Round 1 of the 2013 MLS Fantasy Soccer: Manager season is officially in the books. Some of your favorite soccer personalities are battling it out in the ExtraTime Experts League, so here’s the run down on how they started.
TheCrew.com's Ashleigh Ignelzi (Iggy FC) was the top scorer this week in her 99-70 victory over Soccer By Ives' Ives Galarcep (SBI United). She did it with goals from Robbie Keane (captain), Álvaro Saborío, Federico Higuaín and Graham Zusi. She also managed to rack up four clean sheets from three defenders and her keeper. Ashleigh’s 99 points currently ranks her 18th among all players in FS:M.
"My first week of MLS fantasy wasn't too bad. I expected a bit more from my midfield but I also didn't expect Seattle to lose at home or for Chicago to lose so poorly on the road. All my strikers had a great opening weekend so hopefully they keep it up and I don't make any rookie mistakes!"
ESPN's Taylor Twellman (ThinkTaylor) and MLSsoccer.com's Jason Saghini (Newborn FC) each put up a respectable 80 points and currently sit in a tie for third place after cruising to victory lane rather easily.
The closest match of the week was between Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl (Danny Szetela’s Afro) and FoxSoccer.com's Kyle McCarthy (Undisclosed Terms), with Wahl squeaking out a 58-56 win over the New England Revolution writer.
Former league champions TV announcer Jonathan Yardley (Fort Nonsense SC) and ESPN's Max Bretos (COLOTERORITA) both lost, as did MLSsoccer.com's Greg Lalas (Tesla’s Revenge) and Simon Borg (Borgussia Borgmund), although Borg did put up a respectable 71 points in his 75-71 loss to ESPN's Alexi Lalas (SlurpeeRatt). Lalas had some friendly words for his fellow competitor:
"For many, taking down the Borg would be cause for celebration. I, however, see it as no more than the natural course of events and completely expected. I didn't even use Saborio and I still won. Unlike most things in Simon's life, there can be no debate over this outcome — I owned him."
Big misses from Brad Davis (captain) and Will Bruin helped MLSsoccer.com's Andrew Wiebe (Meara’s French Licks) edge out a win over me, 67-63. Although, watching Diego Valeri score one of the nicest goals of the weekend early on against the New York Red Bulls did give me a little glimmer of hope.
For all the latest news and advice regarding MLS Fantasy Soccer: Manager follow @MLSFantasy.
Key Matchups in Round 2
Upset Alert in Round 2
All signed up for 2013 MLS Fantasy Soccer: Manager? Looking for a league to join? How about one that offers free prizes? Well, look no further. Below are the codes to some of the best MLS fantasy leagues out there.
Go to fantasy.mlssocer.com ---> Click "Join a leage" ---> Click Private league ---> Enter the codes below. Done! And if you know of a league that I might’ve missed, leave the info in the comments section below (name, code and a brief description would help). Game on!
ExtraTime Radio league – Play against MLSsoccer.com’s Jason Saghini, Andrew Wiebe and the one and only MLS Insider **Prizes guaranteed**
- Code is 7953-1611
The Official SBI (Soccer by Ives) league – Ives Galarcep’s league **Possible Prizes to win**
- Code is 7655-1695
EPL Methadone (@NMA_Blog) league – From the creators of SB Nation’s Never Manage Alone blog
- Code is 5633-1479
Reddit league – From the creators of Reddit.com **Possible Prizes to win**
- Code is 977-798
Sounder at Heart league – Seattle Sounders supporters look no further
- Code is 9484-1855
Reminder: When you sign up for MLS Fantasy Soccer: Manager you can choose one team to be entered into their fantasy league. Good luck everyone!
It's that time again. If you haven't already, head over the MLSsoccer.com Fantasy home page and create a team.
Once you've done that, sign up for the ExtraTime Radio league using the code below and battle for prizes (yet to be determined, but suggestions welcome in the comments section below) against your friends while you try to one up the guys from the show.
CORRECTION: D.C. United has not yet clinched Carolina Challenge Cup championship. I apologize for the confusion. #MLS
— Andrew Wiebe (@AndrewWiebe_MLS) March 3, 2012
The Vancouver Whitecaps' Jay DeMerit doesn't go through the motions very often. He's too Midwestern for that. (Respect!)
But attach a bunch of diodes to him and ask him to impersonate -- interpret? -- Manchester City's controversial Mario Balotelli, and he'll gladly fake it. (It's a pretty good impersonation, actually.)
