MLS Fantasy 101: How to pick the formation that's right for you in Fantasy Manager
MLS Fantasy 101 is your entry-level course to becoming a fantasy soccer manager extraordinaire.
On Tuesday, we discussed how substitutions work. What we didn't mention was that in MLS Fantasy Soccer Manager, substitutions are only as effective as the formation you choose.
Your chosen formation will reflect your philosophy as a manager. Do you throw the kitchen sink and go all-out attack? Or do you bunker down and hope to rack up defensive points? It's a long season, and you'll find that there are many variables to consider when choosing the formation that works for you from round-to-round.
With a few limitations, you can roll out any formation you want. Go to the "My Team" tab on your fantasy page and chose "Set Lineup." Your formation will automatically change based on the players select.
As manager, the final decision will be up to you in your quest to give your team the best chance to earn points. With that in mind, let's take a look at how each formation impacts your team.
I would suggest focusing on attack-minded players such as Javier Morales and Federico Higuain. If you trend toward players on that side of the ball, there's a good chance you'll end up with a three-man backline.
3-4-3 and 3-5-2
Pros: Both of these setups ensure your team is loaded with attacking flair. Since midfielders and forwards are awarded the same amount of points for offensive contributions, you can pick your poison based on the strength of your squad at each position. An advantage of overloading your midfield is that midfielders are awarded 1 point if their club posts a clean sheet (provided they play at least 60 minutes).
Cons: The lack of defenders can be a concern. Even the most high-scoring striker can have an off day. Defenders can pick up serious points, especially those who get forward and contribute to the attack. The three defenders you choose will be crucial in case your attackers miss the target.
Let's say that you have a goalkeeper and two defenders from the same club, one that is tough defensively at home. On a particular week, they host a team who struggles to score on the road. On top of that, the visitor's top goalscorer was just called up for international duty, which we will see plenty of this season as the FIFA World Cup approaches. All the while, your FSM midfield and forward core are dealing with some nagging injuries, leaving you thin at those positions. Now is the time to think defensively.
5-4-1, 5-3-2, 5-2-3
Pros: As mentioned above, if the matchups are favorable, you could potentially earn a lot of defensive points. Additionally, defenders earn an additional point (six points total) for each goal scored. If your defenders get a clean sheet, rack up bonus points and get their name on the score sheet, the fantasy points will start to pile up in bulk.
Cons: Just as a top striker can have an off day, the best defensive units can falter at times, too. All it takes is one goal, and the bulk of the defensive points you were counting on (four points awarded for a clean sheet) are out the window. At that point, you can only hope for some offensive production from your defenders.
Pros: This is a "meat and potatoes" formation. You have a good mix of defenders, midfielders and forwards. You aren't relying heavily on one facet of your lineup, and you have the potential to earn points from every position.
Cons: You are expecting production across the board. If you get poor production from any one area – defense, midfield or forwards – it could scuttle your week.
Pros: In fantasy, the 4-3-3 could potentially be grouped with the attacking formations. While you have firepower up top with three strikers, it still gives you additional insurance at the back if you're confident in your defenders matchups. Plug in some attacking midfielders and the 4-3-3 could be just the right mix.
Cons: Again, if your strikers fail, you will have to fall back on your midfielders and defenders. With just three midfielders, even a mediocre day from your defense could spell disaster.
Pros: With the 4-5-1 there is potential to earn additional defending points across the board. With the extra point earned for midfielders whose clubs don't concede, this formation could prove fruitful. If you can find five attack-minded midfielders with a solid defenses behind them, you could set yourself up to earn a good share of defensive and attacking points.
Cons: You will have two forwards sitting on your bench, in lieu of an additional midfielder or defender. With goals at a premium, you may be wishing you included that extra striker who scored a hat-trick but earned zero points for your fantasy team because he was on the bench.
Ultimately, every manager can make an argument as to why one formation is better than another. As the season plays out, you will find that there's a different approach to take week in and week out.