OK, all you MLS Fantasy Soccer: Manager contenders, the time has finally come for the MLS playoffs, and there’s a nice twist to kick things off: In the Knockout Round, you will have unlimited transfers. Yes, you read that right: unlimited!
Use this opportunity wisely so that you have players who you think will be on the winning teams and move onto the next round so that you don’t have to use as many transfers in the next round.
The Knockout Round consists of only two games. First, the Chicago Fire host the Houston Dynamo on Wednesday night at Toyota Park (9 pm ET, ESPN2, live chat on MLSsoccer.com). On Thursday, the LA Galaxy host the Vancouver Whitecaps at the Home Depot Center (10:30 pm ET, NBCSN, TSN in Canada, live chat on MLSsoccer.com).
Here are a few tips to help you set up your squad for the Knockout Round of FS:M.
Field Player to Buy – Robbie Keane (LA Galaxy, $10.6 million)
The Castrol Index’s No. 1 player is on a roll leading into the playoffs. Keane has scored five goals and connected on one assist in his last six games, averaging 6.14 fantasy points per game. He is currently third among forwards in key passes (54), fourth in points (159) and points per game (5.7 ppg), and sixth in form (5.5 F).
In the Knockout Round, Keane and the Galaxy will host the Vancouver Whitecaps, a team they’ve beaten twice at the Home Depot Center this season 2-0 and 3-0, respectively. In those two games, Keane collected one goal and tallied one assist. He is also no stranger to success in the playoffs. In the Galaxy’s 2011 championship campaign, Keane found the back of the net four times in four playoff games.
Field Player to Sell – Darren Mattocks (Vancouver Whitecaps, $5.8 million)
After scoring six goals in a six-game span in the middle of the season, averaging 5.67 fantasy points per game, Mattocks looked to be the solid choice for the 2012 MLS Rookie of the Year Award. However, that's not the case anymore.
In his last 12 appearances, Mattocks has scored just one goal amidst inconsistent playing time. In Vancouver’s last 10 games, he started three games, appeared in four and didn’t even play in the other three games. In this 10-game span, he has only averaged 0.81 points per game. Given his current slump and his fruitless performances against the Galaxy this season, I wouldn’t pay any attention to him this round.
Goalkeeper to Buy – Josh Saunders (LA Galaxy, $6.9 million)
Saunders and the Galaxy backline have shut out four of their last six opponents at home. Furthermore, he’s only allowed four goals in their last six home games (0.66 GAA), averaging 6.33 fantasy points per game in this span. Among goalkeepers, Saunders is fourth in clean sheets (four) and holds a 1.18 GAA at home this season.
In addition, he has already shut out Vancouver twice this season at the Home Depot Center, as mentioned above. The 'Caps have also been shutout five times in their last seven games. With that being said, Saunders is the right choice for this round.
Goalkeeper to Sell – Tally Hall (Houston Dynamo, $6.6 million)
Hall has allowed 27 goals in 16 away games (1.69 GA) this season. What’s more concerning is Houston’s backline has allowed nine goals in their last four away games (2.25 GAA). The Dynamo are 0-1-2 against the Fire this season, having been outscored 4-2. In their most recent match back on Sept. 2, Houston lost 3-1 at Chicago.
Surprise Player for This Round – Chris Rolfe (Chicago Fire, $7.1 million)
Rolfe is no stranger to the MLS Playoffs, having now been part of a postseason team for each of his six seasons in the league. In his last nine playoff games, he’s registered four goals and linked one assist. Among forwards, he is first in big chances created (7), fourth in clearances, blocks, interceptions (53), sixth in points per game 4.9 (ppg), seventh in “value season” (15.4 VS) and eighth in recoveries (92).
Overall, Rolfe’s a well-rounded player, earning fantasy points in various categories that others aren’t. However, he hasn’t found the back of the net in his last five games and in the two games he played against the Houston Dynamo this season, he did nothing. With the odds not leaning towards Rolfe’s way earlier in the year, I think the time has come to put an end to this drought.
Surprise Player from Last Round – Laurent Courtois (Chivas USA, $6.2 million)
Last round, Courtois came into the game against FC Dallas with 10 minutes left, down 2-0. But in that brief cameo, he scored and assisted on the game-tying goal for a 2-2 draw. Not a bad way to end your season. With an addition of one attacking bonus, Courtois computed ten fantasy points in just 14 minutes of play.