Check out DeMerit and teammate Alain Rochat shadow-playing the beautiful game for EA Sports.
Total Points – Dwayne De Rosario (89)
With Thierry Henry missing several weeks due to a hamstring injury, DeRo has taken over as the No. 1 player in Fantasy Soccer: Manager. He’s had a weeks of 10, 15 and 20 points, and his most recent point output was the most by a single player thus far in 2012. DeRo has 20+ more points than the next closest midfielder, making him a legitimate threat every week and a player you can build your team around.
Percentage Owned – Jay DeMerit (35.3)
DeMerit has been the most widely selected player in FS: M the entire season. Thirty-five percent of all managers currently have him on their roster. The second-closest player is Kenny Cooper (28 percent). At one point, DeMerit had the highest score of any defender, but lately he’s been slipping. D.C. United players Daniel Woolard and Brandon McDonald, Aurélien Colin, and even teammate Lee Young-Pyo have since leapfrogged DeMerit, so only time will tell if it’s his worldwide fame or his actual production that makes him the most “popular” player in MLS.
Crosses & Key Passes – Graham Zusi (33) & (34)
Zusi has calmed down slightly after a fast start, but his 33 crosses are still seven better than the next closest player. Three successful crosses equals one bonus point, so Zusi could’ve potentially gained an additional 11 points for his efforts thus far. He also leads the league in Key Passes (34) and has seven more than the next closest player in this category as well. Zusi should continue to be one of the most coveted midfielders due to his time on the ball and SKC’s all-out attack style offense.
Big Chances Fluffed – Dominic Oduro (7)
One of the fastest – if not the fastest – players in MLS has been a huge bust in 2012. In the four games in which Oduro has scored, he’s tallied six or more points each time. However, in every other game this season (eight games) he’s managed just two points or less. In his last seven games he’s put up one point or less on six different occasions. Oduro is getting great looks, but he’s missing every single one of them. He leads all players in BCFs and has been deducted seven points total because of it. At this point, he’s more of a risk than anything.
CBI’s – A.J. Soares (123)
My initial pick for Defender of the Year is not having a sophomore slump by any means. His 123 CBIs (clearances, blocks and interceptions combined) leads all players and he’ll likely widen the gap with two games coming up in Week 13. Only three other players have more than 100 CBIs and none of them will be under more pressure than Soares should the rest of the season. He’s an absolute ball shark, but has never really been a threat on set pieces. One can only hope that his recent goal will encourage Jay Heaps to push him up more often.
Recoveries – Osvaldo Alonso (136)
Disregarding goalkeepers, there’s a tight battle for the title of “the best second-ball winner” in MLS. Alonso currently leads Dax McCarty (133) by only three recoveries, but that’s pretty much his only competition. Kyle Beckerman has the third most with 100, and it looks as if his absence due to national team duty will only widen the margin. Alonso has gained 19 bonus points already from recoveries so expect him to keep this all season long.
Transfers In – Nick DeLeon (3,800+)
When David Estrada (3,500+ transfers) started cooling down, DeLeon became all the talk. The D.C. United rookie is currently the most added player with over 3,800 transfers. His value started at $5.5m and quickly made its way to $6.8m. Now that he’s back from injury don’t expect him to return to his previous form. When DeLeon was clicking, DeRo and Salihi were in a slump. Now that they’re back in form, expect DeLeon to take a back seat. He’s still valuable, but not as much as he was back in April.
Dream Team – Kenny Cooper (4)
No one has made the “Dream Team” more times this season than Kenny Cooper, but you have to credit Thierry Henry with helping him reach this point. Coop-dog has scored six or more points on nine different occasions in 2012, making him one of the most consistent forwards in MLS. He continued to put up numbers even when Henry was out, so look for him to only get better now that he’s returned.
Lately, Osvaldo Alonso has been the most-talked-about defensive midfielder in MLS, praised for his outstanding development on both the defensive and offensive side of the ball. This past weekend however, Alonso struggled to get anything going offensively.
When looking at his passes – successful and unsuccessful (image below) – you can see that nearly every attempt to contribute offensively was immediately shutdown by the RSL defense.
Alonso is great at starting the attack, but isn’t the ideal player you want on the ball in the final third. Out of 51 completed passes, he connected with Mauro Rosales the most – 12 times. This is something opposing teams should look to limit going forward.
