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MLS Fantasy: Who to Pick

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A Team By Team Guide on Who to Have and Who to Avoid

Mostly This Guy
Mostly This Guy
John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

We went through the basics last time, now the fun part: picking the players. This is important, because you only have one wildcard to use between now and Week 18. While you can make as many changes as you want to until Sunday at 1:30 EST, after that you're locked in with only 2 transfers a week. So let's look at your players team by team.

I'm going to be making a lot of references to the Points values for 2015 accumulated by Andrew Crollard and Travis Luscombe which takes into account the points each player would have scored in 2015 under this year's scoring rules. Any "ranks" I reference come from them, so if these ranks help you, go give them a shout out and thank them for doing this work and making it public to help out the community of players.

CHICAGO FIRE

For a team that was very bad last year, this team is getting a lot of fantasy attention. The reason for that is most of their players are dirt cheap. Combine that with a reasonable hope that shedding the coil of Frank Yallop can turn the talent on the roster into a functioning team and a cupcake of an opening schedules, and you have a recipe for Fantasy Manager hope. (NYC, @ Orl, CLB, Phi, @NYC, MTL)

On defense, that means Brandon Vincent at $5.0. Vincent is a rookie and Chicago's defense should still be bad, but the prices for defenders on whole this year are very bad. Unlike other players in his price range, Vincent is a guaranteed starter. He'll give you 2-3 points and the occasional clean sheet but he will free up money to spend elsewhere. Gehrig would seem like a similar steal at $5.5 with solid numbers last year but it looks he'll start the year off on the bench so stay away for now.

There's been a lot of attention for John Goosens at $7.0 in Midfield, but there appear to be visa issues that may prevent him from playing Sunday. Goosens is likely to be a CAM for Chicago, which would make his price point very appealing once the visa issues are resolved. If you like surer things, David Accam at $9.0 is rated the 34th best value in the game having put 140 points last year.

Finally, the forwards are very cheaply priced. Gilberto found a lot of success at Chicago once he made the move from Toronto and he's only $9.0 which makes him one of the cheapest main forward for his team in the MLS Fantasy game. Your only issue with picking him up will be whether you like him or Cyle Larin better.

COLORADO RAPIDS

No.

COLU--Oh, all right. Colorado too has a number of cheap players like Chicago but their players tend to be treated like lepers by MLS Fantasy players because of the weird things Pablo does with his lineups which makes consistent starters hard to identify. You don't exactly want to trust your fantasy life to a coach who in Year 3 talks about how he's just learned you have to teach to coach. Colorado does have a Double Game Week (DGW) in week 6. While I would wait until then to pick up any Rapids players, Sjoberg at $5.5 is a cheap defender who is reasonably likely to start. Dillon Powers at $7.5 in the midfield sounds like a good option, but he spent last year in Pablo's doghouse and I want to see that change before I call him a value pick.

You might also be tempted by Tim Howard, if he comes into MLS soon. Likely he will be priced to start at $6.0, and you can find better keepers for that price.

COLUMBUS CREW

The Crew boasted 2 of the top 10 fantasy players of last year, with Kamara (F $11.0) and Finlay (M $10.5). However, they did have one knock against them: terrible performance on the road. Over the course of the season, their amazing home performance more than made up for it. Kamara, based in part on a 25 point boost from the new shots points category, is the 2nd overall player last year. The problem for us? @Por, Phi, @Chi, @Dal, @MTL, NYC, Hou, @Sea. No DGWs plus a road schedule that visits a lot of the toughest defensive teams from last year makes my advice to hold off on these guys for now, although I can't blame you if you went ahead on them.

That also holds true for Frederico Higuain, who has been moved from Forward to Midfield this year (in the game) and is priced at $10.0. Higuain was last year's #14 overall player although he drops to #45 when looking at his points per 90. More intriguing however is defensive midfielder Will Trapp, priced at only $7.0. Trapp got a 23 point boost from the new rule changes, and based on those numbers he's one of the best values in the game (22nd overall). If you want to put a bench position or a switcheroo with a cheap midfielder, Trapp is the best option.

Cool, Michael. Uh, What's a switcheroo? Shoot, I mentioned that, didn't I? Ok, if you're a beginner, skip this section. If you're played before, this is what it is. A manager puts a scrub into the lineup, a guy they know won't play and whose game doesn't kickoff until later. They then put two players on the bench. Of these two players, the player whose game kicks off first is placed in the first position. This only works if the two games are at different times. The manager then sees how Bench player 1 does. If bench player 1 does well, the manager leaves it set to automatic substitution, and bench player 1 is subbed in. If bench player 1 doesn't do so well, the manager then uses a manual substitution before both bench player 2 and the scrub kick off to put in bench player 2, hoping that bench player 2 scores more than bench player 1. As you can tell that's a complicated tactic, one made more difficult by the new roster rules which have reduced the number of scrubs available to teams. I don't recommend trying to set your team up with this in mind.

