This year the MLS Fantasy season promises to be as dynamic as ever. Rolling roster locks mean you will have frequent opportunities to take advantage of surprising starts or primo matchups. The Sounders especially will have an evolving roster this season — I see about 20 players who may have five starts or more, plus about 5 others I expect will get some starts along the way. So while the Sounders have some of the best top-end talent in the league, some of their depth players will also merit consideration throughout the year. Here is a look at some of that top-end talent and a few of the depth pieces who warrant watching.
1. Nicolas Lodeiro ($11.0 M)
You might (or might not) be surprised to learn that Lodeiro was the top overall point scorer in MLS Fantasy in 2017. He also had the second-highest points-per-game (PPG) mark, at 9.55, behind only Alessandrini at 9.93 PPG. While both players should find their way onto your team at various points of the year, Lodeiro is the surest bet in the league. All of Seattle’s offensive pieces are back, and although losing Morris hurts a lot, Lodeiro has proven he can get it done with Bruin up top. I expect Lodeiro to finish in the top 3 of MLS Fantasy, especially if the Sounders can find a DP replacement for Morris within this window. Wolff taking free kicks will hurt Lodeiro’s numbers a bit, but that has never been his strength and he may make up for it in an increase in poacher’s goals.
For week 1, the matchup with LAFC as a new team starting on the road is juicy. That back line looks pretty juicy as well. Lodeiro is my week 1 captain. He’s worth the price tag. I expect him to start Sunday; even after playing the full 90 last night, his fitness is almost unequaled.
2. Cristian Roldan ($9.0 M)
Did you know the second best player for the Sounders in MLS Fantasy last year was actually C. Roldan? His 6.79 PPG average was built upon a strong possession game, good defensive stats, and enough offensive contributions that he ended up tying Michael Bradley’s 6.8 PPG and beating him overall by 20 points thanks to making three more appearances. The two players cost the same this year (as well as Dax McCarty, another close comparison), but Roldan is only getting better while Bradley is the player he is. You probably aren’t going to have too many home-run games with Roldan, but he will be a consistent source of points throughout the year.
For week 1, Roldan will be a solid source of points as I expect him to be able to play back-to-back games already with no problem. I’m starting him, since all the volatility in the league means I’m wary about plenty of other options.
3. Magnus Wolff Eikrem ($8.0 M)
Eikrem is a new import from Sweden’s Malmö who will look to hit the ground running with the Sounders. In preseason he already claimed primary free kick duties from Lodeiro and was responsible for multiple assists and goals. If his Thursday performance is anything to judge by, he will be the kind of attacking player who can take over games if teams don’t divert their attention from Lodeiro or Dempsey to stop him. At $8.0 M, he could be a steal.
I would expect a start this weekend after a spry 45 minutes against Santa Tecla. If you like to take risks, he’s one that will likely be worth your while.
4. Will Bruin ($7.0 M)
Bruin is the player he is. In 2017 he always seemed to find a way to score goals, as ugly or as nice as they may have been. He was the type of player who would look awful or wasteful for 60 minutes, and then score two great goals out of terrible chances that should have amounted to nothing. We certainly saw that last night. I would not expect him to keep it up for all of 2018, but then again the supporting cast around him has improved. Between Wolff, Lodeiro, Dempsey and Rodriguez, there are plenty of sources of offense that Bruin just has to finish. As long as he’s the guy, he should be an inconsistent but cheap source of points at the forward position.
After playing 90 minutes against Santa Tecla, my guess is Bruin comes off the bench on Sunday, possibly with Dempsey or Neagle playing forward. But Bruin is pretty consistent, and doesn’t need to be super fit to be effective, so I’d watch the lineups.
5. Kim Kee-Hee ($5.0 M)
You probably know all about Torres and Marshall — and maybe Alfaro — by now, but Kim is probably the CB to watch. A fringe national team player for South Korea, once Kim gets up to speed in Seattle, he should immediately challenge for a starting position. After all, he has all the motivation in the world to get to Russia 2018. I would expect Kim will rotate with Torres and Marshall a fair amount, and of course the inevitable injuries to Torres or Marshall (not that I want them to be injured) will open the door wide for Kim to stake out his place. I expect Kim will start at least 10 games this year, and could start 20 or more if he claims a spot from Marshall or Torres (who are both well into their 30s). At $0.5 M cheaper than either of Torres or Marshall, he could be a great cheaper CB option as the year progresses.
That said, I would look elsewhere for week 1 since Kim just started training with the team.
6. Nouhou ($5.0 M)
Few other young players have played with as much flair as Nouhou. He has a knack for making the easiest things look like the most difficult moves possible. Meanwhile, his athleticism means he can attack with abandon but still cover the defense on a break. He will be heavily involved in the attack while racking up defensive stats. I wouldn’t expect him to replicate Joevin Jones’ record-breaking offensive stats from 2017, but he could end up with similar contributions. He should make an excellent MLS Fantasy starter.
Nouhou will likely rotate plenty this year with Waylon Francis. It’s anyone’s guess who starts against LAFC after Nouhou went 90 against Santa Tecla. I think Nouhou will be the “starter” at the end of the year, but Francis likely isn’t far behind him. I’d guess we’ll see something like a 2:1 ratio of starts in Nouhou’s favor. Week 1 probably sees Francis starting, though if it’s Nouhou, the young Cameroonian is a good option for your roster.
7. Handwalla Bwana ($4.0 M)
Bwana may prove to be the bargain of the season. The 18-year-old looked electric at times during the preseason, far from being out of his depth playing among first-teamers. I expect the earlier portion of his year to be spent at S2, but Bwana could make the jump to being a rotational attacker by the summer, with a handful of starts as the team gets thin around the World Cup. Then it’s up to him to seize the opportunity.
He’s not going to start week 1. Look elsewhere.
Bonuses: Clint Dempsey is probably accurately priced at $9.5 M, but we all know he’s capable of a hat trick in any given week. He had his ups and downs last year, and he’ll have plenty of weeks where you’ll want to start him this year, but he’s probably not an every-week player in MLS Fantasy.
Victor Rodriguez ($8.5 M) had issues staying on the field last year due to injury and taking a while to crack the rotation, but some of his games were extremely promising. If he settles into a starting position and plays up to his potential, he and Wolff may fight to be the second highest scorer on the team.
Jordan McCrary ($4.5 M) will likely start week 1 with Leerdam still injured. His price point is a nice and safe entry to the Sounders’ defense if you need a budget option. He is nowhere near the player Leerdam is, but he’ll get decent stats and the defense around him should prevent anything catastrophic from happening. Leerdam might be back by week 3, but whenever he’s absent I would expect McCrary will get the call. You could do worse for a $4.5 M defender.