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Let Ben help you with MLS Fantasy (Round 1)

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2016 MLS Cup - Seattle Sounders v Toronto FC

Quoting a 13th century Persian poet and immediately perverting his message seems like the perfect way to commence my 3rd year of writing the weekly fantasy primer for Big D. The formula for fantasy write-ups is fine: Provide a list of guys who’ll play this week, make sure they’re probable to start, maybe offer some data points as to why they’ll score above the median at their position, highlight the upside with comparison to price. All that’s fine, but it’s kind of boring. Well, screw boring; I’m here to re-define the genre (LOL!).

The new cruelty for this year will consist of me writing about pretty much whatever I want in this space. If I decide to dye my eyeballs or get horn implants, I’ll document it here and make it sound like it’s totally awesome. It could be something less entertaining or pertinent to fantasy soccer, although maybe I’ll completely bend your mind by spinning the aforementioned to be somehow topical (HOW MANY GOALS WILL GIOVINCO SCORE ON TRAPPIST SIGMA???). Frankly, I don’t even know yet. What I can promise is that it will be published on the internet, and you can read it.

I also know that I will provide political takes in this space when I feel like it. Before you gripe about that just know:

  1. You were warned. Don’t feed the trolls
  2. I’ve probably forgotten more non-fiction history than you’ve read.
  3. I’ve actually worked on political campaigns (as recently as last year). This is my lane. Suck it, snowflakes.
  4. I’m old experienced mature well seasoned old.
  5. It’ll all get disclaimed and not the views of awayed by the editor. I support that, yeah.

Anyway, point 4 being true enough, I’ve rambled on to the point you’ve already forgotten about Rumi. Let me fix that for you.

A couple of years back, ‘MLS 3.0’ was declared, but I have a hard time buying that we’re quite there yet. First off, we still have MLM kit sponsors (er...) in the league, and I can’t consider us in the 3.0 era until they’ve been replaced by the Red Lobsters (great alt kit potential!) and Chili’s of the world (paging Brinker International) even if a food pyramid scheme may only denote incremental improvement.

More than more nourishing sponsors, what the league really needs to move to version 3.0 is gambling. To be clear, there are definitely several avenues for speculators to wager on soccer in the US. Along with a few sports books in Vegas, there are several online venues where you can get some action on matches and a very limited array of props (namely, MLS Cup champion). MLS is even trying their level best to get you there with their version of the free spin and took steps to insure it was easier for the entry-level player. As of this writing, this piece of strategy has not yielded a significant increase in players. Actually, it looks like maybe...

So, making it more like Daily Fantasy Sports won’t reap the expected windfall. To be fair, it’s too soon to tell. Speaking of DFS, a peak into that world tells a bigger story as to how far the league has to go to hit 11 on the 3.0 scale. Opening weekend for the NFL on a particular DFS site- let’s call it, DraftKings- offered tournament games with total purses easily in the tens of millions of dollars. For First Kick this year, tournament purses are in the neighborhood of $10k as of this writing. Sad!

As club valuation, attendance, and TV ratings for MLS continue on a steady arc towards supplanting the NHL (they’ve got bigger purses today than First Kick!) in the Big 4, the handle on MLS wagering remains stagnant. With that in mind, I’ll lay the blame for the MLS plateau where it belongs. It’s all your fault.

Yes, you. You who’d rather blow money on a scarf- seriously, when do you actually need an effing scarf in Houston? You, who’d rather blow your disposable income on booze and mustache wax instead of a chance to make it big. You’d rather rot in cold comfort with the latest pale ale than shoot for the Camaro. No wonder we never win anymore; we’re not even getting in the game.

The time has come to shave your beards and start drinking cheap booze. The hobo look is getting ready to die if it hasn’t already. $6 for a beer? BS- you can get a fifth of Old Crow for that. That’s economy and early cirrhosis all rolled into one. Most importantly, this gives you those extra few bucks to predict a flavorless draw in Commerce City this weekend ($100 pays out $350). If that seems like easy money, skip the trip to the Londoner and make that bank, bro! Getting rich and a hard pass on liver disease will never get more awesome than the ‘We should have re-signed Jermaine Jones’ derby. Also, we’ll finally get decent injury reports for the games.


If you’ve made it this far, then you’re getting to the part where I offer whatever actual insight and tips I have for your weekly roster. Unlike previous seasons, there will be no need to consider future scheduling so the analysis will be all based on the now.

I’ll give you 10 picks every week; five studs and five cheapies to fill out your roster every week. I’ll mostly stick to field players; if I rate a defender, there’s a decent chance I’m at least amenable to the keeper playing behind him. Without further adieu:

Byrd’s Ballers:

  1. Sebastian Giovinco- F $12.0
  2. Diego Valeri M $10.0
  3. Fernando Adi F $9.5
  4. Miguel Almiron M $9.0
  5. Cyle Larin F $9.0

The Ballers will spare no expense every week. I’m looking strictly for performance, and I’ll tally my results every week. Unlike other “so-called” fantasy-experts who place-dashes haphazardly, I’ll be scoring myself on an unforgiving curve. Anything below 50% above median position score will be a big fat loss. Anything above that but less than 100% of the median score will be a ‘push’. Only 100% or more will count as a win e.g. Giovinco scores 8 while the median score for Forwards that week is 4.1. That’s only 3.9 above median, so push. Yes, I hate myself- pass the Old Crow!

With the band back together, and no Glad and some new chemistry to master, I think Giovinco’s worth the price this week even on the road. All of my other Ballers are home this week. Home field advantage should be considered strongly for handicapping purposes. Since this week will truly reflect DFS, recommending 2 attackers from the same team is iffy this round. That said, Portland opens with the expansion Loons who look like the weaker of the two expansion franchises at this point. Combine that fact with the existing chemistry in attack and the fact that Portland averaged 2 goals/gm at home last season, and I’m going long here.

Rounding out the Ballers, Almiron will be the creative machine for Atlanta this weekend, and the Red Bulls have a tough game in Vancouver tonight in CCL play. That’s a long flight and a short turnaround for the opener in front of 50,000 fans in Atlanta, and I think Almiron benefits, bigly. Finally, new stadium in Orlando- go with Larin and the narrative to back the potential.

Skinflint’s Specials:

  1. Derrick Jones M $4.5
  2. Reggie Cannon D $4.0
  3. Nick Lima D $4.5
  4. Alphonso Davies D $4.5
  5. Ian Harkes M $6.0

With the rule changes, the budget’s tighter, making picking players on the cheap a more premium talent than last year. For my specials, I’ll offer up midfielders and forwards with a price of $7.5 or less and defenders of $5.0 or less. This will get trickier with price increases, so I’ll give myself some wiggle here while still being a real bastard when it comes to grading. A win will be better than a point per dollar, and even though no points will be tallied this week (wait, what???), I’ll keep score on these risky choices.

Jones has the inside track to start this week. He’s an optimal switcheroo play. Grana played 90 in Panama last night- gut feeling is Cannon starts. Lima has locked down right back for San Jose, and their compact style matches up well with Montreal’s attack. Davies is a wing and a prayer, but he’s actually an attacker, so he’s got the highest ceiling of just about any defender. Finally, with Luciano Acosta very questionable for this weekend, Harkes may very well into an attacking midfield role this weekend which means huge price per point potential.

Again, these are a little more reachy than usual, but that’s because there are no points for 2nd place. Actually, that’s the same for all places this round as their will be no carryover to round 2 when the season long game actually starts in earnest. So go balls out this weekend! Risk everything! Buy a Camaro! Did I mention we’d get better injury reports? Gamble, you lazy hipsters!

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