Stand by your man? No thanks

Three weeks into the season, D.C. United have one win, one loss and one tie, and they've only scored three goals. Argentinian midfielder Christian Gomez has one of those markers, but the other two have come from unlikely sources - midfielder Joshua Gros netted his second career goal, and defender Mike Petke brought his career total to 10 (in his eighth season). D.C.'s attacking triumvirate - Jaime Moreno, Alecko Eskandarian and Freddy Adu - is currently goalless. And my has there been fantasy fallout.

All three players have seen their fantasy values decrease by at least 40,000 MLS dollars since the start of the season. Moreno, the only one of the three to have tallied even an assist in United's first three games, was doing OK until the day after his substitute performance in Friday's 1-0 loss to the Columbus Crew. His value dropped 38,000 dollars that day and fell a further 8,000 on Sunday before rising a bit at the beginning of the week. Eskandarian, in the last two weeks, has seen his value drop nine times, though he's still the most valuable D.C. striker. Young Freddy has been in the red almost constantly since the start of the season.

So what does this mean for MLS Fantasy Challenge players? It means there are at least three very talented strikers out there whom you can buy on the (relatively) cheap.

Realistically, how long can Esky possibly go without lashing a left-footed blast into the back of the net? Moreno has already shown he's the same guy who narrowly missed out on last year's MVP award; he just doesn't have the goals or assists to show for it right now. And Freddy was swinging in crosses on Friday against the Crew like it was a training session; there just wasn't anyone on the other end of them. All three of these players are sure to have success this season, and with their values depressed right now, there will be a lot of fantasy managers - some of whom probably sold their United attackers on Saturday to make a quick buck - whose pockets will eventually be stuffed with fake money.

So, we arrive at an immutable law of the MLS Fantasy Challenge: there is no such thing as a loyalty bonus. Maybe Jaime Moreno helped you win your division last year. So what? This year, he's a prime example of the windfall you could come across if you play stock broker with your fantasy team. If you were one of the people who sold Moreno after Friday's match, you could pick him up again today at a 44,000 MLS dollar discount, which is easy money for your coffers. With that cash influx, you could turn Steve Jolley into Steve Ralston, and let's say United and the Revolution provide a repeat of their 3-3 barnburner in last season's Eastern Conference Final when they meet up this weekend. After the MLSFC-wide spending spree on Moreno and Ralston that is likely to ensue, you'll be laughing your way to the bank and building a juggernaut.

Just as you would play the market with under-performers, it could be a good idea to hit the "sell" button for players whose teams have the weekend off, who will be heading out on international duty, or who are injured. If one of your top performers is sure to be out for a week or two, he's not going to earn you any points, and barring a red card, the worst his replacement can do is zero, as well. But, beware of the risk you are taking. If no one else sells the player (or worse, people inexplicably buy him), you won't get much of a discount when you buy him back, and you will have wasted one of your trades. Also, if you're a day late selling him - after the rush has already begun - you'll get the lower price, and in that case, you've missed the boat, so you might as well just hold on to him.

Furthermore, if you're thinking about selling an established-but-slumping striker, be very careful about doing so immediately before the weekend if he's likely to play that same weekend. Unless you happen to know something no one else does or you have the ability to see the future, Murphy's Law (which takes precedent over any MLSFC law, immutable or not) will take effect, and your dud will turn into a stud and hit for two goals (Ladies and gentleman, Sergio Galvan Rey). The wise idea - more experienced players should already know this - is to do the bulk of your trading as soon as the market opens up after the weekend's matches and keep your eye out for good deals during the week. And never underestimate the "King of Goals" again.

Jonathan Nierman and Jason Halpin will provide the fantasy dish each week throughout the season. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.


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