MLS Fantasy is back, and the people over at mlssoccer.com are mixing it up a little bit.
In a departure from the Premier League's system of valuation, defenders, midfielders, and forwards are now priced just about evenly. While defenders are still slightly cheaper than forwards and midfielders this year, they are no longer millions of dollars apart, as they are in the EPL game, and as they were in the previous MLS games.
The budget and roster have also been expanded. Instead of 15 players with a $100 million budget, the game now requires 18 players per roster, with a budget of $120 million. The larger rosters allow for more flexibility, giving you the option to create a team of superstars with a few rookies filling out the squad, or 15 average players capable of contributing every week.
While there are a few other teams in the league, I thought I'd look at how the Union factor into Fantasy MLS. Take into account that you can only have four players from one team on your roster.
Zac MacMath ($5.0) - MacMath was actually the fifth best goalkeeper in the game last year, and he should be able to put up a similar performance this year. While the loss of Jeff Parke certainly does hurt this Union defense, the addition of Maurice Edu and Austin Berry should soften the blow. If Berry and Amobi Okugo can figure it out quickly, it's completely reasonable to expect another double-digit clean sheet total and triple-digit save tally. There might be better options at this price level, like Seattle Sounders' Stefan Frei or Sporting Kansas City's Eric Kronberg, but MacMath should be a cheap, solid 'keeper this year, unless he loses minutes to...
Andre Blake ($4.5) - Blake is probably the most dangerous competitor that MacMath has had as a starter. If Zac starts scoring own goals with his face again (which isn't really to be expected, as MacMath has progressed greatly since last year) then Blake might start to see some time in between the sticks. If he does start at some point this season, he'd be only the second starting goalkeeper valued at $4.5, the other being Chivas USA's Dan Kennedy.
Brian Holt ($3.5) - Holt probably won't see any minutes this season, and at $3.5, there are a few 'keepers valued lower than him. He has no real value as either a provider of points or as a "throwaway" player.
Amobi Okugo ($9.0) - Amobi was a popular fantasy option last year, when he was listed as a midfielder. Okugo's appeal was his consistency, as he rarely recorded fewer than three points in a week, but could often score five to six. Since he's in the game as a defender this year, his upside increases greatly. Now, with a clean sheet and a fair number of clearances, blocks, and interceptions (CBAI) and recoveries, he could score eight or nine points in a week. The price should give you pause, as Amobi is one of only eight players priced at $9.0 or above. If you have the cap room, then Okugo will be a very sturdy addition to your backline.
Austin Berry ($8.0) - He played every minute for Chicago last year, which is a stat that should be incredibly attractive to fantasy owners. Chicago's defense was pretty bad in 2013, posting only six clean sheets. Berry was in the top five for CBAI last year, and a few more clean sheets should help his already solid points output, which saw him tie with our next player for the 18th highest score among defenders.
Sheanon Williams ($8.0) - He isn't in the top 30 in either recoveries or CBAI, but his true value lies in his service into the box. Among defenders, Sheanon was in the top 15 in crosses and top 10 in key passes.He was also tied for third in assists, and should see a fair number of those once again this year, as the game will now count secondary assists. With the new 4-3-3 in tow, Williams will have a great deal to do with the team's offense.
Ray Gaddis ($7.0) - Gaddis's defensive stats are barely better than Sheanon's, but, unlike Williams, Ray rarely gets up the field. Considering that he won't start this season, you should probably stay away from Ray.
Fabinho ($6.5) - Fabinho's CBAI and recovery totals should be fairly close to Sheanon's, but he might have more license to bomb forward. It's evident that he has a wicked cross, and with Cristian Maidana pinching in from the left, Fabinho will have a ton of room to send balls into the box. He's definitely the sleeper pick of this defensive unit, thanks largely to his offensive potential.
Ethan White ($6.5) - White won't see much time unless Okugo or Berry suffer an injury. If you are looking for a Union defender priced at $6.5, may I suggest Fabinho?
Maurice Edu ($9.0) - Edu should be a steady source of recoveries, at the very least. The best case scenario would see him chipping in with a few goals and assists, as well as key passes. 140 to 150 points would not be an unreasonable estimate, which would put him at around 15th to 20th in midfield.
