Full disclaimer: this has been a disastrous year for me in MLS Fantasy Manager. I'm barely hanging on to a Top 100 spot in the 86F league, I'm nowhere near my Top 20 finish among Vancouver Whitecaps supporters from last year and my bank balance is abyssmal: cash plus assets is a scant million dollars above the starting balance. This is what I get for hanging on to players for too long and for allowing a fantasy manager's worst enemy - emotion - to dictate transfer policy. Refusing to take Landon Donovan ($12.0m) out of spite or either of the Seattle Sounders' attacking duo out of regional hatred might help my Vancouver supporter credentials but it killed my fantasy team. You'd think after years of hockey pools I'd have learned my lesson to be dispassionate - apparently not. Let this be a cautionary tale to all you poolies out there: Obi-Wan was wrong. Trust the numbers, not your feelings.
To the fantasy round-up, then, and it's a new dawn for Philadelphia Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath ($4.6m). With current number one goalkeeper Rais Mbolhi ($4.8m) on international duty with Algeria, MacMath will be called into action again and fantasy owners will (or at least should) be watching his performance closely. Mbolhi had a howler of a game last time he started; a sterling MacMath performance, combined perhaps with another penalty save, might relegate the World Cup veteran to the bench as the playoff drive comes to a conclusion. Riding the hot hand is never a bad idea late in the season and fantasy owners would certainly benefit from a hot hand that's also slightly cheaper.
That's not the only news on the goalkeeping front, either. Over with the now-eliminated-from-playoff-contention Colorado Rapids, head coach Pablo Mastroeni has been juggling netminders with alarming regularity. All three of his available goalkeepers have seen playing time - actual, honest-to-goodness league minutes - in the last four matches, which is astounding on a player development level, mystifying on a league managing level and horrifying on a fantasy managing level. Trying to predict who Mastroeni will start on a given day has been challenging enough; seeing the goals being shipped by any of Clint Irwin ($4.0m), Joe Nasco ($3.8m) or John Berner ($3.7m) is just plain disheartening. Fantasy managers, steer clear. (Player development aficionados, pay close attention. Once Colorado recovers from their injury woes and perhaps upgrades the defense in the off-season, the Rapids now have three league-tested GKs on their roster. That's not nothing.)
Speaking of eliminated teams, with the season effectively over for the Chicago Fire, Montreal Impact, San Jose Earthquakes, the afore-mentioned Rapids and
Chivas USA TBD, it's time to watch the bargain bin for players that may get playing time in preparation for next season. There's nothing but pride on the line for all of the above teams - even less if you're the team formerly in existence as Chivas - which makes this an ideal time to give the rookies a chanc to prove themselves. You're not going to get major points off these players but as serviceable bench options, you could do a lot worse. Keeping a close eye on each team will serve you better than an after-the-face analysis from me, though I'll throw out recommendations right now for San Jose youngster Tommy Thompson ($4.4m) and Montreal's Eric Miller ($4.5m).
Onto the best score of the round in the Eighty Six Forever league and, for once, there were no wild triple-digit scores atop the rankings. There was, however, one person with one name and one score that stood above the crowd. That would be Nathan of VFC with 96 points, the 11th-best score in the entire game:
If you haven't yet figured out the pattern of "buy Seattle/LA players and captain one of them", I'm not sure what else I can tell you. Impressively, Nathan was safe no matter which striker he chose to captain as both Robbie Keane ($11.8m) and Obafemi Martins ($9.7m) had twelve points without the armband. Well done, Nathan! Enjoy 28th spot, a mere 314 points behind Richard Matthew of DamagedGoods who currently holds the top spot. I'm sure you can make up the difference... maybe... possibly?
To the third-last round of the year, then, and Toronto FC, the Houston Dynamo and San Jose all have precious double-game weeks. Here's the full schedule:
- As much as it pains me to say it, of the three DGW teams, Toronto FC looks to be the safest pick of the lot. Don't go mass-selling your Seattle, LA or D.C. players, though - if you have space to grab a player or two from TFC, do it. Gilberto ($8.1m) is finally starting to produce like somebody in his price range and hype value, though it should be noted he's tied for highest-scoring Toronto player with defender and goal-scoring machine Nick Hagglund ($5.6m). My top recommendation would (still) be Joe Bendik ($4.4m), who is a points-scoring goalkeeper at a bargain price.
- Know what's good for bumping slumps and turning bad form around? Playing cruddy teams. This week sees team-in-crisis Sporting Kansas City take on kings-of-draws Chicago Fire; unsurprisingly, me likee Sporks in this matchup. Dom Dwyer ($8.4m) and Benny Feilhaber ($8.1m) are still exceedingly cheap for their output, so be confident in picking them up.
- ...but, honestly, who cares? Seattle, LA and D.C. are the hottest teams with the hottest players in the league. Cram your roster full of as many starters as you can and watch the points roll in. The end of season is fantasy easy-mode, folks; if you've wisely managed your bank account (and goodness knows I failed at that big-time this year), now is the time to spend it on the hottest players money can buy.
- My knee-jerk reaction when seeing the list of DGW teams was "load up on Houston Dynamo" - despite losing Tally Hall ($5.4m) for the season, the Dynamo are still fighting for a playoff spot and looking good doing it. Then I saw their international call-up: Jermaine Taylor ($7.0m), Luis Garrido ($7.4m) and Boniek Garcia ($9.8m)? On top of Houston's injury crisis? Yeah, um, no. Pass.
- "Portland vs. San Jose, Round Two" does not look good the the already-eliminated 'Quakes. They had their chance to severely dent the Timbers' playoff chances and couldn't do it, giving the captain-less Lower Cascadia team a moment to rally around. That's not good for anybody visiting Providence Park and, wouldn't you know it, here come the Earthquakes to the land of hipsters for more pain and suffering. Avoid, avoid, avoid.
- The quarantine wing is piling up with teams and players, so we'll focus on teams technically still in the playoff hunt. This week's quarantined team is, surprisingly, FC Dallas. The Hoops have been worryingly inconsistent during the stretch drive due to injuries and, one assumes, Oscar Pareja being a Grade-A jerkwad. Handle with care.
If you could take away one lesson from this year's fantasy pool, what would it be? Let me know in the comments section below and I'll see you next week for another fantasy round-up!