Fantasy Report: Building a winning squad within the cap

Fantasy: Bruce Arena and Dominic Kinnear

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OK, so you’ve decided to sign up for MLS Fantasy Soccer: Manager. And you got started with the last column. Now you need to pick some players to create your team.

This should be easy, right?

Well, hold on. This is a salary cap game, after all, which means you will need to make some compromises. But you can still sign that big-money striker without giving up too much in the supporting roles.

The Roster

You have to pick 15 players, which must include select two goalkeepers, five defenders, five midfielders and three forwards.

Once your team is made, you will select 11 starters — you only get points for your starters — so you will want to keep that in mind when selecting your players.

Also think about the formation you want to play. This can have a strong bearing on how you spend your budget. For example, if you are going to play a 4-4-2, you will want to compromise with your third striker so you have more to spend on your backline. If you choose a 3-4-3, you can go with inexpensive options for defenders four and five.

I have chosen a 3-5-2, which allows me to cut corners in the defense while powering up in the midfield.

The Budget

The salary cap is $100 million. For 15 players, that comes out to an average of $6.66 million per player. But the pricing in FS:M makes this tight — similar to the tightness real MLS managers like last year's MLS Cup finalists Bruce Arena and Dominic Kinnear have to manage.

Ideally, of course, you would want every superstar who earns top points — Landon Donovan ($10.5m), Chris Wondolowski ($11.5m), Dwayne De Rosario ($11.0m) — on your fantasy squad. Typically, you’d think that’s impossible. Not true, but you’ll have to make some hard decisions.

Both Donovan and De Rosario are midfielders, so you’re going to have to compromise in the other midfielder positions. Try a rookie like New England’s Kelyn Rowe ($6.0m) or Toronto’s Luis Silva ($5.5m), both of whom will most likely see regular playing time and could contribute a few points. Other decent options are younger experienced players like Chivas USA’s Jorge Villafaña ($6.0m) and Perry Kitchen ($6.0m), who are just waiting to break out.

You could also make cuts on defense. And should. But keep in mind that the scoring system has been shifted this year to reward defenders more than in the past. For instance, every player gets one point for playing in a game and one additional point for playing 60 minutes. Defenders usually play the full 90 so they have an easy two points every game.

If you choose to go for $4.0m defenders, saving all your money for the strikers and attacking midfielders, odds are you will have a backline that never actually plays. Therefore, you will most likely be giving up at least six points every game (based on a three-man backline).

In addition, defenders are rewarded handsomely for defensive success. First, if no goals are conceded, a defender receives four points, while a midfielder receives one point and a forward receives zero points. A defender also can accumulate points for blocks and interceptions. (CLICK HERE to see the scoring system.)

Plus, if a defender scores a goal, he receives six points — one more than the points given to a midfielder or forward. Those one points can add up.

So, the key is to find cheap defenders who you generally believe will play regularly. Montreal’s Tyson Wahl ($5.5 million), Columbus’ Carlos Mendes ($5.5 million) and LA’s Tommy Meyer ($4.5 million) are my picks.

Trust me, spending the extra money for three (in my case) defenders who will play is worth it.

Then, of course, go as cheap as possible with your two bench defenders.

My Roster

Starters

Goalkeeper: Ryan Meara (NY)
Defenders: Tyson Wahl (MTL), Tommy Meyer (LA), Carlos Mendes (CLB)
Midfielders: Dwayne De Rosario (DC), Landon Donovan (LA), Nick LaBrocca (CHV), Kelyn Rowe (NE), Felipe (MTL)
Forward: Chris Wondolowski (SJ), Juan Pablo Ángel (CHV)

Bench

GK Andy Gruenebaum (CLB), D Hunter Jumper (CHI), D Alex Lee (DAL), F Antoine Hoppenot (PHI)

Jimmy Bowers is a former MLS fantasy champion.