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Fantasy Fisticuffs: The Weigh-in

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In the Red Corner, the fairly domitable... Ben Lyon! And in the Blue Corner, defending Big D Soccer Fantasy League Champion... Phil Luetchford!

Fantasy Fisticuffs pits angry combatants head-to-head in an MLS Fantasy soccer showdown. Each week, Phil and Ben argue over which players will perform. The stakes are high. The competitor whose team scores the fewer amount of points through Round 27 (September 3rd) will have to endure two laps of shaming around the Toyota Stadium concourse, Cersei Lannister style (though probably not nude)!

Come back later in the week for our Round 1 player picks. For now, here are some general MLS Fantasy tips.

Phil: We need to have a little discussion on the rule changes and which players they affect the most.

The first change is that for every 4 fouls suffered in a game, a player gets 1 point.  Our magic little unicorn Mauro Diaz and other playmakers are the biggest beneficiaries, but it's paltry compared to the overall scoring. Diaz would've received 11 more points last year. I wouldn't get too worked up over this one.

A change that benefits strikers is Shots Taken. Every 4 shots taken equals 1 point. These shots DO NOT have to be on target. League MVP and leading fantasy scorer Sebastian Giovinco would've gotten nearly an extra point per game last year! You cannot afford not to have Gio on your team. David Villa and Kei Kamara will also benefit from this addition.

Now we look at two changes designed to boost point totals for defensive midfielders. The first is Passes Completed. If a player is able to complete 35 passes at 85% accuracy he receives one point, and for 70 passes at 85% accuracy it's 2 points. Ozzie Alonso would've gotten a whopping 29 more points last year. Other midfielders who are key to their team's passing efficiency are Javier Morales, Dax McCarty, and Wil Trapp.

Finally, we get to Defensive Bonus. The threshold for clearances, interceptions, tackles, and blocks has been reduced. For every 4 clearances, 4 interceptions, or 4 tackles, a player receives 1 point. For every 2 blocks, 1 point. Matias Laba is now a player who can be considered for your fantasy team.

The top 5 players who would've gained the most points in 2015 from these rule changes are Cristian Higuita, Alonso, Laba, Giovinco, and McCarty. No longer can we automatically exclude defensive midfielders from our fantasy lineups.

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Ben: Whoa, whoa, whoa there, Phil. You're forgetting a pretty big piece of the puzzle here. This season rosters are reduced by 2 (1 fewer Forward and 1 fewer Defender) from last year. While the salary budget hasn't changed, the player valuations have changed massively. There's two reasons this is important.

  1. The top players last year in FMLS typically kept a shallow bench so they could lavish their dollars on high-priced (and usually higher performing) talent. With two fewer roster spots and fewer ‘mid-range' values to choose from, you'll have a harder time balancing your studs and duds with good cap-friendly options. Phil's tips on defensive midfielders are spot on.
  2. The ‘Switcheroo' is back, but it will be a wee bit harder to pull off this year with the shorter roster. Andrew Winner explained the gambit well in this MLSsoccer.com article last year. When executed properly, it's a formula for more points by giving you a free look at your first sub off the bench. Since you probably won't want to burn transfers to achieve this tactic, you'll need to pick your ‘lambs' carefully. You should really come back and check out our Week 1 picks later in the week - I might have some good lambs for you.

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Phil: It's true. All of it. Ben is an expert on "lambs" because he is used to getting slaughtered.

One last thing we are forgetting is that wildcards have changed. There are unlimited transfers in Rounds 19 and 33. You will also have two wildcards, one that can be used up until Round 17, and one that can be used after. For your first wildcard, I would take a look at Round 13, where 8 teams are on bye. For the second half wildcard, Round 26 is a real possibility, as it is sandwiched between 2 weeks where 8 teams have byes.

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