Fantasy: Bargain-basement Burn

Last time, we talked about the Chicago Fire. Models of predictability, very popular in fantasy circles.

This week, it's the Dallas Burn. They're not quite as highly coveted. You might say the Burn are what's left after the Fire is gone.

With an unbeaten four-game start, Dallas was the talk of MLS. But before head coach Colin Clarke could sell the film rights to his team's comeback story, the Burn lost four in a row and faded.

The Burn's two-game winning streak might not have drawn national headlines, but fantasy players have noticed. The prices for the Burn's key attackers are a bit higher today than they were two weeks ago.

The question today: Buy now, or wait until the next Dallas drought to drive the values down?

The offensive output is no fluke. If you watched Dallas' 2-0 win against the MetroStars, you saw Eddie Johnson ($272,000) and Ronnie O'Brien ($371,000) playing at a higher level than everyone else on the field. And now they have the revived Jason Kreis ($212,000), soon to be the league's top all-time scorer.

Johnson is putting up the best numbers, averaging 59.0 fantasy points per game. That's slightly better than Landon Donovan and Ante Razov, whose prices are considerably higher. (Disclaimer: Johnson was the best buy of the season for Dure's Donkeys.)

O'Brien ranks second among midfielders at 53.0 points. Kreis has a modest total after a gradual return from injury, but his return should give the Burn's offense another gear.

The defense is a more questionable prospect. Dallas has conceded a somewhat stingy 13 goals in 10 games, but 11 came during the Great Four-Game Unpleasantness, which ended with a 4-1 drubbing at the hands of the Galaxy. The good news is that Los Angeles doesn't appear again on the Burn's schedule until mid-September. The bad news is that Cory Gibbs ($206,000) is the one Burn player figuring into the national team picture.

Beyond Johnson, O'Brien and Gibbs, the Burn's players are mainly role players. That means some are bound to be underpriced, particularly Carey Talley ($193,000). Brad Davis ($182,000) is a likely star of the future, but the numbers aren't there yet. Simo Valakari ($194,000) has a thankless job that won't pay off in fantasy value.

BUY: Talley, Kreis, Chris Gbandi
HOLD: O'Brien
SELL: Valakari

In two weeks, the Los Angeles Galaxy will get the "Buy, Hold, Sell" treatment.

On this week's Price Movers chart:

Jeff Cunningham, F, Columbus (+50,000 to $325,000): Often maligned by internet pundits, but not likely to be replaced in the Crew lineup anytime soon, especially with the Stern John return-to-MLS rumors looking dead. BUY

Chris Albright, M, Los Angeles (+37,000 to $262,000): The guy moves farther and farther back on the field, and he finally starts to produce on offense. Go figure. Or just assume that he won't often duplicate his one-goal, one-assist performance against the sort-of Fire, which missed many national teamers. SELL

Joseph Ngwenya, F, Los Angeles (+36,000 to $226,000): A good option while others are hurt or busy with national team duty, but be prepared to sell quickly when the Galaxy's roster is better-stocked. HOLD

Pat Noonan, F, New England (-50,000 to $241,000): Just what the Revs needed, another injury. A strained back, though, isn't the same as a knee ligament. If you forget to sell and find that the price has slipped any farther, he might be worth a short-term hold until the next injury report. If he comes back soon, BUY.

Alejandro Moreno, F, Los Angeles (-30,000 to $384,000): Well, he is tied for first in the league in scoring. But then again, he won't keep his job when Carlos Ruiz and Jovan Kirovski come back. SELL

Joe Franchino, D, New England (-21,000 to $229,000): This isn't fantasy hockey. There are no bonus points for penalty minutes. SELL

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 and sell on 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.


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