Hello everyone! I'm filling in for Sam while he's on vacation for the next couple weeks (lucky!), and I'm looking forward to providing my first set of recommendations for the Yahoo! MLS Fantasy game. I think I've picked up enough about the league and its players over the first month of the season to provide solid recommendations, so without further ado let's dive right in!
Week 4 Recap
We dealt with a few new situations in Week 4 of MLS action, as the international break meant a number of the league's best players were missing. It became a bit of a guessing game to figure out who would start in their places, and which of the remaining big names could be counted on to fill the void. Unfortunately, two of the biggest names--David Villa and Obafemi Martins--picked up late, unreported injuries to frustrate fantasy managers everywhere.
New England finally showed some of the quality that saw them challenge for the league title last season, Colorado kept a third consecutive clean sheet and Vancouver pulled off another late win. Kansas City continued their early-season dominance over New York City and D.C. proved their home dominance from last season wasn't a fluke as they took all three points from the reigning champs from Los Angeles.
Whether there are any trends developing here is up for debate, but over the first four weeks of the season we've seen dominant performances from goalkeepers and defenders, while attackers who don't take set pieces have largely found the points difficult to come by. Traveling teams, particularly those heading to different time zones, have mostly struggled to replicate their home form. And, last but not least, the quality of play in the league is not too far off from what we're seeing from the top European leagues. It's exciting to think of where the league will be in the next 5 years.
Week 5 Schedule
Friday, April 3
Saturday, April 4
Sunday, April 5
The first thing to take note of is that we're back to the bye weeks. Columbus Crew SC, Montreal Impact, New York City FC and New York Red Bulls will not take part in Week 5, so if you've got Hernan Grana, Lloyd Sam, David Villa or Ignacio Piatti in your team from Week 4 you've got a decision to make.
It's worth noting that the byes will keep on coming throughout the MLS season, but there is an 8-week stretch beginning next week where there aren't too many teams who won't be participating. If you're a fantasy manager who likes hanging onto a discount or two, this stretch of the season until Week 14 is probably the best time for you to do so. There are also a number of double game weeks coming up for teams, which we'll highlight as they approach.
Let's turn our attention back to the week ahead, though. Here are my recommendations for Week 5:
Luis Marin - Kansas City have, in my humble opinion, been the most impressive team so far this season, while Philadelphia have been among the least impressive. SKC have yet to get their attack going, but have been outstanding defensively. Marin is priced to buy at $6.26m and is a great option this weekend.
Joe Bendik - The Toronto keeper's price dropped after their late capitulation to RSL on Sunday, and now he's one of the cheapest starting keepers in the league as his side travel to take on a misfiring Chicago side. TFC should be in much better shape with their internationals back, so expect a much better chance at clean sheet and win points.
Stefan Frei - The last time Frei was recommended, I picked him up and he promptly rewarded me with -9 points. I'm tipping him for bigger and better things at home against a Houston side that has struggled to create much in the attacking third. Not as good an option as the two keepers above, in my opinion, but could be a relatively cheap way to cover the potential clean sheet from Seattle.
Bobby Shuttleworth - As I mentioned above, the Revs are beginning to click after a slow start, and I think they'll be confident traveling to Colorado to take on the Rapids. Shuttleworth was one of the top keepers in the league last season, and I think he'll be in top form for this one. The only question is whether Colorado will create enough chances for him to rack up the save points.
Ike Opara - When I was creating my Week 1 team, I was looking for a cheap defender who was likely to start. I found Opara for $2.58m and have been laughing all the way to the bank ever since. A candidate for player of the month, who would have guessed the SKC center back would be such a fantasy force? Even at his current retail price, the game's leading scorer has to be worth a look with a home match against Philadelphia.
Alvas Powell - The Timbers have arguably had the most difficult schedule to begin the season, and that won't let up with a match against league-leading Dallas, but that hasn't stopped Powell from being one of the highest-scoring defenders in the game. He'll cost you a pretty penny to put in your team this week, but he's returned 9, 11, 16 and 15 points in the first four weeks of the season, so he may be out of your budget in the near future if you don't buy in now.
Chris Tierney - I picked up the New England fullback for my week 3 team and he scored 13 points with a clean sheet. I probably should have held tight for Week 4 as he returned 14 points, this time without the 6 CS points. After a disappointing 3 point return in Week 1, he's returned double digits each week since, partially due to his involvement in taking set pieces. I like his chances to deliver double digits again this weekend.
Michael Harrington - Yes, the Rapids are goal-shy, but they're also the only team in MLS yet to concede a goal this season. A home match will be helpful in their efforts to keep that streak going, but they'll have to be at their best against a confident Revolution side to do so. Harrington represents the lowest entry cost for a Rapids defender, and has put up better fantasy numbers than his defensive teammates thus far.
Moises Hernandez - I don't foresee another clean sheet for Dallas this week as they travel to a hostile environment in Portland, but Hernandez has been one of the most consistent defenders to date. With the rest of the internationals back in the squad, I think he'll put up strong attacking numbers yet again, so a clean sheet would just be a bonus. Very affordably priced given his returns so far.
