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Major League Soccer: Player Picks Week 3

Remember that this guy, his funky hair, and some other good young MLS players are absent due to Olympic Qualifying (Photo by Layne Murdoch/Getty Images)
Remember that this guy, his funky hair, and some other good young MLS players are absent due to Olympic Qualifying (Photo by Layne Murdoch/Getty Images)
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Fantasy game formats are a funny thing. Take the same person (me). I have a fairly strong track record when playing fantasy sports. However, change the circumstances slightly and my ability to shine can be dramatically different. What do I mean?

We've only had two weeks of MLS fantasy so far but my results in the two games (which I've spent about equal amounts of time on) have varied wildly. Thus far, I have been rocking the ESPN "FC Manager" game to the tune of being ranked 80th total out of however many people are playing the game (I'd guess about 15,000). The game has gone OK but I'm hovering at 2444 overall out of about 11,500 total players. Given that I didn't intentionally take a different approach to the two games, that's a fair amount of variance.

The difference? Prices to start the season. The forced managers to be MUCH more creative to get 15 productive players under the salary cap. In EPL fantasy, I actually prefer the requirement to be more creative because it generally favors people with deep knowledge and a willingness to read a lot to find out things like "Who will be starting at left back for Norwich City on the opening week of the season?" There are three problems with that as it regards MLS. First, I don't know MLS nearly as well as I know the Premier League. Second, there are far fewer reliable sources of news (specifically things like starting line-ups) in Major League Soccer despite all of the strong work done around the network of MLS team-specific sites. Finally, many of the players who come into MLS do so from places where their performance isn't tracked very well whereas most players coming into the Premier League are known quantities from better-tracked European leagues.

Throw in the severe limitations on transfers in game and you have a recipe for some hard roster choices in the early going. My hope is that I get on a better track soon even while I continue to do well in the ESPN game.

As with last week, here are my top candidates for your limited transfer slots headed into Week 3:

  • Not Playing - The LA Galaxy are on a bye week this week so there will likely be some shuffling for a lot of managers. Also remember that there are a bunch of good young MLS players (Bill Hamid, Sean Johnson, Brek Shea, Teal Bunbury, Sheanon Williams, etc.) who are out due to Olympic Qualifying.
  • Seattle Sounders FC v Houston Dynamo - A battle of strong teams, I wouldn't buy in but I wouldn't sell either.
  • Toronto FC v San Jose Earthquakes - Toronto could end up being at least mediocre and they're at home. San Jose would probably aspire to mediocrity this season so betting on Toronto isn't a bad call for this week.
  • Columbus Crew v Montreal Impact - My guess is that Montreal is going to struggle on the road all season, even against another bad team. The only question is "Who would you want to pick from Columbus even with a good match-up?"
  • New England Revolution v Portland Timbers - Advantage to the away team as the Revs are likely to struggle all season.
  • Chicago Fire v Philadelphia Union - Chicago should be good and the Union look like they've taken a big step back at least for the early part of the season while the new parts come together. Probably not the week to sell Dom Uduro.
  • Real Salt Lake v Chivas USA - Buy big on RSL this week. That is all.
  • Vancouver Whitecaps v DC United - Hard to know what to make of United after their first two matches were against the early favorites in each conference. As a United supporter, I'm optimistic that things will come around but the first two have been lackluster regardless of the opposition. Vancouver looks solid if not great so it is really hard to know how to go on this one.
  • New York Red Bulls v Colorado Rapids - Colorado seems pretty solid and NYRB haven't shown much solidity yet. Sure, there's a little home field advantage but if you're choosing, I'd choose to invest on the Rapids side here.
  • Sporting Kansas City v FC Dallas - A very good team against a solid one with the very good one playing at home. Advantage Sporting KC.
Top Transfer Targets
  • Goalkeeper - If you're looking for a bargain then Andy Gruenebaum could produce against Montreal or Milos Kocic could be good value against San Jose. If you're going expensive then Nick Rimando is the obvious choice.
  • Defender - There isn't a ton of price variance at the back so I'd be looking at the starting defenders from Kansas City and Real Salt Lake as the most obvious choices to add to your defense - Chris Shuler is a nice bargain in both formats. If you're looking for a bargain then I'd look to Mark Burch who is cheap for Seattle even if the match-up isn't as great as you'd like. At least he's playing at home.
  • Midfielder - I didn't see the Seattle match last weekend but Estrada is listed as a midfielder in the ESPN game and he isn't expensive in either format. Unless you have reason to believe his debut hat trick was a complete fluke, he's the buy of the week - especially in the ESPN game where his goals count extra as a midfielder. Luis Gil is another reasonably priced option in midfield with a great match-up.
  • Forward - Fabian Espindola and Dominic Uduro are my two choices a premium attackers (although Uduro isn't THAT expensive). If you're looking for a bargain, then you could do worse than Ryan Johnson from Toronto FC.