It feels good to turn my fantasy focus entirely north of the 49th parallel for once. It feels even better to do so on a positive note regarding the Vancouver Whitecaps. I've shied away for the most part from covering our beloved Blue and White, partially to avoid rampant bias and partially because I couldn't find any solid fantasy picks aside from Pedro Morales ($8.6m) for the longest time. After the epic defense of the Cascadia Cup this past round in Seattle, however, the Vancouver backline have thrust themselves into the conversation. Pity it's so late in the season - two games left with Kendall Waston ($7.0m) suspended is not the best time to sing the clean-sheet-earning praises of the 'Caps. Still, a quick look at the Vancouver rosters reveals goalkeeper David Ousted ($4.8m) is the second-highest fantasy scoring player on the team. (11 clean sheets will do that.) Not far away, Jordan Harvey ($6.9m), Andy O'Brien ($6.5m), Steven Beitashour ($7.1m) and Matias Laba ($6.8m) are clumped together in a quartet of defensive-minded players all above the 100-point mark. Say what you will about the Whitecaps (heck, that's our job here at Eighty Six Forever); this season they seem to have the defensive half of the squad finally figured out. If they can hold that cohesion and improve the attacking half in the offseason, Vancouver may be an attractive fantasy pick next season, too.
On the flip side, we have Toronto FC - they of the hype train to end all hype trains. Jermain Defoe ($11.3m)! Michael Bradley ($9.8m)! It's a bloody big deal! Get hyped, Toronto! Except... hey, wait, what do you mean our top fantasy scorer is defender Nick Hagglund ($5.6m)? What do you mean Defoe is roughly a hundred points(?!) behind the pace of his peers at that price point? What do you mean Bradley is behind scoring luminaries like Tony Tchani ($6.5m, 125pts), Giles Barnes ($7.5m, 145pts) and Luke Mulholland ($6.0m, 118pts)? What do you mean Laba used to be a TFC player until he was forcibly loaned out owing to an inability to count the number of Designated Players on a team? Oh dear. In short, Toronto FC is a fantasy tire fire. The bang-for-your-buck ratio is all over the map, with busts like Defoe and Bradley contrasted with half-decent picks like Gilberto ($8.1m, 101pts) and Jonathon Osorio ($6.7m, 99pts). There lies bloody madness, not bloody big deals - Hagglund being the lone exception and he's out this round on a red card suspension.
Over in the 86F Fantasy League, it's shaping up to be a three-horse race to the finish line between Richard Matthew's DamagedGoods, minisoccertime and Derrick Freedman's Rino's Vancouver SC. DamagedGoods currently has a 46-point lead over minisoccertime, with Rino's Vancouver SC another nine points back. That should be enough to see Richard through to the title and the bragging rights that go with it, but as any fantasy manager will tell you, all it takes is one good week (or bad week, depending on whose team it is) to change everything. One such good-week manager is Dan Larrea of Euskadi, who broke the triple-digit mark - the only person in our league to do so - with a healthy 102. Here's how he did it:
So, that Diego Valeri guy is kinda good, eh? Captaining a solid offense-minded player fighting for a playoff spot = a good plan. When said player nets you a brace, all is right and good with the world. The afore-mentioned Barnes chipped in a lovely 15 points, while Bradley actually had a decent round. Pity he's out on yellow card suspension next round... oh well. Good job, Dan!
No DGWs this week and Chivas USA is on a bye. If any of you are seriously affected by this bye, hand in your fantasy manager credentials now and report to basic training for a full re-education. Here's the full schedule:
- The final two matches of the season feature a home-and-away tilt between the Seattle Sounders and LA Galaxy. If you haven't already loaded up on a full compliment of these players, do whatever you can to make it happen. These games are going to be intense as the two titans of the Western Conference slug it out for the Supporters' Shield and all the perks that come with it. Clean sheets may be tough to come by; attacking chemistry? Bet on it.
- Columbus Crew SC can punch their ticket to the playoffs with a single point against the New York Red Bulls, who are attempting to pass Sporting Kansas City and take 3rd spot in the Eastern Conference. In other words, you have two more teams fighting for something very tangible with a lot of perks. Heck, with back-to-back wins and a few results in their favour, Columbus could vault into 3rd place themselves. While that's compelling in and of itself, there are more and more black-and-gold jerseys popping up in the Research page of MLS Fantasy Manager. This stretch drive has pushed Columbus from "good depth pick" to "fantasy starters". Heck, Steve Clark ($5.3m) is the second-best fantasy goalkeeper in 2014. Even better: with the exception of Federico Higuain ($10.0m), the players over 100 points are all under $8.0m. Heck, Justin Meram is $6.0m with 108 points. Late-season value? Yes, please.
- Meanwhile, D.C. United get to chew on the Chicago Fire for 90 minutes in what should be a blowout and possibly a clean sheet. There are plenty of good options here, from Bobby Boswell ($8.9m) to Fabian Espindola ($8.5m) to Perry Kitchen (6.5m).
- Bad news for Real Salt Lake fans: defender Chris Schuler is done for the season with a broken face. Even worse, there's concern the multiple fractures could mean damage to Schuler's vision - a horrifying prospect. All the best to Schuler for a safe recovery. If you haven't done so already, replace Schuler before RSL takes on the Portland Timbers this weekend.
- I still cannot fathom why 18% of fantasy managers feel the need to keep Brenton Griffiths ($4.1m) on their bench when they could easily upgrade to Eric Miller ($4.5m). If you're going to stash a cheap player on your bench, at least make it's one that occasionally plays! See also: Dylan Remick ($4.1m, 33.9% owned, 31pts) vs. Chris Duvall ($4.7m, 11.1% owned, 52pts).
- The San Jose Earthquakes will be playing the final two games of their season with an interim coach. Wonderful for 'Caps fans, horrible for fantasy owners. Into quarantine you go, 'Quakes!
This is perhaps the most important sign-off question I've asked all season: will you be back next season for more 86F Fantasy League action? I hope so - I'll be there for sure and I hope you'll join me. See you next week!