In the wake of Monday's announcement that Yahoo! has canceled its fantasy MLS game, I thought our brief flirtation with Major League Soccer had come to a premature end. As a blog, our articles have always been more focused on the Yahoo fantasy format when it's been available. However, that hasn't stopped us from covering other competitions in the past where Yahoo hasn't had a game to play, like the World Cup fantasy game last summer. With a Yahoo option no longer available, we could either follow Yahoo's lead and drop the game, or look elsewhere for an alternative.
The official MLS Fantasy game has handled the Yahoo news very well, and has created a "Fashionably Late" league for any newcomers to their game beginning in week 8. I was really disheartened by Yahoo's announcement because I was finding the level of play in Major League Soccer much more enjoyable than it had been when I decided to stop watching a number of years ago, so having this lifeline from the MLS website was more than enough for me to consider giving a new game with a new set of rules a shot for the rest of the season. It will certainly be a learning curve, but it should be fun too, and that's why I play the game. I hope you'll join me!
You'll need to select a starting 11, as well as 7 bench players, with a budget of $120M. That may sound like a lot of bench players, but it should come in handy when trying to plan for the long-term, which you'll need to do because of the limited number of transfers each week. Generally speaking, you'll only be able to make 2 transfers each week.
The scoring in the official game is different than what we're used to with Yahoo, but isn't too dissimilar to the official Fantasy Premier League scoring for anyone who has played that game. Bonus points are awarded and you'll need to select a captain each week, who will earn double points. Here's the full scoring chart:
A more in-depth breakdown of the rules is available as part of the Fantasy 101 Series on the MLS website.
Be sure to create your team and join the Fashionably Late league with the Private League Code 3414-5341.
I have also set up a Beat the Bloggers league. Use Private League Code 28261-5366 to join.
Week 8 Major League Soccer Schedule
First things first, the bye weeks continue yet again, although only two teams miss out on Week 8 action. Montreal Impact and San Jose Earthquakes will not play this week due to the Impact's continued run in the CONCACAF Champions League, so be sure to avoid players from those teams as you consider your starting lineup this week.
Friday, April 24
Saturday, April 25
Sunday, April 26
Based on early season form, there aren't a ton of sure-fire bets on the fixture list this week, though the home strength of Orlando, Houston, Vancouver, NYRB should make them attractive options this week. Chicago and Colorado are also worth a look given NYCFC's injury issues and the Rapids' impressive 4-1 win over Dallas a few weeks back.
With 18 roster spots to fill, you'll almost certainly need to rely on some "filler" options for your bench. We'll focus on the players you should be thinking of for your starting eleven this week, but keep in mind a bit more long-term strategy will need to come into play with limited weekly transfers. Check out this upcoming schedule of double game weeks, favorable matches and byes (subject to change) for an idea of which teams have a good run of games over the next couple weeks.
I'll turn it over to Zach now for this week's recommendations!
Tyler Deric - So much of Houston's success this season can be attributed to their acrobatic goalkeeper, who has earned Save Of The Week honors on multiple occasions already this season. Like many teams in the league, the Dynamo have been a much stronger prospect in front of their home crowd, so a match against injury-hit Sporting KC should offer a chance at another clean sheet.
David Ousted - The Vancouver Whitecaps have started the 2015 season with incredible form. Ousted has been a rock between the posts with VNC chalking up 4 clean sheets on their way to topping the Western Conference after 7 weeks. Currently leading the point chart for goalkeepers at 45pts, Ousted is a reliable option at 5.5mil.
Luis Robles - The NY Red Bulls have a very tough match, albiet at home, facing the current MLS Cup Champions, LA Galaxy. Robles hasn't exactly made his stake to be your first choice keeper this week, but with a double game stretch looming for Week 9, some consideration must be made on his inclusion. At this point, your second goalkeeper slot looks a good bet, although it will set you back another 5.6mil.
Steve Clark - The Columbus Crew have had a very solid start to the season which currently sees them occupying 4th place in the Eastern Conference. With a home match against 8th placed Philadelphia Union, another win seems on the cards. With 3 clean sheets already, Clark looks like a great buy for Week 8 at 5.7mil.
Pa Modou Kah - As a Portland Timber supporter, we know Kah well. He can have moments of brilliance and more times than not, moments of sheer madness. However, now playing with VNC, maybe Kah can now focus on his self control and realize his full potential. At 6.5mil, Kah is one of the cheaper starting defenders in VNC's line up. With a home match in Week 8 against D.C. United, who are not terribly great goal scorers on the road, Kah is an easy way to back up a potential clean sheet.
Brad Evans - It pains me to recommend ANY Sounder's player, especially with Seattle hosting my beloved Portland at the weekend, but the fact of the matter is, Portland hasn't had much good fortune in the Emerald City. Take away Portland's domination over two legs in the Western Conference Semi-Finals a few seasons back, and the Timber's have found scoring hard to come by at Century Link Field. At 7.5mil Evans is expensive, but with Portland missing the likes of Diego Valeri and captain Will Johnson, the chance for the clean sheet is on the cards. But beware, this is a derby, a fierce one at that, so anything can happen and you can bet I will be in the away section cheering my Portland boys onto victory!
DaMarcus Beasley - The former USMNT player has been ever constant in Houston's back line and his ability to push forward and integrate into attack has been seen through out his career. At 7.2mil, Beasley is 5th in most points accrued so far this season and would make a great addition to any fantasy squad.
Omar Gonzalez - Currently the leading Defender pick from the MLS fantasy format, Gonzalez continues his reputation as a fantasy and real life, reliable defender. Also one of the more expensive defenders in the game, Gonzalez will set you back 9.5mil. With a game against NYRB on deck for Week 8, the chance of a clean sheet isn't so certain, but his point production is far more telling than just relying on clean sheet points.
