Fantasy: In through the window

With less than a week before the transfer window closes and MLS rosters are frozen through MLS Cup 2005, it's time we take a look – from an MLS Fantasy Challenge perspective – at those players who have joined the league since the window opened on Aug. 15. We'll note what they've done so far and make an educated guess regarding what you can expect of them in the final six weeks of the regular season.

Let's start with the most high profile summer transfers – those of Chivas USA. Striker Juan Pablo Garcia and midfielder Paco Palencia are the big guns here, and like brides-to-be at a Filene's Basement wedding gown sale, fantasy managers rushed to snap up both players, who were relatively inexpensive at the time. Neither player was available to fantasy managers until after their first game against the MetroStars, in which Palencia scored twice and Garcia chipped in a goal as well, and neither player has tallied a goal or assist in the club's two games since then.

So, do Palencia and Garcia have real fantasy value? Yes. Two of Chivas USA's major problems before the two players arrived were the inability of the midfield and forward line to link up in the attack and plain old poor finishing on the part of the strikers. Both Palencia and Garcia have shown the ability to ameliorate both issues and should each put up a few goals in the stretch run. Don't expect a goal per game scoring rate from either, but they could help you if you're in a neck-and-neck race with a fantasy rival. Our one concern is the asking price: each is sixth at his position in fantasy value. Would you rather have Garcia for 384,000 or Dwayne De Rosario for 75,000 less?

Also joining Chivas USA in August were goalkeeper Sergio "Matute" Garcia and defender Hector Castro. The latter blew out his knee before seeing any action for his new club, so forget about him. Garcia stands to see plenty of time between the posts in the final few weeks of the year, but given Chivas USA's leaky defense, he really should only be considered if you're having goalkeeper problems and don't have much cash.

The other expansion team, Real Salt Lake, also added four players, picking up defenders Robert Scarlett, Gustavo Cabrera and Adolfo Gregorio and striker Melvin Tarley. Scarlett is the best bet here. He's sort of a left-footed Chris Albright, able to get into the attack easily, and for that very reason, he's being used as an outside midfielder in Salt Lake City. Scarlett has yet to register a goal or assist, but the fact that he's already played three complete matches is promising.

Gregorio is an option if you need a cheap fill-in, having seen action as a substitute in RSL's last three matches, while Cabrera has been injured and should probably be avoided. Tarley only costs 123,000, and like Palencia and Garcia, he might be good for a couple of goals in the next six weeks.

Two other players have joined Western Conference teams in the past three weeks, as midfielders David "Dedi" Ben Dayan and Mark Wilson signed with the Colorado Rapids and FC Dallas respectively. Neither seem to be very good late-season fantasy pickups, as Dedi has played just 49 minutes so far (though he has registered an assist) and though Wilson might see plenty of action in the coming weeks, he's never been much of a scorer.

In the East, another talented player who probably won't be a tremendous fantasy addition is New England Revolution midfielder Daniel Hernandez. In his initial five-year stint in MLS, Hernandez registered a total of four goals and 13 assists, so it's probably not a wise bet to think he'll get on the score sheet much this month. Hernandez's appearance points, however, could help a bit. The better fantasy buy in the Eastern Conference is D.C. United defender Facundo Erpen. The Argentinean has already tallied 105 fantasy points at the back of a D.C. United team that doesn't allow many goals.

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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