DC United

DC United, coming off their Champions League exit, have a DGW in week 4. Dykstra at $5.0 deserves a look as he starts while Bill Hamid recuperates. Other than that...every DC player worth looking at is priced in such a way that you'd be crazy to pick them up. Boswell is the 124th best value, Rolfe 131, Espindola 84. Mix that with their schedule of cross country trip to LA, then to NE, home at goal-stingy Colorado, then two stingy defenses in their DGW in Dallas and SJ, and I don't see any reason to jump on this bandwagon yet. Revisit them in Week 4 for the DGW but hold off until then.

FC Dallas

Hello, beautiful. No Blas Perez, a DGW in week 4, and the shield runners up? I recommended in my last article to try to avoid loading up on 4 players from the same team, but FCD is going to entice a lot of players to break that rule. Dallas has a strong defense, making Gonzalez even at the premium price of $6.0 intriguing at the GK position. Defender Matt Hedges was the 12th best overall score year and scored 5.99 per 90, 5th best among all defenders. His price of $9.0 is extremely high but for consistent defenders there's no better option. Other Dallas Defenders Harris ($6.0) and Loyd ($7.5) are ranked as the 2nd and 35th best values respectively; however that cheapness comes from concerns that neither player will play as a CB and as such may lose production so you may need to pay attention to how they lineup week 1. Figueroa ($7.0) is in that mix as well, but he's likely to miss some time during the DGW week 4 for international duty with Honduras.

In midfield, Mauro Diaz put up an absurd 7.50 points per 90 last year, good for 7th best overall, yet is only priced at $10.0. That and the DGW make Diaz a virtual must-have.

For forward, their prices make Urruti and Akindele fascinating, but there's too much uncertainty about how the playing will go. If Dallas splits their playing time as they would do with Perez, it won't be worth investing in a FCD forward.

HOUSTON DYNAMO

Houston is a team with a lot of questions. How will they function without Brad Davis? Will Maidana (M $9.0) be able to reproduce the statistics he put up in Philly in Houston? What does Houston want to do with Cubo Torres (F $9.5)?  Houston doesn't have a DGW until Round 10, although 4 of their first 6 are at home (although that might hurt, since Houston's main home advantage is the summer temperature).

How you answer those questions is key for Houston players. Maidana at his price last year would be the 44th best value, making him a steal. Will Bruin at 9.0 is another option at forward. Giles Barnes is strangely listed in the game as a forward, so while his price of $8.5 is pretty good, I tend not to like to pick up fantasy players whose fantasy position is "ahead" of their actual position (i.e. don't get midfielders who are actually playing defense or forwards actually in midfield. The reverse, defenders playing in midfield or midfielders playing forward, is a fantasy plus).

LOS ANGELES GALAXY

We Pigeon fans remember all too well the torrid run the Galaxy went on last summer, blasting teams out of the Stubhub Center and racking up points both in the table and in fantasy. However, Omar Gonzalez, the go-to "best defender in fantasy" is now gone, replaced by a host of aged defenders: Ashley Cole ($8.0), Jelle Van Damme ($8.5), defensive midfielder Jeff Larentowicz ($7.0). But it's okay, because Stevie Gerrard will provide the defense cover, right? Right?

Does that sound good? No. Avoid like the plague and target players going up against LAG's defense. If you're looking at Larentowicz's numbers and asking why I'm not recommending him at that price, it's simple: a huge chunk of those numbers came from goals he scored last year while on PK duty when he was listed as a defender in Chicago. Those goals were 6 points each; now he's a midfielder and might not even take a PK in a shootout with Gerrard, Keane, Dos Santos on the team, much less in a regular season match.

The rest of LA's team is very crowded, for good and ill. Fantasy favorite of last year, Sebastian Lletget ($8.0) looks to be crowded out of the starting lineup. My recommendation? Stay away from now. The Galaxy start off slow almost every yer, there's no DGW and their schedule features a number of defense-frst teams. Your best bet is Robbie Keane but for the maximum price of $11.5, there's too many other options for me to have him on my team.

