Here are a few tips to help you select your squad for second legs of the conference semifinals of Fantasy Soccer: Manager before Wednesday night’s action begins.
Field Player to Buy – Álvaro Saborío (Real Salt Lake, $10.2 million)
Along with MLS’ 2012 Golden Boot winner Chris Wondolowski, Saborío (above) scored the most home goals this season (13, 0.81 GF/g). He finished third in MLS in goals (17) during the regular season and marked a 0.64 goals per 90 minutes. Among forwards left in the playoffs, he’s tied for third in big chances created (5), seventh in points per game (4.6 ppg), eighth in value season (14.5 VF) and ninth in clearances, blocks and interceptions. In last year's MLS Cup Playoffs, he scored three goals in three games. Oh, and did we mention two of those goals were scored at Rio Tinto Stadium against the Seattle Sounders? Can history repeat itself Thursday night? I say yes.
Field Player to Sell – Fredy Montero (Seattle Sounders, $11.1 million)
In four matches against Real Salt Lake this season, including regular season and playoffs, neither Montero nor any other Sounder has scored a goal. Montero’s spark has seemed to disappear as of late, scoring just one goal in his last seven games and none in his past four games. In this span, he’s only averaging 2.86 fantasy points per game. Playing up top with a recovering Eddie Johnson and possibly without assist man Mauro Rosales, I don’t see Montero breaking his spell.
Goalkeeper to Buy – Jimmy Nielsen (Sporting Kansas City, $6.3 million)
Nielsen led the league in clean sheets this season (15). He and his backline also allowed the least amount of goals in MLS (27, 0.79 GAA) and second least at home (12, 0.71 GAA). Among goalkeepers left in the playoffs, he’s sixth in saves (79) and recoveries (276), and eighth in clearances, blocks and interceptions (19). This proves how strong of a defensive line Nielsen has to support him, which explains why he is second in value season (26.8 VS), third in form (5.5 F) and value form (0.9 VF). With Houston up 2-0, I believe the Dynamo will hold back and focus on retaining their lead. With that being said, Nielsen isn't likely to be pressured or have many opportunities to protect his net this leg.
Goalkeeper to Sell – Josh Saunders (LA Galaxy, $6.8 million)
On Wednesday night, Saunders will pay a visit to Buck Shaw Stadium to defend the posts against the San Jose Earthquakes, who’ve scored the most home goals (43, 2.53 GF/g) and league goals (72, 2.12 GF/g) this season. Saunders has only registered one shutout in the Galaxy’s last seven games, averaging just 3.86 fantasy points per game. In three regular-season matches against the Quakes this season, he and the Galaxy backline allowed nine goals (3.0 GAA), going 0-2-1. Furthermore, two of those games were at San Jose, allowing six goals (lost 4-3 and tied 2-2). Knowing how successful San Jose are at home and how the first leg ended with Víctor Bernárdez’s late free-kick winner, I just don’t see Saunders shutting down the Earthquakes.
Surprise Player This Round – Joel Lindpere (New York Red Bulls, $8.1 million)
Lindpere is seventh among remaining midfielders in the playoffs in crosses (38), eighth in big chances created (four) and 12th in key passes (35). He has only scored one goal in his past eight games, averaging just 2.88 fantasy points per game. But thanks to Andy Najar’s childish red card last Saturday, he’ll be going up against a right back that is either inexperienced (Chris Korb) or has dealt with an injury for most of the year (Daniel Woolard or Robbie Russell). I think Lindpere will have a field day on Wednesday night at Red Bull Arena, with the potential for numerous crosses and key-pass opportunities to lead to goal.
Surprise Player Last Round – Víctor Bernárdez (San Jose Earthquakes, $6.5 million)
In the first leg of the Western Conference Semifinals, Bernárdez stole the show in the 94th minute with his free-kick goal against the Galaxy, giving the Earthquakes a 1-0 aggregate lead to take back home to Buck Shaw Stadium. With the addition of a clean sheet, playing all 90 minutes for the Quakes and four defending bonuses, the big Honduran defender vaulted to the top of the round’s Dream Team with 16 fantasy points.