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MLS Fantasy Fisticuffs: Round 4

Phil doubles his lead in Round 3 but two match round looms large.

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

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)! Join our league using the code
35-1619 to follow allong. The current score is Phil 240, Ben 226.

Round 3 Review

Congratulations to Ivan Desantiago, who is leading the Big D Soccer leaderboard after 3 weeks! Someone who goes by only one name "Max," was our highest scorer this week with 87 points. Hmm, must be Brazilian.


Phil: My captain decision last week was between David Villa (F-$11.1) and Sebastian Giovinco (F-$11.8). Turns out it didn’t matter. They each scored a disappointing 4 points. Ben’s Giovinco disdain wasn’t the cause of his downfall this week. He’s found a new way to harm himself this week.

Phil: Last week I said I was trying to find a way to get a New England Revolution defender into my lineup. Well, I decided that San Jose’s clean sheets were lucky due to the number of shots they were giving up. I subbed out Clarence Goodson (D-$7.6) for Andrew Farrell (D-$8.0). It looked like a genius move at first - Goodson was a surprise scratch with back tightness. But Farrell ended up with only 3 points while Brandon Vincent (D-$5.0) was on my bench and scored 6 points. I could’ve had 3 more points if I had left Goodson in my squad to get auto-subbed! But with Farrell in and 3 subs to make this week, I’m set up perfectly for the DGW, so I don’t mind too much.


Ben: I had a 2 out of 3 chances to replace a zero with a respectable 4-spot from Taylor Kemp (D-$7.6), but of course, I managed to pick the wrong fork. I made the mistake of sticking with a Papi favorite (Harris) and a bonus point machine (Goodson) for a player for a road team visiting Yankee Stadium. The DNPs from Harris and Goodson were bad, but it was worse seeing Rafael Ramos (D-$6.2) post a clean sheet to go with 2 bonus points and a very dubious assist. Sometimes, logic fails at the expense of pure chance, and I’ll take heart in the fact I only dropped 7 points to Phil this week when my strategy from the outset was all about this round, round 6, round 8, and round 10. I have 8 players slated for double duty this week before I even make my transfers, and I have an extra transfer carried over from last week should I choose to use it.

Round 4: Fight!

Phil: Watch out for players on international duty! Walker Zimmerman (D-$6.1) and Tim Parker (D-$6.5) will both miss the first of their double games. I didn’t expect them both to be away. But I’m not planning on swapping either player. They should each play one game this week. Looking ahead, Zim has DGWs in Rounds 6 and 10 and Parker has DGWs in Rounds 8 and 10. These are players I want for the long haul.


Ben: Jesse Gonzalez (G-$6.0) is another player on international duty. He’ll miss the first DGW game in DC but be back in time for the home game vs. Columbus. If you have him, you have to decide if one game from him is enough, or if you want a goalie who will play 2 DGW games. David Ousted (D-$5.9), Bobby Shuttleworth (D-$5.8), and Travis Worra (D-$4.1) all have 2 this round and all have their pros and cons. If you're a Jesse owner who really wants a DGW keeper (despite the lower ceiling), I'd rank them in that order. Before you do that, bear in mind that Jesse will be around for DGW's in Round 6 and 10, so you could be throwing good money after bad.


Phil: Which FC Dallas players are must-haves this DGW? Super Mauro Diaz (M-$10.4) and Maximiliano Urruti (F-$8.5) fit the bill. Mauro is the third highest scorer in the game, so it shouldn’t take much convincing for you to get him. I bet you already have him. Maxi has integrated well into the FC Dallas attack with 2 goals already. I’d also like to have Fabian Castillo (M-$10.6) and Matt Hedges (D-$8.9). Fabi is feast or famine, but can go off at any time. There’s a good chance for a clean sheet or two this week, and Hedges is a reliable bonus point accumulator anyway. Ryan Hollingshead (M-$5.9) is probably going to start both DGW games but is listed as a midfielder, so unfortunately he would not get Clean Sheet points and I cannot recommend Mr. Man Bun.


Ben: Diaz, Urruti, and Hedges seem like the obvious picks here, and if you have the means for it, you should definitely feast on their fantasy goodness this round. If you don't have the budget for Fabi, let me present the case for Michael Barrios (M-$7.9). On top of being almost $3 less expensive, Barrios had a higher goals/90 rate than Castillo last year. Their floors and ceilings are comparable and Barrios's match-ups this round against Kemp and the rookie Kip Colvey (D-$4.3) look really juicy. Plus, my gut feeling tells me he's due. I know that's not how it works, but I feel confident that I and the less than 2% of owners who own him this round will be very pleased.


Phil: Another must-have player is Pedro Morales (M-$10.8). He’s one of the top 10 scorers, gets bonus points, is on free kicks and penalty kicks, and has a double game week. I don’t think anyone from DC United or New England Revolution can be considered "must-have."


Ben: DC is a little chancy this week, but I "must-have" Chris Tierney (D-$7.9). First off, early returns show that the orthodoxy of preferring center backs to wing defenders may need to be re-examined (Possibly due to CBI change). Through 3 rounds, 4 of the top 10 defenders and 9 of the top 20 play on the wing. For example, Taylor Kemp (D-$7.6) is averaging 5 points per game and is actually DC's leading scorer. Tierney has yet to light it up, but the NYC/RBNY doubleheader offers a good chance for a win against the Red Bulls and a good chance for bonus points in pinball-esque Yankee Stadium. With Nguyen away with the National Team, Tierney will take the dead balls and might just get a chance at a spot kick this round. A goal, an assist, a clean sheet, five total bonus points, and a yellow card over two rounds comes to 22 points. It might not happen, but it's definitely doable.

Round 4: Final Thoughts

Phil: I was about to sub out Diego Valeri (M-$10.3) to free up space for more DGW players before I realized how stupid that move would be. Reliable bonus point scorers are the players you should be targeting for your team. Valeri is such a great bonus point generator that his 6 bonus points in Round 3 were worth more than a goal. You should also be planning ahead for upcoming DGWs in Rounds 6 and 8. Valeri has a DGW in Round 6, so subbing him out now for a second-rate Round 4 DGW player would be highly detrimental. Go, Diego, Go!


Ben: I didn't talk up Vancouver Whitecaps much this week, and on the surface it seems like a no-brainer to give them most of the hype since they have two home games this round. That said, Vancouver's only netted 27 points in their last 18 home games which is tied with Philadelphia Union over that same span. Of course you're starting Morales and Ousted if you own them, just remember that they're missing a bunch of players this week (namely both of their starting center backs) and that over half of Morales's points this year have come from the spot (not sustainable).

Now that I've dazzled you with that data, I'll say that Vancouver is undoubtedly the safest repository for your resources this weekend because they play in a dome. There's several venues in MLS susceptible to thunderstorms, and with some of the absurd delays from last season, I wouldn't be surprised to see more outright postponements this year. There's no way to predict force majeure events, obviously, but meteorological technology is such where you can at least hedge against games being canceled. I'm starting 4 FCD guys this round, but I know the risk is there. Add that to your planning and good luck this round.