Vincent Nogueira ($8.5) - I think that Nogueira will be one of the best No. 10s in the league this year, but much of his fantasy output will depend on the guys in front of him. He should finish in the top 15 in key passes among midfielders, and he will have a fair number of goals and assists from free kicks, but his point total will be decided by Jack McInerney, Sebastien Le Toux, Maidana, and Conor Casey. I expect him to provide plenty of opportunities, and $8.5 might prove to be a very reasonable price at the end of the season. There are a bunch of options at this price level in midfield, but I'd certainly recommend giving him a look.
Sebastien Le Toux ($8.5) - After Real Salt Lake's Javier Morales and SKC's Graham Zusi, Seba was third in key passes and sixth in crosses among midfielders. His repeated crossing to Casey really paid off for him, but he might not be playing the same role this year. Le Toux might be asked to pinch in from the right this year, and effectively be the second forward along with either McInerney or Casey. He could see more goals, but his assist numbers will likely decrease due to crossing less frequently. You should take into account Le Toux's uncertainty in the lineup, as Hackworth has considered starting Danny Cruz in his place.
Cristian Maidana ($7.5) - The Argentine should produce a fair number of key passes cutting in from the left. He'll look to play McInerney or Casey through, tee up Nogueira and Edu, and even play a few crosses. He might take some corners this season, and it seems like he could be a danger during the run of play. There is a lot of competition at $7.5, and I'd suggest a wait-and-see approach for Maidana to see if he's the real deal.
Brian Carroll ($7.0) - BC is a consistent source of recoveries, but not much else. You know what you're getting with Carroll, and there's far more downside than there is upside.
Danny Cruz ($6.0) - Cruz might actually start this year, but a supersub role seems much more likely. Either way, he's a fairly useless fantasy player, as hustle stats don't really translate to the game that well. He has never been much of a stat monster, so I'd suggest you look elsewhere for a $6.0 midfielder.
Zach Pfeffer ($4.5) - The Brotherly Game's Frank Cobbina is largely in support of Pfeffer getting some time this year, possibly even at right wing. While he probably won't start early on in the season, he could start to see some time as games go by. At $4.5, it's worth it to keep an eye on him.
Pedro Ribeiro ($4.5) - I love Pedro Ribeiro. He is the best. He might not even play this season, but he is the best. If he does play though, he will show that he is the best. For real though, he's a pretty flexible player, and could play in five of the six spots in the midfield and attack. If he isn't sent to HCI, he will likely get some minutes this season. His playing time probably won't be significant, but I just wanted to say that he is the best and you best remember that.
Keon Daniel ($6.0), Michael Lahoud ($5.5), Corben Bone ($6.0), Matt Kassel ($5.5), Jimmy McLaughlin ($4.5) - These players probably won't have much of an impact ("What do you mean by impact!?") on the team this season, and some could be banished to Harrisburg.
Jack McInerney ($8.5) - Some forwards bring things to the table that aren't scoring, such as hold-up play, speed, or incisive passing. Jack only knows how to find space and score, which isn't a bad thing, unless he's failing to score. At $8.5, Jack is a gamble considering his inconsistency and competition. If he shows that he's figured things out early on this season, then pick him up immediately.
Conor Casey ($7.5) - As he proved last year, Casey can be a magnificent target when healthy. He's currently missing due to injury, and this will certainly not be the last time that he is unavailable for this reason. Conor is in the same boat as McInerney in that I wouldn't put them on my team to start the year.
Antoine Hoppenot ($6.0) - Hoppenot will likely come off the bench again this year, meaning that he's fairly worthless fantasy-wise.
Aaron Wheeler ($6.0) - I would be interested to see Wheeler get some time at center forward in this formation, but it appears that he is a center back now. Don't put him on your team.
Cristhian Hernandez ($4.5) - Hernandez will probably go to Harrisburg again this year without seeing the field for the Union. At $4.5, he's not cheap enough to use as a throwaway.
Don't forget to join the Brotherly Game's MLS Fantasy League. The link is right there, but the code is 246-43 if you would rather enter that way. I don't judge.