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MLS Fantasy: How to Get the Magic Back in Your Team

Player Not Named David Villa Celebrates Goal Assisted by Other Player Not Named David Villa.
Player Not Named David Villa Celebrates Goal Assisted by Other Player Not Named David Villa.
Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
For many managers, the first days of MLS Fantasy are like the beginning of the Harry Potter series. Stuck in the Muggle world without the magic of MLS, suddenly the fantasy game opened and we were whisked away to a fantastical place where we could have any player we chose (or does the player choose the manager?) and were surprised by just how much gold was in our Gringotts bank account to buy those players. All seemed wonderful...until we get into Week 1 and we learn about Lord Voldemort, who practices a dark magic that prevents David Villa from scoring a single goal or assist.

Or...something like that. The point is the first week is a reality check for many managers as players some assumed were key starters actually were on the bench or unable to score points. Dreams of a 1st overall finish are gone, and many are wondering if it's time to use their wildcard to magic away their squad's problems.

The good news if you had a rough week is that the first week is hardly determinative of your overall success. Good MLS fantasy managers have successful overall finishes by consistent production over the remaining 33 weeks. The key after every bad week or even good week is to sit down and identify the problems with your team and make use of your transfers to improve your team going forward. To help show you how to do this, I'm going to discuss my own to show the process. Let's dive in like Hermione into Hogwarts: a History.

That's my team last week, a mere 3 points above average. You can see the big problems off the bat: the Vancouver Defenders didn't get me much return. David Villa, my captain, offered a measly 3 points which knocked my team out of contention like a Bludger as other teams that captained Diaz or Giovinco soared. Gilberto and Ivanschitz also produced meager returns, and the players I had that did very well (Giovinco and Diaz) also tended to be owned by a lot of other teams.

The instinct of many first-time players is to say "man, I need to improve five of my players. That's too many for the two free transfers, so I need to use my wildcard." That's not a smart way to tackle the problem. You need to understand why the players on your team didn't perform well to pinpoint why they didn't do well to see if they're actually a problem spot or not. I'll swallow some Veritaserum and examine the truths, good and bad, on my team to give you an example of the process you should go through with your own team.

Ousted & Parker
What I thought- That Vancouver against a Drogba-less Montreal would be a prime candidate for a strong defensive performance, even perhaps a clean sheet
What happened-Piatti put up an incredible performance ringing up Vancouver for 3 total goals.
What lessons should I learn: Well, I underestimated the strength of Montreal without Drogba because I didn't consider how good Piatti is. Piatti isn't going to score 20 fantasy points every week, but Montreal with Piatti is still really good and I need to remember that. As for Vancouver, I rewatched the Condensed Highlights on MLS Live and it didn't appear that Vancouver gave up many chances besides the goals, and the goals came from mostly incredibly play by Montreal and one horrible miscommunication by Vancouver. That's the kind of issues that tend not to repeat week to week, so I think I can roll with these two guys until their DGW in Week 4 at least.

What I thought-that as the main man in Seattle for set pieces right now and at 7.5 he would be a great bargain.
What happened: Fisher got an early red card leaving Seattle at 10 men for most of the match
What lessons should I learn: Not much, because it's hard to tell anything about an offensive player who spends the majority of the match a man down. I need to reassess next week.

What I thought: that the Chicago forward would get prime chances against the NYC defense we know and hate so much
What happened: the Chicago forward got prime chances against the NYC defense, but failed to score and went off at halftime with an injury.
What lessons should I learn: He got chances, so he's fine, but obviously the injury makes him Number 1 transfer priority for me. Luckily, Chicago is the first game match of this week, so I can wait until the lineups come out to find out if I have to transfer him out.

What I thought: That our Captain would get prime chances against a brand new Chicago defense
What happened: The Chicago defense double teamed Villa limited him to about two solid chances while the rest of the Pigeons' forwards and midfielders ran rampant scoring four goals.
Lessons to learn: If Villa makes that goal at the very end, I'm probably happy. He didn't, but he had chances. Moreover, the double-teaming strategy against Villa that many teams last year used to silence the entirety of the NYCFC offense didn't work. This might mean teams will be less likely to employ the strategy going forward, helping Villa's production going forward.

Other lessons from around the league: The Red Bulls did not generate many chances against Toronto. I have Dax, who put up an okay number this week, but if Red Bull continues to struggle players like Dax, Kljestan, and Bradley Wright-Phillips may need to be transferred out. I also went and noted the players who had great weeks such as Mike Magee ($7.2 LA F) and evaluated them to see who if anyone I wanted to bring in with my transfers.

So, for your own team I would encourage you to review the games each week to double check that they're getting chances so that you can understand better who is more likely to be successful going forward. The Condensed Highlights feature on MLS Live is a great tool if you have it for doing this without watching 10 90 minutes a week as each game is compressed into 20 minute snippets. You can also look up their statistics on, many of which from the fantasy page itself to see if a player was close to the bonus points and just barely missed it or if the player wasn't even close.

The most rewarding part of this process is examining your own biases and assumptions to see if they still hold up to the facts and performances so that you can prevent them from clouding your judgment in the future. You can also start to learn what weaknesses you have in picking players and counteract that going forward.

Should you use your wildcard?

Generally, not this week. If you did your homework in picking your team last week, then one week's worth of data shouldn't be enough to completely change your mind. Players underperforming right now don't justify a wildcard as you can use your free transfers to take care of most of your problems. You can even take a hit. The point here is that 2016 isn't a large enough sample set to be able to tell who is strong this year and who isn't, for both players for teams. It's like digging into a box of Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans, you just don't know what you're going to get. After all, last year NYCFC through 3 games only allowed 1 goal. In week 1 last year, Altidore scored two goals compared to Giovinco who only got an assist and was subbed out at minute 80. Making decisions with only this week to guide you is pretty hard to do with any real confidence. As such, I would only recommend a wildcard now if you had 4 or more players not even start. Otherwise, you should be able to fix your problems with the free transfers or a hit if necessary.

Player picks:
Beware: Steres (LA D) or Cuelho (SKC D). Two huge point totals from defenders who scored goals, but goals for defenders are hard to produce consistently. Steres might not even start this week if Van Damme is back healthy and in the lineup.
Good picks: Valeri (Por M), Piatti (Mon M)-these guys have a track record of being strong players and so their exceptional Week 1 performances aren't shocking. Even if they don't reach quite those heights they're a strong bet going forward.
Captain: Giovinco. He plays the NYCFC defense we know and hate so much. NYCFC did hold Giovinco scoreless 2 out of the 3 times Toronto and the Pigeons met, but the 3rd time Giovinco scored a hat trick. I'm not sure the new NYCFC defense can replicate the physical defending that succeeded against Giovinco, so I'm betting on Giovinco being able to produce some good points this week. And if he doesn't, that probably means that our real team did well [the prospect of Giovinco scoring nothing while NYCFC suddenly robs me of my joy like a Dementor].

HRB League:
If you haven't joined, join up! The code is 1466-717 and we'd love to have you come on in. This week, Calvin Daniel got the Golden Snitch with 95 points.

As always, if you want specific advice on your team, feel free to send me an owl on Twitter at @MikeDatTiger or comment down below. Make sure you get your transfers in before the deadline tonight. Good luck next week!