Because Alonso plays so deep he rarely gets involved in the attack. This is the main reason why he hasn’t scored more than 6 points in Fantasy Soccer: Manager this season. He’s very consistent, but he probably won’t get you that 8-10 point game anytime soon.
One thing we have to credit Alonso for is his ability to keep the game moving. He doesn’t slow down play with meaningless “back passes” – something several other holding midfielders are known for. His defending skills and counter-attacking ability make him exceptionally unique when comparing players at this position. If he can add some offensive qualities to his game, he’ll add even more value to an already potent attacking core.
New York earned their second clean sheet of the season in as many weeks on Saturday with a rookie keeper and a makeshift backline. After grabbing a 1-0 lead just 19 minutes into the game, the Red Bulls had to fight off a barrage of attacks in order to escape with a huge road win. Ironically, it’s the NY defenders that have now become a hot item in Fantasy Soccer: Manager.
Points Breakdown (Week 9)
GK Ryan Meara – 9 points
D Jan Gunnar Solli – 10 points
D Connor Lade – 8 points
D Markus Holgersson – 7 points
D Tyler Ruthven – 7 points
M Brandon Barklage – 6 points
It looks as if New York’s early-season defensive woes could be a thing of the past – at least for now – because if you had any of the guys above in Week 9, your investment paid off. Ryan Meara was tied for third among 'keepers in points scored this past weekend and the rest of the guys didn’t do too shabby either. Brandon Barklage could’ve had nine points, but he’s listed as a midfielder. This only gave him one point for the clean sheet, while Solli (playing midfield) grabbed the full four points. With two games coming up this week most of these guys could be solid pickups, with Meara ($5.0m) and Lade ($4.3m) being exceptional options at a very low price, unless of course, Roy Miller returns.
Let’s take a closer look at the stats and the chalkboards to see how the RBNY defense shut down the MLS Cup 2011 champs.
Possession: LA Galaxy 63% - NY Red Bulls 37%
The Galaxy controlled possession for the entire game, but it wasn’t just meaningless passing in its own half. LA attempted 274 passes in the opposition's half while NY attempted less than half of that (130), with the Galaxy completing 72 percent and the Red Bulls completing 77 percent. In the image below you can see that LA (right) not only flooded the entire half with passes, but they drove the ball into the box repeatedly. New York's possessions are on the left.
Open Play Crosses
LA continuously served the ball into the box hoping that something would come of it. New York only managed four crosses from open play all game, but the Galaxy drove it in eight times that amount (32 crosses). New York (left) connected on just one of their four crosses (25 percent), while LA (right) connected on eight of 24 (33 percent).
Clearances & Interceptions
The defensive statistics were even more staggering. In 90 minutes, the Red Bulls (left) tallied 66 combined clearances and interceptions (28 interceptions and 38 clearances) in the defensive half, while the Galaxy (right) managed just 13 (three interceptions and 10 clearances).
New York were extremely fortunate to have not conceded a goal, but regardless, their confidence has to be growing. Coming up in Week 10, they play the Houston Dynamo at home and the Philadelphia Union away. With both teams struggling, a shutout looks like another possible feat in at least one of the two games, making New York defenders more enticing than they ever have been before.
Last month, I wrote about how defenders are the most consistent scorers in Fantasy Soccer: Manager. Even though they’ll score points for you more regularly (on average) than others, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are the most influential in your team's success. The table below shows the number of point leaders by position, with only the highest scoring player from each MLS team being selected. The table does not include stats from Wednesday night's games.
Point leaders by position (limit one player per team)
Goalkeepers – 6
Defenders – 4
Midfielders – 4
Forwards – 6
*New England credited with both a GK and a defender as point leaders due to a tie
As you can see from the table above, 71 players have scored 30 points or more so far this season – but only 25 players have scored 40 points or more. Also to note, Chicago are the only team without a 30-plus point-scorer and there are still 10 teams without a 40-plus point-scorer as well.
Stacking up on players from certain teams may seem like the best option. Sporting KC get shutouts and they score as well, so pick your poison. D.C. United are great at scoring, so load up on their midfielders and forwards. And Vancouver get clean sheets, so stock up on their defenders.
Now, if we take a point leader from every team can we still manage to keep it under the salary cap? And if so, how successful can they be? Let’s try.
