Fantasy Soccer Doctor: Should you load up on one defense to stock your backline? Risks and rewards

The Fantasy Soccer Doctor is in. Write to FantasyDoctor@mlssoccer.com with a link to your team and a summary of your issue.

Fantasy season has kicked off in earnest, and these few preseason weeks are truly a wonderland. It’s a wildcard period, where you can think and rethink all sorts of interesting combinations.

There are no risks! Not yet anyway. The only thing holding you back is the $120 budget and your imagination – or lack thereof.

Of course, whether you’re treating this preseason as a sandbox or standing pat with your first instinct, most fantasy owners want to build with a sense of direction.

This column only works with your help, so if you think your team needs some medical attention, please send along a brief description of your issue and a screenshot of your team so you can be featured in a future column.

First, a point of clarification. I got an email about the new price-change rules. The answers to that question (and just about any other transfer query) can be found HERE and HERE.

Submissions have already started to roll in, and I’m excited to welcome my first patient into the office.


This week’s patient is Peter Nelson, who is in for a bit of a wellness visit. He just wants to know if there’s anything that he could be doing better. There’s always room to tweak your lineup, so I’m happy to dive in and tackle his question. 

Dear Fantasy Doctor,

My initial roster looks okay. I'm trying to pair defenders on the same team while making sure I have decent midfielders and top strikers.

Any ways I can improve my lineup?

Thanks,

Peter Nelson

Pairing defenders is based around an expectation of clean sheets, more like the way NFL fantasy works with one defensive unit. My issue with the theory is that clean sheets are easier to predict week-to-week than as over an entire month or season. Whitecaps goalkeeper David Ousted led the league in clean sheets last year with 13, which was a huge boost to Jordan Harvey, but it’s the clearances, blocks, and interceptions (CBIs) as well as the recoveries that really guarantee a defender a top spot.

Of course, the hardest working defender will still lose points if their team is giving up goals. So the aim is to find busy-bee defenders on top-five defensive units. If you’re willing to splurge, a goal creator on the overlap is a nice bonus.

Thus, I support the inclusion of Brek Shea, as championed elsewhere by the MLS Fantasy Soccer team, but I’d break up that Sporting Kansas City pair. While Ike Opara is indeed another one of the sleeper picks out there, he and Jalil Anibaba have split time at the same spot in the Desert Diamond Cup. It’s quite unlikely they’ll start next to each other come the opener against the New York Red Bulls. At Anibaba’s price level, you can grab a Waylon Francis, who is the starter at left back in Columbus, gets assists and has home dates against Toronto and the Red Bulls in March.

I’ve championed Gyasi Zardes already, but I’m going to advise caution with Jozy Altidore. He knows the league, but his sparse use at Sunderland puts him a bit on the back foot. The word when Toronto dropped a preseason result to Oklahoma Energy was that the Reds are still finding the gaps to play into Jozy. David Villa only costs a bit more, and he’s been doing fun things in preseason, though keep a close eye on that foot issue.

Andrew Wenger is taking up a chunk of change on your bench. If you feel confident with your forward combo through the first month, exchange him for a player under $5m and find a $8-$9m replacement to champion your midfield. The LA Galaxy's Juninho is an option. He’s a clean-up guy on defense, and with Marcelo Sarvas gone, he’ll be more involved in the attack.

Hope this helps,

Your friendly MLS Fantasy Doctor 

Give your diagnosis in the comments below. What should Peter do?