Eric Gehrig - Sam has been on the Gehrig bandwagon all season, and I've yet to take his advice. The Chicago right back has been a point machine despite his team's deficiencies and there's no reason to believe that will stop as the Fire play host to Toronto this weekend.
Kaka - The biggest name to arrive in MLS this season, the former Brazil and AC Milan star is a class above the vast majority of his opponents and teammates in Orlando, a fact that was once again on display in Week 4 as he tallied a goal and assist in the 2-2 draw. Everything Orlando does seems to go through the midfielder and, while he's premium-priced, he's proven he can return his value if given the space to operate.
Matias Perez Garcia - San Jose's set-piece specialist is quickly establishing himself as a must-have in fantasy as he's consistently delivering above his value from game to game. The Quakes have a winnable match at home against RSL, and you can bet he'll be involved in the build-up for any goal-bound efforts.
Rodney Wallace - Another early-season contender for a long-term starting role in your team, Wallace has delivered despite the results going against Portland, much like his teammate Alvas Powell. Any player capable of putting up 20 points in phantoms in one match deserves consideration, and if you couldn't already tell, I'm tipping the Timbers to get a result against Dallas this week.
Javier Morales - The midfield maestro for Real Salt Lake is getting a bit long in the tooth at 35, but is still showing his class on a weekly basis. He may not be suited to playing twice in a week when the double matches start up in the near future, but as long as RSL are only playing once he should be a strong consideration for your team with his exceptional range of passing and precise set-piece delivery.
Marco Pappa - With Clint Dempsey and potentially Obafemi Martins missing out through injury for the match against Houston, the attacking onus will fall on Pappa's shoulders. It's easy to overlook his impact and contributions to the team with the aforementioned duo claiming the headlines, but the Guatemalan is an integral part of the attack for the Sounders and could be called upon to get forward more than usual.
Kevin Molino - Another talented player who is operating in the shadows of the players around him, Molino is a player who is capable of the spectacular. He's made the step up from USL into MLS without missing a beat, and the more time he has to settle in with Kaka, the better their understanding will be. I expect big things from the Trinidadian this season, and this could be the week he begins his breakout.
Jozy Altidore - It was readily apparent last weekend that Toronto missed the physical presence that Jozy offers in attack, and with Sebastian Giovinco continuing to display the form that earned him his contract with the Canadian side, the big American could find himself on the scoresheet yet again this weekend. He should be relatively fresh after receiving a red card for dissent in the USA - Switzerland match today as well.
Innocent Emeghara - Chris Wondolowski has been doing the heavy lifting in the San Jose attack leading up to and during the international break, perhaps to prove a point to Jurgen Klinsmann that he should have been selected for the national team. I think he's made that point pretty clear now, and we could see Emeghara return to the spotlight. At the very least, he's a cheaper option than his strike partner and has averaged more points than his value in the three matches he's played in this season.
Dom Dwyer - As mentioned previously, Kansas City haven't been the most potent attacking side in the league to date, partially down to the poor form of their main striker Mr. Dwyer. If not for a missed penalty in Week 2, though, the striker's stats wouldn't look all that bad. Once he puts together a good performance we should see big returns from the 24 year-old. A home match against the lowly Union could be the perfect setting for him to get off the blocks.
Juan Agudelo - Another young striker who hasn't yet got things going, Agudelo has made his return to MLS this season after giving Europe a shot. Still just 22 years old, the striker has more than 4 years of experience in MLS and was attracting a lot of interest from some decent clubs worldwide. Like his compatriot Brek Shea, he failed to find a home abroad and is now working his way back into form Stateside. Definitely a player to keep an eye on, and could be a cheeky option this weekend for just over $9m.
Robbie Keane - The case against continuing league play during International Breaks was made much stronger by the Week 4 absence of LA's strikers as they fell to a 1-0 defeat to DC United. Keane is another player who, despite his age, still has a step on most opposition defenders. A trip north to Vancouver will be no easy task for the Galaxy, but Keane has the quality to ruin the great run the Whitecaps are on at the moment.
Fanendo Adi - Adi is the third musketeer in Portland, joining Powell and Wallace as great fantasy options no matter the opposition. The striker has already put up nearly 50 points in the first four weeks, and that's including a 3 point return in Week 3. I'm strongly considering putting him in my team this week, even against Dallas.
I've yet to get to work on my week 5 team, but I'm eager to erase the memory of 1/5 of my budget wasted on David Villa in Week 4. I thankfully still managed 93 points for the week, which was enough to keep me in the top 4 overall, and it was with great excitement that I discovered the three people above me in the overall rankings are all part of our Beat the Bloggers group. Whether that's a sign of the strength of our group or the lack of other players in the Yahoo! game is irrelevant if you ask me! I'm having a blast so far and hope you are too!
What are you thinking about for your team this week? Have I missed any obvious picks? What differentials are you looking at? Let me know in the comments!