MLS Fantasy expert Ben Jata spoke with Chicago Fire forward Quincy Amarikwa about one of his many hobbies: MLS Fantasy. Amarikwa is tied with midfielder Jeff Larentowicz for the team lead in goals (two) and his 19 Fantasy points are third on the Fire as well.
A spot starter for multiple teams since entering the league in 2009, Amarikwa is currently the No. 1 option at striker for the Chicago Fire. And he's quite the bargain in MLS Fantasy.
JATA: This year you started out the season as a backup to Juan Luis Anangonó, but since then you've started the last three games in a row. Did you feel like you had the opportunity to become a regular starter in preseason and did you expect it to happen so quickly?
AMARIKWA: I think I had the opportunity to become a starter in preseason and I think my preseason performance really challenged for that position. Knowing Frank [Yallop] and having played for him in the past, I know that he is more than willing of giving guys, who are deserving of an opportunity, a chance to prove themselves. Coming into the season I knew that if I got the opportunity to show that I should be starting, Frank would definitely make the decision to make that move. And after Chivas USA, he did that.
My career has always been, "Hey, you have 10 minutes to show what you can do. We don't care if you haven't started in the past, or if you haven't done anything before, prove why you should be here." I think because of that it's served me well, and anytime I have the opportunity to show what I can do, I've done that.
JATA: You tweeted a picture after the game about how you captained yourself in MLS Fantasy against D.C. United, a game in which you scored in the 82nd minute. Is that something you do every week regardless of whether or not you're starting or would you give it to someone else, on your team or another team, if you thought that they had a favorable matchup?
AMARIKWA: Nope. I play Fantasy as unbiased as possible. Last week, I captained Robbie Keane up top because I thought he was due for a goal against Salt Lake. And he scored. So he came through big time for me there. I coach my team based on how I feel about performance and matchups.
JATA: In 2012, you ended the season valued at $5.9 million. In 2013, you ended the season valued at $6.5 million. This year, you were given a price of $5.5 million to start. Were you surprised about the valuation you were given?
AMARIKWA: Not necessarily. I think last year I wasn't put into the game until later in the season, so I think my value was a little high at $6.5m. I'm happy [with where it's at] because I think I got myself in at the base price point.
JATA: Would you consider yourself a sleeper, a bargain pick, a must-have or all of the above?
AMARIKWA: I think all of the above. The fact that you can get me in up top for so cheap and also still have room for two big-time forwards, I think it's a must-have. But I could be biased in my opinion.
JATA: What's your ideal formation?
AMARIKWA: It all depends on the matchups I see and how I've allocated money. I usually go with a 3-4-3 just because I can put myself up top at such a cheap amount. Sometimes I go with a 4-3-3. Most of the time I'm running with three up top because I can fit myself in.
JATA: You and Harrison Shipp are both listed as forwards in the game and each of you are right around the same price. Furthermore, you both have 19 points right now. Who is the better option?
AMARIKWA: Well, he should be listed as a midfielder. If he was listed as a midfielder I would have him on my team. But obviously I'm going to go with myself on that one.
The one thing with Harry is that he's been taking a lot of set pieces, so he's getting a lot of bonus points. But he's not in the box scoring goals. So if you're thinking in terms of bonus points for crosses, he's going to be crossing them into me and goals get you more points than crosses. That's how I'm looking at it.
But if he was a midfielder, I'd say he's a lock. You have to put him in the midfield because he's going to get crosses. He's going to take set pieces. He's probably not going to get any yellow cards because he's not really an aggressive guy. And he's going to play 90 minutes.
JATA: Obviously Mike Magee had a phenomenal year last year. So much so that he was the most-captained player in Round 1...
AMARIKWA: [chuckles] Yeah. A lot of people were pissed about that, huh?
JATA: Do you see him putting up similar numbers in 2014 or do you think, with the 4-1-4-1 formation Frank has gone with this season, that he will be more of a facilitator rather than a finisher?
AMARIKWA: I don't know if facilitator is the right term. He's a forward, he likes to be in front of the goal and he's a pure finisher. I think Mike's still getting into the swing of things. He had that injury early in the season, so it's just going to take him time to get back to match fitness. Mike is a player who's looking to score at any moment. He's got quality finishing ability and I wouldn't bet against him in front of goal.
JATA: Other than yourself who's the best player on Chicago to own right now?
JATA: Besides anyone on your team who do you think is the most undervalued/sleeper in the game?
AMARIKWA: I got Shea Salinas in there early because he's taking all San Jose's set pieces. I've played with him and he can run just as hard in the first minute as he can in the 95th minute, so he's always going to be getting down the line and getting some crosses in. The other one is Joao Plata. But then he pulled his hamstring. He was definitely one – before he got injured – to lookout for. Kyle Beckerman really surprised me. He's been scoring goals and doing real well out there.
JATA: What type of research do you do? Do you base your decisions on gut instinct or team matchups?
AMARIKWA: I usually go off of team matchups. I do a little research. I look at what the top guys are doing as well. Last week I really liked Álvaro] Saborío up top, but I was short 1 million, so I put Erick Torres in. Torres scored, which was awesome. He's been doing really good. It was between him and Saborío, but Saborío just costs way more.
JATA: Do you have any MLS Fantasy goals that you've set for yourself this season?
AMARIKWA: To win, obviously. I don't want to talk a bunch of crap. I want to say I got the most points in real life and I got the most points in fantasy.
JATA: Lastly, do you have any advice for people playing MLS Fantasy for the first time? Was last year your first year?
AMARIKWA: Yeah, last year was my first year. I've never played fantasy sports before.
AMARIKWA: Yeah, never. I enjoy playing sports a lot, but I never followed any particular sport, other than UFC. I don't even know if there's UFC fantasy, but I'm a fan of MLS. Ever since I came to MLS I've enjoyed watching games. Then when I found out there was a fantasy game, I definitely [wanted to try it].
JATA: So, any advice for first time players?
AMARIKWA: I guess I have an unfair advantage because I've played with a lot of the guys in the league, but I would say watch as much MLS as possible. [Read] the content on sleepers and must-haves, watch the videos – red light, yellow light, green light (check out all the "Starting Lineup" episodes here). Basically, watch as much MLS as you can and your team will do great.