(Psst! Join our MLS Fantasy Manager league! The code is 245-361.)
Going over last round's Dream Team we find ourselves greeted with no small number of small prices. Yes, the likes of David Villa ($11.2m) and Kendall Waston ($9.2m) are still there, as well they should be, but so are bargain bin players like New York City FC's Kwadwo Poku ($6.7m), FC Dallas' Kellyn Acosta ($6.3m) and the Next Great Hope For Canadian Soccer™ himself, Orlando City SC's Cyle Larin ($6.0m). Combine those with the budget picks that I highlighted in last week's column and you should be able to build a squad that no longer relies on space-filling players like Otis Earle ($4.0m) or Dominique Badji ($4.4m). The more your depth raises its value, the more likely you can flip that depth for bigger and better pieces later on. Or, heck, if your cheap players are raking in points, ride those ponies to the finish line and laugh like a hyena as your opposition waits patiently for the likes of Jozy Altidore ($10.0) to start paying dividends.
Looking at this coming week, it would appear on the surface to be a fine round for fantasy manager: no double-weeks, no byes and some interesting matchups to invest in (more on that later). There's just one problem: it's MLS All-Star Game week. All those stars you know and rely on? Yeah, they're either injured, "injured" or playing in a friendly against Tottenham Hotspurs - neither option being a great one for fantasy managers. With what appears to be the final roster update taking place on Tuesday, ten players see their fortunes affected: Steven Gerrard ($10.1m), Robbie Keane ($11.5m), Michael Bradley ($10.4m), Chris Tierney and Frank Lampard ($10.0m) are all out with injury (allegedly). Taking their places are Ethan Finlay ($9.1m), Waylon Francis ($6.4m), Gyasi Zardes ($9.8m), Juninho ($8.8m) and Sam Cronin ($5.6m). So, what does this mean for you? If you own Lampard, nothing - you're an idiot for getting him in the first place. If you're well invested in LA Galaxy stock, this could be problematic. Gerrard and Keane could be precautionary withdrawals or they could have a legitimate knock; regardless, Zardes and Juninho will be taking their places and that's at least 45 minutes of exertion their club team doesn't need in a week where they're travelling to Colorado anyway to play the Rapids in league action. Considering how woeful LA's road form was against the Houston Dynamo, this might be a good time to divest yourself of the Galaxy and bank whatever profits you can.
As for the other players, Finlay, Francis and Cronin strike me as being fit enough to go 45 minutes in the All-Star Game and still play for their clubs on the weekend. The only question marks that jump out at me are Kaká ($11.7m) and Sebastian Giovinco ($12.7m). Giovinco, according to the MLS Injury Report, is nursing a heel bruise which might limit both his ASG and MLS playing time. As for Kaká, he's a veteran player who could probably do without the exertion of double-game weeks at this stage in his career. The big take-away here is this: wait until the last moment this round to make your transfers. Be absolutely, 100% certain you're getting non-injured, starting players on your roster before committing to your moves. With no Friday game this week, you have until Saturday afternoon to make your moves. Do your research and all should be well.
(EDIT: July 29th, 11:21AM - Giovinco is definitely out of the ASG. Altidore is in to take his place. Clint Irwin ($5.3m) added as a 3rd GK.)
Finally, since I'm never too proud to incessantly brag - for your benefit, of course - who called that Laurent Ciman ($7.9m) would have a big game against the Seattle Sounders? Me! I did it! It was me! Hurrah! I'm not a complete moron! Parade! Balloons! Dah dah, dah-dah-dah, dah-dah-dahhhhhh...
Round 20 Top Score
There's little point in going over the top of the Eighty Six Forever fantasy league leaderboard, since our top dog remains Barbara Red of Paisley SC. Instead, let's take a look at those challenging Barbara's dominant reign and not talk about how that goal by the San Jose Earthquakes ruined my fantasy weekend. (Having Cyle Larin as my second sub, not first, didn't help either. All those juicy points gone! *cries*) Wouldn't you know it, there's a familiar name to 86F regulars charging up the places: Spencer Phinney, whose ABCDE FC now sit in 14th place after a solid 90-point round. Of the legitimate (and I use the term loosely) challengers to first place, only one - Duncan Nicol of Meow Meow Beenz FC - had a respectable score with 88. That means, despite my attempts to not wax on about the powerhouse that is Barbara Red, it looks like her 98-point haul is the b-
Wait, what's this? A 99-point week from the back of the table?! Why hello there, Felipe Favita of Filo Team:
Seeing Cyle Larin in someone's starting XI while he's one sub position away from relevance on my team is pushing me dangerously close to go-cry-in-the-shower mode.
Matchups To Watch
3. New York City FC vs. Montreal Impact
The Impact are still a horrible, awful, no-good, very bad road team. NYCFC, surprisingly, are beginning to find their form in the baseball-y confines of Yankee Stadium. Sprinkle in the emergence of Kwadwo Poku and this could be a fantasy bounty for
Man City Jr. New York.
2. Philadelphia Union vs. New York Red Bulls
The Union have finally found a way to stop being horrible. You can point to a number of factors - goalkeeping crisis over, C.J. Sapong ($7.2m) woke up, Cristian Maidana ($9.2m) woke up - but the only point that matters is that they're winning. At home against NYRB gives the Union the always-vocal support of the Sons of Ben. One complication: NYRB are coming off a bye week and are in a pretty good stretch of form right now: four wins in five, with the one loss being against the red-hot Columbus Crew. There will be points here.
1. Seattle Sounders FC vs. Vancouver Whitecaps
No Obafemi Martins ($11.7m). Questionable Clint Dempsey ($11.8m). The only Whitecap involved in the ASG is David Ousted ($5.7m). Vancouver has Seattle's number at the CLink (#S4att1e). Gimme gimme gimme gimme that Cascadia Cup! (Rampant homerism in one of my columns?! Noooooooyes.)