MONTREAL IMPACT

With their home matches in Olympic Stadium, 4 out of their first 5 matches are on turf. Prodigal Son Didier Drogba ($11.5) doesn't like playing on turf, and there are rumors that he's about to announce that he's out for the first month. Obviously stay away from Drogba for now, but this trickles down to make his offensive teammates like Piatti (M $10.0) and new arrival Harry Shipp ($8.0) look less appealing. With no DGW until week 8, there's a strong reason to hold off on these guys for now, although Piatti was good before Drogba and at the 18th best points per 90 of last year he's not a bad option. The Drogba injury makes it very tempting to spend an extra .5 to upgrade your 4th forward from a $4.5 scrub to Cameron Porter (F $5.0), a hero of Montreal's CCL run last year.

On defense, everyone's favorite bargain defender of last year, Donny Toia ($7.0) got a price bump and isn't nearly as appealing. Laurent Ciman ($8.5) had an incredible year last year, putting up the 38th best overall and points per 90 score. The drawback for Ciman was his fondness for red cards, which cost fantasy managers points, price (either -.2 or -.4 depending on the timing of the red), and frequently an unexpected transfer. His points total, particularly with the scarcity with which defenders are putting up points in the games, makes that a risk many managers want to take but you need to know the risk before you add him on your team.

NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION

The Revs starred in one of NYCFC's best games last year, allowing the Pigeons to open up Yankee Stadium with a 2-0 win. In that game, the Revs lacked Jermaine Jones. This year, barring a change in negotiations, the Revs will lack Jermaine Jones. That's...suboptimal.

Their two main fantasy options in the back, Farrell ($8.0) and Tierney ($8.0) are 110th and 111th best value overall based on having last year with Jermaine Jones providing cover.

Lee Nguyen would seem like a good option, as he put up the 29th best points per 90, but he's only 155 for value because he's priced at $11.0 (M). Nguyen suffers from a common ailment in fantasy among USMNT players: he got overpriced. Since they're popular, the Gamemakers price them higher, making them generally disfavored among the managers who look at the stats.

While Nguyen was impressive last year, he was solidly behind midfield stars Feilhaber, Kljestan, Javier Morales, Ethan Finlay, or Dax McCarty yet is priced at or above them. I'd consider picking him up the week of the DGW and dropping him immediately afterwards.

NEW YORK CITY FC

You skipped all the other teams above to see which of your favorite players you could play in fantasy, didn't you? Get back up there, I spent a lot of time and hard work preparing you this tasty analysis, and there's starving fans in Harrison that don't get this kind of analysis so go back up there, young lady.

Generally, fantasy players try to stay away from their hometown team, as the rose-colored glasses can make for some bad decisions. You should know enough to stay away from any defender among the Pigeons. Many outside of NYCFC are taking a look at Matarrita ($7.5 D) but he's a FB, not the high scoring CB that dominate the defender position in fantasy, plus he's new to MLS.

Without Pirlo, there's no party, so your fantasy team shouldn't be a party. Even if you think that the 4-3-3 will benefit Pirlo, he just didn't put up the stats last year in fantasy to justify his $10.0 price, making him one of the worst values in the game. In a similar boat is Mix Diskerud. His $8.0 price wasn't justified by his performance last year (and surprising to me, Mix didn't get much of a boost from the completed passing stats, as he only got 8 more points under this year's scoring system). Add to that the concerns about where he'll fit if Lampard is healthy and the US international duty, I'd stay away. "May not start" also rules out the Poku.

However, David Villa is a MUST HAVE. The Captain got a whooping 29 points more under these new rules, making him the 6th best player per 90 minutes. The opening schedule (@Chi, Tor, Orl, NE Chi) has Villa playing in Yankee Stadium, making the goals all the more likely. The only good reason to not have Villa on your team is if you're a fantasy jinx and you're afraid that picking him up will cause him to be injured. Otherwise, add him on.

Other NYCFC forwards are intriguing as well. New Orleans born Jesuit Blue Jay, Patrick Mullins, is listed at $6.5 while Tony Taylor and Khiry Shelton are both at $6.0. One or both of them will be starters and at that price they make a good option for a strong bench forward. While I wouldn't jump on any of them yet, if one of them locks down the starting spot, come back and pick them up.

NEW YORK RED BULLS

The Shield winners produced a number of strong fantasy options, and not much has changed this year. My main concern with all Red Bulls players is that the loss of Miazga means they won't be able to press as much as they did last year, so I suspect their fantasy numbers will be down this year. By how much we won't know but Sacha Kljestan ($11.0 M) and Bradley Wright-Philips ($11.0 F) are certainly at the top of the list for their positions.

