The 2017 season started off with a bang, as the Portland Timbers welcomed MLS expansion side Minnesota United FC to Major League Soccer by routing them 5-1. After opening night, goals were a little harder to come by, as the other 10 matches produced a total of 14 goals and nine clean sheets.
Since clean sheets have been upgraded from four to five points in MLS Fantasy this season, most of you probably felt the boost in your Round 1 score. With that change and the decrease in price for defenders, is it finally time to start thinking about playing more than three defenders?
Let’s take a look at exactly how each of the positions fared in Round 1 compared to their average scores from last year. I’ve only included matches with 60 or more minutes played in my charts, as otherwise the clean sheet bonuses don’t come into play:
The midfielders and forwards are off to a start that’s slightly behind 2016’s numbers, but I expect them to perform better as the season progresses and the teams start to gel. However, the interesting thing to note here is that not only did the goalkeepers and defenders increase by over one point per game, but their average scores were well above the attacking positions. It’s too early to draw any conclusions, but it’s definitely worth considering adding a fourth defender to your starting XI if this trend continues.
Another big reason why you may want to consider a four-man back line is that the defenders now seem to be the premier value play in MLS Fantasy. Now that the top-tier defenders only cost $6.5 million in fantasy budget, the top value players are almost exclusively defenders:
2016 Top 20 Players, Points Per Game Per $
(Five match minimum)
2017 Top 20 Players, Points Per Game Per $
You can see that for every fantasy million you spend on a defender that picks up a clean sheet, you’re potentially going to get two points per game per million spent, where even the top performers in 2016 barely cracked one PPG/$. Finding the Christian Deans and Jared Watts out there is going to be key to maximizing your score within your fantasy budget this season.