GK – Matt Pickens - $6.0m
D – Lee Young-Pyo - $6.8m
D – Aurelien Collin - $7.5m
D – A.J. Soares - $6.5m
M – Landon Donovan - $10.4m
M – Nick DeLeon - $6.7m
M – Kyle Beckerman - $8.5m
M – Gabriel Gómez - $7.5m
F – Thierry Henry - $10.8m
F – Chris Wondolowski $11.7m
F – Blas Pérez $9.6m
Total Money Spent – $92.0m
Total Points Accumulated – 533
Now, this is a dream team! Sure $8M doesn't leave you enough for subs, but tweak your lineup slightly and you can make it work. And with 533 points, not only will you most likely be first place in your league, you’d be tied for seventh in the nation in total points as well.
It just goes to show that no matter what you decide to do – stack up on players from a few teams or spread it out around league – there’s more than just one way to be successful in Fantasy Soccer: Manager.
Tweet your fantasy soccer questions to @Ben_Jata
These days, 5-3-2 is usually seen as a sign of respect when facing an opponent far superior in strength (e.g., anyone vs. Barcelona).
But to win in Fantasy Soccer: Manager, perhaps it's best to think that you are playing Messi & Co. each week. The FS:M Dream Team has lined up with five defenders four out of five weeks thus far. Ironically, this formation is producing more points for teams than the 4-3-3 and 3-4-3. I myself have been lined up mostly in a 3-4-3 thinking that midfielders and forwards would get me the most points. Fail.
Player HAWAIIFAN13 proved the benefits of the 5-3-2. In Week 5, he rode the formation to 106 points, the second highest score recorded by a team this year.
So what does this mean for the rest of the 2012? Do the stats suggest taking a completely different approach and start dumping midfielders (and even forwards) for defenders? You be the judge.
Players averaging 5.0 points or more per game (by position)
Defenders – 27
Goalkeepers – 12
Midfielders – 10
Forwards – 8
The numbers above should make your decision a little easier. At this point in the season, there is more security in starting defenders than there is at any other position. Honestly, it’s not even close. Forwards and midfielders can be a huge investment, and so far, most of them aren’t living up to the asking price.
Need help with your squad? Tweet your MLS Fantasy Soccer questions to @Ben_Jata
Two weeks into the season in MLS Fantasy Soccer: Manager, and it looks like the newbie, Andrew Wiebe, is the man to beat right now in the ExtraTime Radio Experts League.*
"It's a combination of research and luck," Wiebe told MLSsoccer.com this week. "Sometimes your research pays off. Sometimes your luck gives you the extra push you need. Without both, well, you're Allen Hopkins."
Obviously showing no sympathy for the low man on the totem pole, Wiebe has turned success in the ETREL into some new publicity: He appears on the latest editon of the ExtraTime Radio podcast.
But he is being chased by that crafty Canadian, Luke Wileman, whose team, Great White North, is just three points behind. Can Wiebe hold off the competition in Week 3, when his Bed-Stuy Brawlers face off against the Elusive Playmakers, a.k.a. Kyle McCarthy of Goal.com?
"I definitely can," Wiebe said. "He's got some weak spots on his roster. I think I've got a 15-point win in me."
Bad Idea Jeans = Marc Connolly, ESPN
BadRowePun = Dan Haiek, MLSsoccer.com
Bed-Stuy Brawlers = Andrew Wiebe, MLSsoccer.com
FC Curse of Caricola = Grant Wahl, Sports Illustrated
Elusive Playmakers = Kyle McCarthy, Goal.com
FC Empty Bucket = Jonah Freedman, MLSsoccer.com
Etienne Barbara FC = Simon Borg, MLSsoccer.com
The False DM = Jen Chang, SportsIllustrated.com
Fort Nonsense SC = Jonathan Yardley, FC Dallas TV
Great White North = Luke Wileman, TSN
Ill Eagles = Matt Gaschk, SoundersFC.com
kingDOMEtt = Taylor Twellman, ESPN
Land of Confusion = Jason Saghini, MLSsoccer.com
Leanderthal Albion = Leander Shaerlaeckens, ESPN.com
MLS Reggae Boyz = Mark Rogondino, Fox Soccer
Otis Redding United = Greg Lalas, MLSsoccer.com
Rainbow in the Dark = Max Bretos, ESPN
SBI United = Ives Galarcep, FoxSoccer.com
Slurpee Ratt = Alexi Lalas, ESPN
Witham's Whippers = Katie Witham, freelancer
Ya Mo Be There = Allen Hopkins, Fox Sports
* "Experts" is used loosely here. Kind of like Kim Kardashian's use of the word "marriage."