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Fantasy Report: How to play the transfer market

All right, MLS Fantasy players, the 2012 MLS season has begun and Round 1 of MLS Fantasy Soccer: Manager has officially ended.

So how’d you do? Did you jump to the top of the table or did your team take a nosedive (like mine did)?

Regardless, just about every manager does the same thing after week one: He tweaks.

In the first three rounds of action, you receive only one “free” transfer per round. Beginning in Round 5, the amount of transfers you receive per round varies. Check out the transfer schedule here.

But you can make more than the allotted transfers. You just have to pay. Every additional transfer beyond the allotted “free” amount will cost you 4 points. Is it worth it? Depends.

When to Transfer

Ideally, there are five moments to make transfers.

1. Byes. When a player’s team has a bye, it can hurt your team, especially when it’s one of your best players. In the next three rounds, the Columbus Crew (Round 2), LA Galaxy (Round 3) and Houston Dynamo (Round 4 and 5) have byes. So, in those rounds, it can be useful to use your transfer to ship out a guy you know won’t play and replace him with someone who will.

2. Two games in one round. Obviously, players with two fixtures in the same round have a better chance of earning you more points. This won’t happen this year until Real Salt Lake and the Montreal Impact both have two matches in Round 5. So in a couple of weeks, be sure to pick up players such as RSL’s Fabián Espíndola and Javier Morales, and Montreal’s Justin Braun and Felipe.

3. National team duty. Players throughout the season will be traveling with their national teams for friendlies, tournaments, qualifiers, etc. If you have any of the 20 or so MLSers called into their respective Olympic teams for this month’s CONCACAF qualifying tournament, make a change. Now.

4. Injuries. Different from the other factors here, you cannot plan for injuries. You have to be proactive here. Before the first game of every round, check out the injury report, which is updated on Tuesday and Friday evenings.

5. Home games. This is one that most people overlook. Teams usually play better in front of their home crowds. Last season, for example, 15 of 18 MLS teams posted winning records at home and, among all teams, the average total goals scored at home was 25.5, vs. 18.4 on the road. In the next three rounds, the Seattle Sounders — last year’s most explosive offense — play three home games in a row. Long story short: Transfer Fredy Montero into your team.

A couple of quick notes about some special features regarding transfers this year.

Transfer Wildcard

The limit on the number of transfers every round can sometimes be a hassle. Maybe your team runs into a combination of injuries and bye weeks and you need to do something drastic just to field a side that won’t embarrass you.

You can actually do it. But you can only do it once.

The “Transfer Wildcard” is like the nuclear option. When all else fails, the Transfer Wildcard allows you to perform unlimited transfers without losing any points. You can only use the transfer wildcard once during the season. So use it wisely.

Transfer Fees

Yes, you can make — and lose — money in the transfer market.

If you sell a player for a higher price than you paid, there is a “sell-on fee” of 50 percent (rounded up to the nearest 0.1 million). That means that your profits will be garnished. For example, if you buy a player for $4.2 million and sell him for $4.5 million, your profit of $0.3m will docked by 50 percent (rounded up, that comes out to $0.2m, for those playing at home), and you will receive $4.4 million.

That extra $0.1m probably won’t mean you can buy Landon Donovan or anything (if you don’t have him already), but it will help.

Jimmy Bowers’ Fantasy Report appears exclusively on MLSsoccer.com.