Buy, hold, sell: Unpredictable Galaxy
The Los Angeles Galaxy's season so far calls to mind a classic exchange from the best sports movie of all time, "Bull Durham", between the Bulls' long-suffering manager (the late Trey Wilson) and his chatty coach (the great Robert Wuhl).
Wilson: He walked 18.
Wuhl: New league record!
Wilson: Struck out 18.
Wuhl: Another new league record! In addition he hit the sportswriter, the public address announcer, the bull mascot twice ...
Yes, the celestial ones have become the MLS equivalent of Nuke LaLoosh. Even after a 1-0 decision Sunday, they lead the league in goals scored and goals allowed.
That's good for the league. In a season of frankly gutless 1-1 ties, Los Angeles has become the team most worth watching. With Sunday's game stuck at 0-0, head coach Sigi Schmid brought Carlos Ruiz off the bench in place of midfielder Ned Grabavoy, and defender Hong Myung-Bo went racing forward with the ball against the Chicago defense. Italian soccer coaches probably scoffed and turned off the satellite feed, but it was the kind of play MLS needs.
For fantasy purposes, of course, that's not necessarily a good thing. A wild team can produce unexpected and unwelcome results. But as a fan of the league, let me just say that anyone who drafts as many Galaxy players as possible has my respect. Live a little. (For the record, there are no Galaxy players on the Dure's Donkeys roster, which may explain all the red, downward-pointing arrows on the team page.)
The Galaxy offense is too good for its own good. They boast four of the top 10 scorers in the league, and the only one who has played every match so far is midfielder Andreas Herzog ($455,000). Forwards Alejandro Moreno ($219,000), Carlos Ruiz ($550,000) and Jovan Kirovski ($323,000) are well up the list despite missing the odd game, and fourth forward Joseph Ngwenya ($198,000) has made the most of limited time.
If you're a short-term trader, this is your team. It's an easy pattern if you have time and money for daily transactions: Find out Ruiz or Kirovski will miss a game, pick up Moreno or possibly Ngwenya, then sell five minutes after the game ends. No disrespect to this group, but the Galaxy could line up with my dog and a rickety recliner at forward, and Herzog would probably find a way to bang the ball off them for goals.
Long-term buys are trickier. Ruiz is always in the middle of the fray and is therefore injury-prone, so paying the highest salary at MLS Fantasy Challenge might not be worth it. (Also, without him, Guatemala might not have pushed its way past Suriname in World Cup qualifying, so you can bet his home country will call again and again this fall). Moreno and Ngwenya are overpriced for their playing time, and Herzog is overpriced for a midfielder.
On Schmid's teams, the goals can often come from anywhere. This year, though, that means Kirovski might just let one fly 50 yards into back of the Chicago net, not that the defenders and midfielders (beyond Herzog) will score. This isn't D.C. United, where Dema Kovalenko can somehow end up offside. The forwards are the goalscorers, period.
In midfield, Sasha Victorine ($224,000) has a few assists and is a strong aerial presence on set pieces. If the price dips on Cobi Jones ($223,000), consider taking a small gamble on a veteran who isn't yet in the flow of things. Grabavoy ($181,000) deserves to keep a spot in midfield, while Marcelo Saragosa ($187,000) has one assist to show for more than 1,100 minutes of playing time.
Goalkeeper Kevin Hartman ($255,000) has been a productive fantasy player in the past but this year is one of those classic cases of being great on the field and not so good in the fantasy stats. The defense has some talent and could be coming together in front of him. In the case of Ryan Suarez ($135,000), the defense is actually coming together behind Hartman, but alas, goalmouth blocks don't count in this game.
Still, the defense is available dirt-cheap at the moment, and Suarez played a big role in a rare Galaxy shutout. If this is a turning point, you'll be glad you picked him up now. Other pick-ups carry more risk because Danny Califf ($177,000) has some injury problems, and his absence or presence will have a ripple effect on the lineup.
Chris Albright ($247,000) has figured out how to play offense now that he lines up all the way at the back. Good for him, but his fantasy value is diminished a bit because he's listed at midfield instead of defense.
BUY: Suarez, Grabavoy, Kirovski
HOLD: Victorine, Moreno (for the moment)
SELL: Hartman, Jones, Saragosa, Herzog
In two weeks, we'll look at the surprise team of the season, the Kansas City Wizards.
Sunday's Price Movers chart is a bit too skewed to analyze. The top six players and eight of the top 10 on the "Gainers" chart played in Sunday's game. Looks like we have a lot of short-term traders this season.
On the "Losers" chart, it's a little puzzling to see the league's top goal scorer, Brian Ching, dropping $64,000 to $308,000. Unless there's injury news that eluded the usual sources, he's now a BUY.
Beau Dure covers soccer for USATODAY.com, and will looking at the fantasy futures markets every other week for MLSnet.com. Send your questions about who to buy, hold or sell for your fantasy team to Beau and they could get answered in future columns. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.