Fantasy: Production off the bench

Craig Waibel and Troy Dayak -- are done for the year with knee ligament injuries, and two of the most productive players on the club -- Brian Ching and Brian Mullan -- are out for at least a month and possibly more. Down in Dallas, Richard Mulrooney's first season with the Hoops has come to an early end with a torn ACL.

If you're a fan of either of these clubs, these injuries are gutting. If you're an MLS Fantasy Challenge manager, they might be worse. You'll probably spend a lot of time changing your roster in the next two days, if you haven't already. Trying to replace injured players and still trot out a decent lineup could lead some managers to remake their whole squad and drain their trades a lot sooner than they had expected, and that's not fun for anybody.

Before you dismantle your squad and start from scratch, though, there is one thing you should keep in mind. The first place you should look for replacement players is the bench. To put it another way, check out the guys who are replacing injured players in real life.

In San Jose, Ricardo Clark shifted from his midfield spot to right back to fill in for Waibel, second-year defender Ryan Cochrane stepped into Dayak's place in central defense, and Quakes coach Dominic Kinnear was thrilled with both of their performances on Saturday. So, at least for a little while, both appear to have earned starting roles at the back and could be worth a look, especially since the Quakes have notched two consecutive shutouts and looked very organized. Keep an eye on this situation, though. Word is that the Quakes will look to pick up a defender to replenish their rearguard, so Clark's and Cochrane's starting spots might not be permanent.

Keeping with the Quakes, Mullan's absence leaves a significant hole on the right side of their midfield. On Saturday, Ian Russell replaced Mullan, and he could see more action in the coming weeks. Another option is midfielder-defender Wes Hart. Neither prospect looks enticing, though, so you might want to look elsewhere in this instance.

At forward, however, Ching stand-in Alejandro Moreno could help you out. With the Galaxy last season, Moreno filled in for Carlos Ruiz at the beginning of the year and went on a tear, scoring on the first five shots he took. And thanks to some good service from former teammate Andreas Herzog, Moreno notched a hat trick against D.C. United last April. The naysayers out there may point out that Moreno has yet to prove himself week in and week out, but there's one good reason to have a look at him: Brad Davis.

Davis has had a hand in all four of Ching's goals this season and a league-leading total of six assists. This could be seen as cause for concern among Davis owners, but really it's the other way around -- it's cause for calm among players considering picking up Moreno. Consistency concerns aside, Moreno has shown that at the very least, he knows how to be in the right place at the right time, and with Davis making sure the ball meets him there, Moreno could finally establish himself.

In Dallas, Mulrooney was enjoying an outstanding opening stretch for his new team, and it seemed he was on his way to his best attacking season. Unfortunately, that is not to be, but again, the best option to replace him may come from the FC Dallas bench. In the Hoops' first match without Mulrooney, Oscar Pareja lined up in the Tennessee native's spot, but he may not be the guy you want. The guy you want might be the one who replaced Pareja on the hour mark Wednesday and had a hand in Ronnie O'Brien's game-tying goal: Ramon Nunez.

Nunez is just 19 years old, and he's mostly flown under the radar while fellow youngsters Freddy Adu and Eddie Gaven grab the headlines. However, it's becoming apparent that Nunez is well worth the sixth overall pick Dallas used to get him in the 2004 MLS SuperDraft. He has led the Honduras Under-20s to a spot in next month's FIFA World Youth Championship, and with performances like Wednesday's, he could earn more playing time (and more points for your fantasy team).

Jason Halpin is a contributor to MLSnet.com. He will cover the fantasy leagues, along with Jonathan Nierman, 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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