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MLS Fantasy: One week ‘til liftoff

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We mostly have answers for week one rosters; who looks to be the best bet?

Even though MLS has decided to make week 1 a “freebie” week and not count it toward your season-long total, there is still a prize at stake in week 1. One lucky winner will earn an MLS starter pack, including a $200 MLSstore.com gift card, two tickets to an MLS regular-season match and an MLS LIVE subscription. I’m assuming those of you reading this article would really enjoy that reward, so aim high.

As a quick reminder, like every year Sounder at Heart has its own fantasy league. If you’ve got your team set up, follow the link and enter code: 159-931

We’ve got over 200 people in our league already, which I am assured is a very impressive number by very important people.

Anyway, here is some of my advice, which is probably inferior to what you might get at the league website, MLS Fantasy Boss or /r/fantasyMLS, but I think I can be helpful anyway for this “Opening Weekend Challenge.” Remember, not only does this weekend not count toward the year-long total, value gains and losses are not recorded.

Alphonso Davies

The 16-year-old attacking midfielder with Vancouver is bizarrely listed as a $4.5 M defender. While it is unclear whether he will have a regular starting spot once everyone is healthy up north, Davies has been playing extremely well in preseason, and, most encouragingly, just put in a great shift in Vancouver’s road draw with NYRB in the CCL. I expect Davies may wind up as the most-owned player in Fantasy if his good form continues. He will get credit for Vancouver’s defensive prowess (which should be average at least) and will get an extra point for goals scored. A $4.5 M starter at any position is valuable, so start him with confidence.

Unlimited transfers and home/road splits

Keep in mind that you get to totally remake your roster every week. This means your thoughts on which player will be better over the season has little value week-to-week. That means you can play matchups and play home players almost exclusively.

Players with home games will thrive. Last year the Chicago Fire, the worst team in the league, still was 6-3-8 at home. The Timbers, who (delightfully) missed the playoffs, were 12-3-2 at home while 0-11-6 on the road. These are not extreme examples, these kinds of splits are common. In fact, zero teams in 2016 had winning road records or losing home records. The best anyone did on the road was NYCFC going 7-7-3. The worst anyone did at home was the Dynamo going 5-5-7. That means the best road team is roughly equal to the worst home team. Of course, everyone will have some success on the road and some setbacks at home, but always remember the home/road splits.

That said, some players are matchup proof. Giovinco and Lodeiro are too good to ignore. Strong defenses are still good on the road (though road shutouts are not very common). The essential point is that almost all across the league, players will play a tier better at home and a tier worse on the road than what might be their “true” skill level, so to speak. Thus, you should choose wisely.

Defenders

Defenders are a tricky topic. They are cheap, with the most expensive defenders only at $6.5 M. But they don’t score as much as the top mids or forwards, even with this year’s slight boost to clean sheet scores. There is far less variability in defender scores overall—the 25th best defender last year was not that much worse than the top 5—yet you likely get far more points per cost for top CBs than any other position. You’re going to have to make compromises somewhere, so maybe starting $5.0 M defenders is preferable to starting $6.0 M mids or forwards?

So far we can see some bargains on defense. Davies was mentioned, though he’s a special case. Aaron Long and Ike Opara are two CBs on historically good defensive teams priced at just $5.0. There are also a slew of outside backs available at $5.0 on teams that might secure clean sheets. Otherwise there are a ton of established CBs that can get you through if you spend slightly more on them.

My Team

This, for now, is my squad. I quite like it. I know I’m asking for trouble banking so much on the Sounders showing well in Houston, but I believe in our guys. I believe in Giovinco on the road. I believe in Columbus’s defense at home against Chicago and I believe in Vancouver at home against Philly. I especially believe in Montero (though I will likely adjust if Montero isn’t going to start). I think Almiron will play like an $11.0 M mid and that Opara and Sjoberg will be worth every penny.

I am happy to discuss how dumb I am in the comments.