Pay attention to how many minutes a player is consistently getting.

-          Defensive midfielders are much better buys this season. Players like Beckerman, Alonso and Edu are all earning points commensurate with their cost. This makes a player like Will Trapp a potential bargain.

-          And the coup de grace? Some the best bargains in the game this year have been Sounders.  If that doesn't make you smile, I don't know what will.

Have fun and see you in the standings.

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