What has changed are the scoring rules, and few benefited from the change as much as Dax McCarty (M $9.0). Dax's score went up by 39 points. That more than a full point per week, and one of the highest boosts we saw, bringing Dax from fantasy afterthought into the 9th overall score, 24th points per 90. At his price and with a DGW in week 6, Dax is a fantastic option. Defender Perinelle saw a 25 point boost as well,and a $7.5 you could do a lot worse, although I'm cooler on him because of the effects of the loss of Miazga.

ORLANDO CITY SC

Bendik came to Orlando from Toronto, and at $5.0 he looks to be a consistent starter for the Lions and a great option if you want to go cheap at keeper or want a viable keeper as your backup. Seb Hines ($7.5) scored 4 goals in a preseason match, but I don't anticipate that being a regular thing for him. The defense seems like it's shuffling, with Aurelien Collin reportedly in the doghouse. Rafael Ramos appears to be a likely starter and a $6.0 would be a decent option for filling out your roster if you like Orlando's defense more than say Chicago's or Colorado's, although don't look for much more than that. Darwin Ceren is also a likely starter at DM for the Lions, and a $7.0 he's the 31st best value in the game, so he can be a fantastic option if you're trying to complete the midfield.

However, your big hitters are Kaka (M $10.5) and Cyle Larin (F $9.0). A lot of Orlando fans are optimistic (as usual) about Kaka in their new formation. He'll have to be; he's currently the 162nd best value in the game (i.e. he's way too expensive for his output). Orlando does have a favorable schedule (get post CCL RSL at home, followed by Chi, @NYC, Por, @Phi, NE) with no DGWs. While I expect Orlando to be better this year, for his price I'd look elsewhere unless you're really in love with Orlando.

As for Larin, he's only $9.0 despite putting up 145 points. That's good for 13th best points per minute. While the sophomore slump could easily nab Larin, he has very little competition at forward at Orlando for touches and it's reasonable to expect a similar even if slightly diminished output this year.

PHILADELPHIA UNION

Fabio Alves ("Fabinho") has the 6th best overall value in the game at $6.5 (D), and Blake ($5.0) is a good discount keeper. The only other player who makes any kind of impact is Sebastian LeToux, but his price point isn't justified by his performance (153rd best value) so other than those two I'd stay away.

PORTLAND TIMBERS

The defending champs don't have a lot of pop when it comes to fantasy, but don't be deceived. Diego Valeri is one of the best players in the game, fantasy and otherwise, and a $10.0 price tag could be seen as a bargain quickly. However, there's not as many bargains on the backline with Kwarasey (GK $6.0), Borchers (D $8.0) and Ridgewell ($8.0) all priced top of their positions. If you're strapped, consider dropping .5 to Powell who's only $7.5.

Be aware also that Nagbe got a 25 point boost from the new scoring changes, as he completes passes and gets fouled a lot. His $9.0 price tag may still be too much but you'll want someone from Portland in your midfield come their DGW in 6, and Nagbe is a cheaper way to do that than Valeri.

Adi is priced at $10.0, which I find frankly absurd. For 162 points last year, you spend 1.0 more and get Villa (214) or Kamara (228).

REAL SALT LAKE

One of the stars of Fantasy MLS is Javier Morales. 4th best points per 90 last year and at $10.5 is less than many other premium midfielders. However, "Jorales" continues to fight against Father Time, and at some point, he's going to lose. He had a number of injuries last year when RSL started to juggle US Open Cup and CCL competition, but with RSL out of the CCL now, that shouldn't be too much of a concern.

Joao Plata was one of the best fantasy options in 2014 but he never got up to speed in 2015 after recovering from an injury. At $9.0, if he returns to his former form he'd be worth a pick up. Kyle Beckerman is a DM, and while he was good for the USMNT, he doesn't produce for fantasy, and the USMNT upcharge makes him a bad option at $8.5.

SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES

San Jose had a great defense last year, and they boast some excellent bargain defenders. Shaun Francis ($6.0) and Clarence Goodson ($7.5) are some of the best values overall. I'd have at least one for now with an eye to picking up the other when their DGW in 6.

Perez Garcia is also a good value, at 18th best value with the 27th points per 90, although he's suspended for a red card in Week 1.

Wondolowski may still be a curse word for you after 2014, but he consistently puts up big overall scores, although he tends to be more feast and famine. I think he's good a option for their DGW, but there are other forward options ahead of him with a brutal schedule for an offensive player awaiting him before that DGW(COL, PoR, @ LA, DC, @ Dal).

