I know we're getting close to the end with Premier League fantasy and to make things even more nerve-wracking Nik, Jeremy, and I are all within 9 points of each other in the overall standings. That will certainly make for a few crazy weeks with a lot of texts, Tweets, and chat messages shared back and forth as we trade places from match-to-match and moment-to-moment. In the meantime, that's no reason to ignore Major League Soccer and what has been a very interesting season so far from both a fantasy and reality standpoint.
I've actually had a chance to watch a reasonable amount of MLS so far this season which doesn't usually happen until the Premier League is over and here are a few observations:
- There are some good rookies out there - I've watched Kelwyn Rowe and Nick DeLeon multiple times each and have been impressed with both. Rowe seems like he is a locked in starter already and DeLeon looks like he is definitely good enough to be the same. The only question on DeLeon is what will happen to him when Andy Najar and Chris Pontius are fully healthy.
- It must be the curse of Toronto - Maicon Santos wasn't very productive in his time with Tornoto but so far he's been very impressive with DC United. I assumed he was going to be a reserve but he's been their best forward by far.
- The difference a great scorer can make- Both San Jose and Chivas USA have been much better than expected on the backs of strong defenses with each allowing a mere 4 goals over 6 matches. The difference between the second place Quakes and the 5th place Goats is Chris Wondolowski and his seven goals. If Chivas could find a scorer while maintaining their defensive effectiveness they might be challenging for the conference lead as well.
- Leaking goals in the East - The Western Conference has been better than the East for a while and that remains true but for fantasy managers the interesting observation is the disparity in the number of goals per match that Eastern teams are conceding compared to their Western counterparts. In 54 combined matches Eastern Conference teams have given up 69 goals while their Western brethren have conceded 55 goals in 52 matches. If you remove the lockdown Sporting Kansas City defense from the mix the East has conceded 68 goals in 48 matches. If you're looking for an inside track on which opponents to pick AGAINST then you should look East (but not to Kansas City which, let's face it, isn't in the East anyway).
Forward: Maicon Santos is cheap and while CJ Sapong is the better player I'm guessing you'll want to expend your SKC slots at other positions. If you have money to spend then Sebastien Le Toux would be my second choice. One guy to avoid is Hamdi Salihi from DC United. Salihi may find his rhythm but with Pontius coming back and the United DP not playing well so far, you have to worry that Pontius will start at least one of the two matches at forward with DeLeon and Najar on the wings.
Midfield: Graham Zusi is the no-brainer here with DeLeon (especially in the MLSsoccer.com game where he's still pretty cheap) being another strong choice. If you don't have the money for Zusi then Bobby Convey is less expensive and will get you a solid chance at some assists. If you have used up your full allocation of SKC and DC United slots then Davide Chiumiento is Vancouver's only strong midfield option.
Defenders: Between the two teams, Vancouver and SKC have let in a TOTAL of 4 goals thus far and as a result I would highly recommend getting in on one defender from each team if you can afford the transfers and the fees. I know many have been on Lee from Vancouver since the beginning of the season since he was a bargain. Alas, there are no bargains at the back for Sporting. On the DC United side tread carefully with defenders. There are injuries to center backs and one of their two matches is with the scoring machine that goes by the name New York Red Bulls. I'd keep your powder dry before investing in the United defense even if the Wednesday match is at home with the Montreal Impact.
Goalkeepers: Given United's injury issues AND the uncertainty as to who will start between the pipes between Bill Hamid and Joe Willis (who are both good), this conversation really comes down to Jimmy Neilsen and Joe Cannon. Neilsen is more expensive and you have probably used up more of your SKC roster slots. I'd choose Cannon all other things being equal but I don't know if you can go wrong here if you have the money and the slot available for Neilsen.
Captain: Neilsen > KC Defender > Zusi (when the best team in the league has two matches, even away matches, your captain should come from that team - as a bonus, you get to keep your SKC players another week as they come home for a match with the Impact in Match Week 8).
Remember that the mid-week matches are tomorrow (Wednesday) so you will have to change your line-ups by then.