Playoffs Scoreboard

Recap
Leg 1
11/23 FINAL
1LA
0SEA
RECAP
Recap
Leg 2
11/30 9:20pm
SEA
LA
ESPN
Western Conference Championship
Recap
Leg 1
11/23 FINAL
1NY
2NE
RECAP
Recap
Leg 2
11/29 3:00pm
NE
NY
NBCSN
Eastern Conference Championship

Fantasy: No reason for excuses

and most importantly, MLS Fantasy Challenge participants -- should have a much better idea about what to expect on the field.

Here's a look (by position) at what the early season has shown us so far and how to use this knowledge to wiggle your way to the top of your fantasy league (or stay there, if you happened to buy Clint Dempsey at the start of the season).

GOALKEEPERS

You're not happy if Brad Guzan is your man. Twelve times in five games the rookie has had to pick the ball out of the back of his net. While the fingers can't be pointed at him every time, he clearly has some learning to do. Scott Garlick has proven to be the bargain from the start, the veteran locking out Jeff Cassar from a starting position and cruising to a 3-1-1 record with a goals-against average of 0.80.

Looking to make a change?

Nick Rimando in D.C. won't cost you much, providing you trust that Peter Nowak's championship side has properly addressed their defensive issues. Keeping the Wizards scoreless last weekend is a step in the right direction after allowing six goals in their previous three league matches (not to mention the 5-0 drubbing at the hands of Pumas in Mexico). Similarly, Bo Oshoniyi and Kansas City also finally kept a clean sheet. Garlick is somehow cheaper than seven other starting 'keepers, so he's probably the best value for your buck.

DEFENDERS

Beware of the goats -- a shaky 'keeper and a back line that has more holes than a donut shop does not bode well for racking up fantasy points. FC Dallas and the surprising Revs have given up a goal a game or less, though two scores against New England came by way of the penalty spot. Wade Barrett has been a good addition to the Quakes 'D', but they clearly need more help, having given up a shocking 11 goals in five outings.

Looking to make a change?

The two most expensive defenders in the MLS Fantasy Challenge are Jimmy Conrad (K.C.) and Mike Petke (D.C.). Both are among the elite in the league individually, but their teams are struggling. Revs rookie Michael Parkhurst is a relative bargain averaging 36 points per game. He hasn't missed a minute of action so far this season. His teammate Avery John is even cheaper and averages 40 points per games. There are plenty of other affordable options, mostly coming from teams still looking to find top form.

MIDFIELDERS

Clint Dempsey is a fantasy player's fantasy: four goals and three assists in five games, bringing in a whopping 128 points per game. However, don't jump on the bandwagon at this point. The chances he can keep up this rate for the whole season are very slim. His price will come down in time. The (unrelated) Ramirez, known on their jerseys as 'Ramon' (Chivas USA) and 'Pando' (L.A. Galaxy), haven't yet reached their peaks, though they have shown flashes of what is likely still to come. The Quakes' Danny O'Rourke has already shown that he will be successful in this league and United's Josh Gros obviously didn't have a fluke in his rookie season in '04.

Looking to make a change?

Youngsters Justin Mapp (Chicago) and Eddie Gaven (MetroStars) have stepped up their games in recent weeks. Another Fire man, Thiago, is a good value, having averaged 35 points in his five appearances. Sasha Victorine (Kansas City) should be back from injury soon, meaning he is available at a good price.

FORWARDS

Landon Donovan is back and back on top. Similarly to Dempsey, his price will likely dip if his scoring pace slows. Try to be patient and snag him when he's more affordable. Freddy Adu has seen limited action but provided a spark when he enters matches. It's only a matter of time before the 15-year-old opens his account. Sergio Galvan Rey (MetroStars) has consistently been inconsistent. Several accomplished MLS goal scorers (Clint Mathis, Davy Arnaud and Ante Razov to name a few) are learning the ropes in new positions and at new clubs. They are all safe bets to turn the corner and start producing.

Looking to make a change?

The aforementioned triumvirate is moderately priced. Youri Djorkaeff has looked like the Metros' most dangerous attacker when he's in the game. Alejandro Moreno (San Jose), Luchi Gonzalez (Colorado) and Nate Jaqua (Chicago) have all found net this season and will probably do so again. If you're building around a marquis man, Eddie Johnson and Carlos Ruiz (both Dallas) are both hot, but be prepared to make sacrifices in other areas of the field.

The season is still young and much is likely to change, but the first five weeks of the season can speak volumes. Don't fret if you find yourself trailing, there's plenty of time to make up ground. Even the goats aren't yet out of it.

Jonathan Nierman is a contributor to MLSnet.com. He will cover the fantasy leagues, along with Jason Halpin, every other week throughout the season. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.


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