SEATTLE SOUNDERS

Every fantasy player groaned when Obafemi Martins was sold. Even so, Clint Dempsey started last year off strong and his two beauties against Club America in Seattle suggested more of the same from him. With 4 of 6, he has to be considered as your forward, even at $11.0. Note Clint was moved to Forward in the fantasy game after having spent the last three years oddly placed as a midfielder. However, international duty could cause an absence for him in Week 4 so plan to transfer him out if you do pick him up.

A lot of his success will depend on Jordan Morris, who is simultaneously overpriced and a bargain. Rookies tend not to start in MLS (as we know with Khiry Shelton) but be phased in, but Morris is no average rookie and he started both matches against Club America. While I tend to be hesitant on spending so much ($8.5) on a rookie, Morris's talent and excellent surrounding cast have me giving him a serious look, especially since with the forward prices this year, an 8.5 is an incredible bargain if Morris lives up to even half the hype. While not nearly as hyped, Nelson Valdez looks to have a greater role with Oba gone, and at $8.0 is also worth watching.

Many fantasy managers are putting Ivanschitz on their team, as he's an incredible bargain in midfield at $7.5 who looks to be getting a lot of the set piece duties for Seattle this year, duties which tend to result in a lot of fantasy points from chances created and assists. However, Alonso at $8.5 who plays DM got a 46 point boost from the new rules and would be a good differential pick for those looking for more of a track record then Ivanschitz.

SPORTING KANSAS CITY

Somehow Tim Melia is priced at $5.5 despite a great season last year. Melia has 4 home games and a DGW in the first 6 weeks. SKC defenders Ellis and Opara should be on this list-Ellis had the 4th best value and Opara had the best points per 90 in the game last year, but there's uncertainty about their status as starters, so I'm hesitant to add them.

Benny Feilhaber ($11.0) was one of the best fantasy players last year, but he dipped off towards the ends when Graham Zusi made his return. This year, he'll not only be contending with Zusi but with Brad Davis. I expect Benny's production to fall off substantially as a result, and his price places him firmly in the "avoid" category.

Dom Dwyer at $10.0 is a fan favorite, but he's never been a fantasy favorite, at a paltry 75th best value. Avoid him too.

TORONTO FC

Giovinco is owned by 67.4% of fantasy owners, meaning 32.6% of fantasy owners don't own Giovinco. 32.6% of fantasy owners are nuts.

Yes, there's good reason to be concerned that Giovinco won't match his incredible numbers of a year ago. Toronto is undertaking a questionable shift in formation that will take Giovinco out of position (although it's not clear if that experiment is on hold while Jozy Altidore is hurt). Giovinco will likely have more burdens from international duty with Italy this year. And yes, Giovinco will start on the road until GW 9.

And none of it matters. If Giovinco suffers a 20% decrease in production he's still the number 1 player in fantasy. That's how far and above Giovinco was. The new rules only made it worse, giving him 41 extra points for a total of 287 for an average of 9.3 per 90. The next closest player was Kei Kamara at 228, a full 59 points behind Giovinco. Has Giovinco been priced at 12.5 you might have a different thought process, but there's no excuse.

The rest of Toronto isn't as fantastic. Newcomer Drew Moor at $7.0 is part of a rebuilding effort on defense in Toronto that if it bears fruit could make him a fantasy option. In that same vein, I like Irwin (now in from Colorado) as a great $5.5 keeper option. Michael Bradley at $10.0 is too highly priced for his past production, at 107 in value.

VANCOUVER WHITECAPS

Kah was a great fantasy option last year, but seems to have fallen out of favor in Vancouver. Tim Parker ($6.5) if he locks down the starter spot over Kah is at a great price for a player in such a solid defense. Another competitor for that spot, Christian Dean, is even cheaper at $5.5. Waston is a great points producer, at 28th overall, but the price brings him down to 95th for value (and 18 points less than Hedges for the same price)

Matias Laba (M $7.5) is another player who got a significant boost from the new rules, with 44 more points. Pedro Morales had a terrible year last year, and $10.5 is way too high unless he returns to his 2014 form. Rivero and Manneh (both F at $8.5) had flashes of greatness only to fall into a California-water-esque drought.

LAST POINTS

I didn't spend much time on the keepers, because there's not too much to say about them as the prices are so similar.

FC Dallas, DC United, the Revs, and the Whitecaps are the first teams with DGWs, but players outside of FC Dallas in those teams aren't great options. I'd make sure you have your Dallas selections with a plan to bring in some players from those other teams with your free transfers.

I'm currently running a 3-4-3 formation because of the bad value we got in defender prices this year.

Did I miss anyone you want to know more about? Did I get something wrong? Leave a comment or contact me on Twitter @MikeDatTiger and I'll be happy to keep the conversation going!