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Fantasy Fisticuffs: Round 1

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Fight!

Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

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)!

Forwards

Phil: At forward, Toronto’s Sebastian Giovinco (F-$11.5) is an obvious choice. He scored so many points last year that even at $14.0 he would be a good value.

Ben: Do I have the guts to start the season without "The Atomic Ant"? Yes. I. Do.

It’s not totally insane. Giovinco ‘only’ had a goal and 2 assists in his first 4 games last year when Toronto played their first 7 on the road. He picked it up the pace in the last 3 games of the road trip, and we all know what he did after that. More stadium construction means another extended road trip to start the season (8 games), so I’ll roll with Octavio Rivero (F-$8.5) banking on another hot start and a Double Game Week (DGW in the parlance of the tragically hip) in Week 4. I’ll use him as my switcheroo option in Weeks 2 and 3.

Phil: Rivero might be a good pick, but is unlikely to go the full 90 with Masato Kudo and Blas Perez breathing down his neck. Our own Maxi Urruti (F-$8.5) might also have a hot start to the season but is also unlikely to last the whole game and might even rotate with Tesho Akindele.

I’d rather go with strikers that have a solid track record to open the season. David Villa (F-$11.0) has a great opening schedule and will benefit from the additional points for shots this year. The LA Galaxy haven’t played well yet this year and typically start out slowly, but Robbie Keane (F-$11.5) has a favorable schedule and is one of the safer bets to score. In Round 1, he is at home versus a Bill Hamid-less (and Perry Kitchen-less) DC United. If you’re looking for a less expensive striker, try Orlando’s Cyle Larin (F-$9.0), although he probably won’t be able to replicate the same numbers he did last season.

Midfielders

Phil: In midfield, it’s good practice to look for players who take free kicks. There is an FC Dallas player you MUST OWN. Our magic little unicorn, Mauro Diaz (M-$10.0), is a steal.

Ben: FC Dallas starts with a great schedule, and you bet I’ve got Mauro (although I refuse to refer to him as ‘Magic Little Unicorn’ like a swooning brony would).

Phil: I didn’t come up with that nickname, but it fits. In Seattle, Andreas Ivanschitz (M-$7.5) has looked fantastic in preseason at the #10. After that, you have some flexibility. I like Portland’s Diego Valeri (M-$10.0) and Orlando City’s Kaka (M-$10.5). I would recommend Chicago’s Castillo-esque speedster David Accam (M-$9.0), but he has had a muscular injury and I’d like to see how Chicago’s new-look team plays together first.

Defenders

Ben: My next off the radar pick again comes from the Canadian side of the Pacific Northwest. Fraser Aird (D-$6.5) is only 1.3% owned, has won the right back slot for VWFC, and looks like he’ll be great value in the first month of the season. London Woodberry (D-$5.0), Atiba Harris (D-$6.0), and even Aird teammate Tim Parker (D-$6.5) are also good value, but they all are less certain to play every game in the first month of the season. I’ll take the sure thing here since I’m rolling the dice on Rivero and hope that he measures up to the rave reviews he’s drawn in preseason camp.

Phil: Watch out on Woodberry! JeVaughn Watson just signed for New England and will probably beat him out. Man, they love their former FC Dallas players in Foxboro.

I’m not spending much money on defense so I can load my front 7 with superstars. I looked for budget defenders that have the highest "Points Per 90" per dollar (http://mlsfantasyboss.com/finding-value-at-defense/). From Dallas, I’m considering Atiba Harris (D-$6.0), Maynor Figueroa (D-$7.0), and Zach Loyd (D-$7.5). Typically, center backs score higher, but Maynor Figueroa will miss half of Dallas’ DGW in Round 4 on international duty and so will Harris. Zach Loyd is consistent, but has likely been moved to fullback and should see a slight statistical decline.

The other value picks I like are Tim Parker (D-$6.5), and San Jose’s Clarence Goodson (D-$7.5) and Shaun Francis (D-$6.0). Chicago’s Brandon Vincent (D-$5.0) is someone who’s cheap enough to stash on your bench as an autosub if one of your starters catches you off guard and doesn’t play.

Goalkeepers

Phil: At goalkeeper, there are really only two options: our very own homegrown Jesse Gonzalez (G-$6.0) or Vancouver’s David Ousted (G-$6.0). In the past, the prevailing wisdom was to pick two keepers that had a favorable home and away rotation. But the latest research by my favorite fantasy soccer statistician Andrew Crollard shows that goalkeepers only score 6% higher at home. So I’m setting Jesse Gonzalez and forgetting until Round 22 when FC Dallas has its first bye.

Ben: There’s no choice here. It’s gotta be Jesse.

Final Thoughts

Phil: On the MLS smartphone app, you can set notifications to receive starting lineups when they come out an hour before the games. For this week, that will give you a peek at New York Red Bulls, Toronto FC, Chicago Fire, New York City FC, Orlando City SC, and Real Salt Lake. You can make last minute transfers up until Sunday at 12:30pm. Buena suerte!

Ben: Speaking of the Switcheroo option (more information on that here), the combination of Andy Thoma (D-$4.5), Jordan Schweitzer (M-$4.5), and Daniel Salloi (F-$4.5) is your best means for stocking your bench cheaply. Not only will they probably never play in the first part of the year, you can use them in a later match for the first 7 weeks of the year. If you then transfer in Oscar Sorto (D-$4.5) for Thoma sometime between the end of Round 4 and the beginning of Round 8, you’ll be set with a late game sheep all the way until Round 17 (where there are unlimited transfers), and all it will have cost you is one transfer.

Projected Lineups

Phil’s Team - "24 Ulloas a Day, 7 Diaz a Week"

Ben's Team - FC Byrd Turgler