Sebastian Hines - Orlando City have had some great matches so far in their debut season. Seb Hines has been consistent in the heart of Orlando's defense. With a tasty match up coming at home to Toronto FC, for all their expensive parts can't seem to put together a winning formula, Orlando look good for the win here. Hines will set you back 7.5mil, but has already put up a decent 28pts so far this season.
Hernan Grana - Columbus Crew's highest scoring defender with 31pts and still nicely priced at just 6.6mil, Grana seems a good pairing with Clark in goal if you fancy the clean sheet against an up and down Philadelphia Union. Since we are coming in from the Yahoo fantasy stand point (and that mindset is hard to shake), we can never turn down a cheap, high scoring defender with what looks like one of the more possible clean sheet chances for Week 8.
Benny Feilhaber - The top scoring midfielder currently in the game with 49pts, Feilhaber is still cheaper than his closest rivals in that category. At 9.5mil and adding his fair share of free kicks to his locker, the Sporting KC midfielder looks like a lock in any fantasy manager's team. Although they face a stern away test to the Houston Dynamo, the former MLS Champions will still like their chances.
Kaka - Having a great debut MLS season with Orlando City with 3 goals and 1 assist already to his name, Kaka looks a good bet week in and week out. However, the former Real Madrid man will set you back a whopping 11.4mil. But that seems a small price to pay for a player we all know still has a lot left to give on the pitch. It was nice to here Kaka talking about his surprise to the level of competition in the MLS, long may we continue to build on that.
Clint Dempsey - We all know and love Deuce from his Fulham days in the Premier League, but now he has gone and ruined my love for him by becoming a Seattle Sounder. Not only that, he loves to play Portland and will be rearing to go on Sunday. Seattle have the distinct advantage playing in such a crucial match at home, and you can bet anything positive flowing from the attack will involve the UMSNT talisman. Just be ready to shell out 11.3mil for the Texan's services.
Lloyd Sam - Just 7 weeks into the MLS season and Lloyd Sam has already scored 3 goals and provided 2 assists. Looking back at his previous season stats, Sam had 4 goals and 9 assists in 2014, so he is already having a stellar 2015. With a match against LA Galaxy coming up this week, you may want to keep Sam as a bench option with one eye on the double game matches in Week 9. Still at a very affordable 8.9mil.
Darlington Nagbe - Probably one of the most fouled players in the MLS, Nagbe has good cause to stir the pot in Seattle for Portland's Cascadia showdown with the Sounders. With his combined speed, agility, and ball control, Nagbe will be the main danger man for Portland without the likes of Valeri and Johnson who are both recovering from long term injuries. The only thing you could want Nagbe to improve on is his goal scoring numbers, but besides that, Nagbe will be involved in most of Portland's attack. With 30pts already under his belt, Nagbe will only set you back a cool 8.5mil.
Javier Morales - 2 goals and 3 assists already this season, Morales is an evergreen player for Real Salt Lake. Week 8 sees RSL travel to New England, who have had a mixed bag of results so far in 2015. While NE Revolution have looked bright in recent weeks, they still don't have the most solid denfense and will find the match against RSL a tough one. I can't see RSL being shutout in Week 8 and Morales looks a good bet to be amongst the attacking points. Note: Morales may be an injury doubt this week, but is a good long-term buy - Das
Octavio Rivero - Leading the line for Vancouver, Rivero has repaid their faith with 5 goals so far this season. It won't be an easy match against D.C United, but VNC has only been shut out once this season and I can't see that happening a second time especially at home. Still a decent 8.9mil doesn't seem bad for a player that might be topping the goal scoring charts come the end of the season.
Gabriel Torres - Colorado currently sit in last place of the Western Conference, but have shown promise in some matches so far this season. Not a very fashionable choice, but Torres and co will have a double game set coming for Week 9. With 2 goals and 1 assist in his last 3 appearances, Torres may just be finding some form to go on a goal scoring run and lift Colorado out of the basement. At 7.3mil, Torres might do well to take a bench slot and then rotate him in for the double week.
Obafemi Martins - We all know Martins from his time at Newcastle and his Cup winning performance at Birmingham City over Arsenal, but he has made his name even stronger during his MLS career with the Sounders. With 4 goals (2 of them absolute brilliance) and 1 assist already to date, Martins doesn't look like letting up any time soon. For 11.4mil you can acquire his services against Portland at the weekend.
Blas Perez - Dallas FC currently sit 2nd in the Western Conference and find themselves away to the bottom team Colorado for Week 8. With 4 goals and assist accrued over the start of the season, Perez looks like a must for this week. 9.5mil is less than many of the big hitters also high up on the total points table (Perez is 3rd with 36pts) and shouldn't put you off. Dallas will be looking to find retribution from their earlier 4-0 loss to Colorado.
Kei Kamara - The Crew striker has taken a while to come into his own in the league, but has been in great form so far this season. Columbus have a fairly kind run of fixtures, including this week's home match against the struggling Union. As far as productive, sure-starting strikers go, Kamara is a pretty inexpensive option and should deliver points pretty consistently throughout the season.
That does it for me on my first ever MLS player picks post. I hope at least some of these picks pan out in Week 8. But one of the greatest (and most frustrating) aspects of MLS is that any team at any time can mount a huge surprise week to week. I haven't got my team completely sorted as of yet but many of these players will make an appearance in my squad.
The transfer for the official MLS Fantasy game is open until kick-off in the first match of each week, so you have until 8:00 p.m. EDT on Friday to lock in your lineups.
Which players are you looking to for your week 8 team? Who are you planning on giving the captain's armband? Are you making use of fillers for your bench, or going for a balanced 18? Share your thoughts in the comments!