Monday, February 10, 2014

Beginner's guide to fantasy MLS

The old beginner’s guide is a couple years old now and sorely out of date, especially with the rules changes this season. So I’ve updated bits and pieces of it this year to make it applicable to this year’s game.

Rule 1: Read and understand the rules of the game.
This cannot be overstated. The quickest way to become a decent fantasy manager is to simply understand how your team will score points. Understand the scoring, understand the deadlines, understand how substitutions come into play, understand how the captain’s armband works.

Rule 2: Don’t forget about your team.
I see it happen all the time; people select their team and then just leave it alone. You will not win if you do this. Injuries happen, players fall out of favor, the national team comes calling, your star player’s team doesn’t have a game this week and you left the captain’s armband on him. These are all things that can kill your chances of doing well in fantasy. You have to pay at least a little bit of attention to your team so you can make appropriate substitutions and transfers. You can always check the upcoming fixtures table over at MLSfantasyboss to make sure you’re staying on top of that.

There are a couple of websites that track injuries that I check the night before deadline. Neither have been updated for this season, but are valuable resources once the season kicks off.

Rule 3: Don’t choose defensive midfielders.
Defensive midfielders are a complete waste of space in your fantasy roster. Players like Alonso, Beckerman, Larentowicz, Juninho, etc. are all important players for their team in real life. None of them will ever find a spot in my fantasy team because their primary role is to win the ball, not score and set up goals.

Rule 4: Don’t fall for early-season over-performance.
There are always a few players who score a goal/assist or two in the first couple games and everyone jumps on board and transfers them in. Sometimes this is the right move, most of the time it’s not. If they weren’t on our radar before the season, chances are their early returns will not continue. Last year had a prime example of this: Jack Mcinerney came out of the gates strong racking up points and managers transferring him in. Then he completely disappeared and did nothing the second half of the season, but a lot of managers were still playing him.

This rule has a bit more leeway than the first two, as sometimes it might be a good idea to bring in a forward or attacking midfielder early if it looks like they will explode right out of the gate.

Rule 5: Pick the known quantities
This one seems obvious and most people have it down. If you’re new to MLS and know a player’s name, there’s probably a good reason for that. Players like Zusi, Keane, and Valeri are pretty safe bets that anyone should feel comfortable enough picking them.

Rule 6: Don’t pick a bunch of unknown quantities.
This is essentially the inverse of rule 5. Every season there are a few big-name transfers into MLS and a crop of rookies that get a lot of hype and people get too excited and pick those players for their fantasy team. Often, first-time MLS players take a bit of time to get used to the style of play and gel with their team. Even though a player looks like a quality signing on paper, they tend to take a bit of time to adjust to their new teammates and level of physicality of MLS.

Rule 7: Pay attention to a player’s actual position.
There are always times where the game lists a player in a position they aren’t actually playing in. Sometimes this works in our favor, and sometimes it doesn’t. Players playing in a more advanced position than they are listed as can add opportunities to score offensive points but still collect clean sheet points from the positions they are listed as. Last year’s examples are Rodney Wallace (listed as DEF but really played as a winger) and Mike Magee (listed as MID but really played as a FWD). Time will tell on this year’s out of position players, but a speculative list can be found here.

Rule 8: Don’t wear your team colors.
Aside from rule 2, this is probably the most common mistake I see fantasy managers make. If you are a fan of San Jose, you can’t just pick 4 San Jose players while completely ignoring everyone wearing an LA Galaxy shirt. You’ll be missing out on a lot of really good players from LA and might be letting your fandom blind you to how bad Steven Lenhart really is for fantasy soccer.

Rule 9: Players generally perform better at home.
It is a well-known fact that teams play differently based on whether they are home or away. Away teams play more defensively, which oddly means that the home team is more likely to collect a clean sheet and also score goals. Keep this in mind when selecting your squad. You obviously want to start your superstars, but your midrange and cheap options should take into account whether they are home or away this week.

Rule 10: Use your transfers wisely.
We are allotted a ton of transfers in the MLS fantasy game, 2 per week if you average it out. It generally is a good idea to look ahead a few weeks when deciding to bring in a player to make sure that the upcoming fixtures are favorable and he will be likely to produce fantasy returns.

However, sometimes there is a single fixture that is just too good to pass up. With so many transfers allotted, it probably isn’t a bad idea to bring in a Keane, Valeri, or Higuain for a single game if they are playing at home against a team like Chivas who concede a lot of goals on the road.

1 comment:

  1. A lot of great information here that some other Beginner guides have overlooked. Enjoyed the read and I appreciate the plug for MLS Fantasy Boss.