MLS Fantasy Soccer Manager 2016 week 1
Another Major League Soccer season is upon us and that means another year of MLS Fantasy Soccer Manager. There is a big change to roster rules in 2016 that reduces the roster from 18 to 16 . The rule change opens up more salary to spread around but hinders the roster flexibility and makes every pick count. All player values in articles are from the official MLS Fantasy Soccer Manager.
TOP FORWARD PICKS
Robbie Keane, Los Angeles Galaxy, $11.5
Robbie Keane is a great fantasy soccer pick to build a roster around because his goal tally is usually high by the end of the season. He’s also been part of the MVP and/or Golden Boot conversation in each of his MLS seasons. He’s an even better pick this round because Los Angeles Galaxy open their season at home against a D.C. United squad that looks defensively weak. Keane is a consistent goal scorer and isn’t the type of forward prone to streaky periods followed by slumps but when he is on, boy, is he on. If he manages to score a goal and is playing well, a brace or hat trick may not be far behind.
Sebastian Giovinco, Toronto F.C., $11.5
Sebastian Giovinco won the MVP and Golden Boot last season with ease in 2015—that’s reason enough to build a roster around him. Giovinco has a tough away match ahead of him this week as Toronto F.C. visits New York Red Bulls to open their campaigns. I expect this match will be a high scoring affair as Toronto had a weak defense last year that they did not improve upon this off-season and New York no longer has Matt Miazga to anchor the defense. Both teams have midfielders and forwards more than capable of putting their team on their shoulders and taking the game in their own hands. Giovinco is going to take part in any goal Toronto scores and that means more points.
Bradley Wright-Phillips, New York Red Bulls, $11.0
Bradley Wright-Phillips is the main scoring outlet for the team that had the best record in the league last season so it’s hard to keep him off of any roster most weeks. As I said above, this match will be high scoring. Both teams are still getting used to their new pieces and have players who are not afraid to make important plays on their own to put their team ahead. Both teams are going to come out swinging so the match will be fast-paced and open. The Red Bulls midfield is going to have no problem finding Wright-Phillips to earn him some tallies and lots of points. I recommend pairing him with a N.Y.R.B. midfielder or two.
TOP MIDFIELD PICKS
Mauro Diaz, F.C. Dallas, $10.0
Mauro Diaz is poised for his best MLS season this year if he stays healthy and focused. Diaz can turn any game on its head with his passing and ball handling skills. Many pundits are picking F.C. Dallas to have another amazing year and Diaz is their key to success. He’s a central attacking midfielder that isn’t afraid to improvise for the benefit of his teammates so look for him to get assists and attacking bonuses this week if he doesn’t rack up goals. F.C.D. also has the benefit of opening at home with a familiar squad against Philadelphia who is trying to rebuild after a bad 2015. Diaz will link up with his forwards with ease while also taking plenty shots on goal.
Sacha Kljestan, New York Red Bulls, $11.0
Sacha Kljestan is indispensable to the New York Red Bulls attack. He was the most important player on a team that won the Supporters’ Shield last season and is key to their success this season. The midfield will be active in this match with the central midfielders trading offensive punches with their counterparts all match long. Kljestan will help open up opportunities for his wingers and his forwards that will amount in plenty of attacking bonuses and multiple goals. He’s also not afraid to stick his foot in for a block so look for a defensive bonus even if there won’t be a clean sheet. He’s going to pick apart the Toronto defense this week and his points total will show it.
Darlington Nagbe, Portland Timbers, $9.0
Darlington Nagbe turned into one of the best central midfielders in the league once coach Caleb Porter realized how much better he is in the middle than he is on the wings. He was so much better in the middle that he went from role player to play maker in half a season. He definitely would have been in the MVP conversation had he been at central midfield all year. Portland Timbers have a 2015 MLS Cup final rematch at home against Columbus Crew S.C. this weekend. Both teams still look strong and kept the core that got each of them to the final but home field will play a big advantage in this match as Providence Park is a tough field to go into. Nagbe won’t create all the offense this match but he matches up better against the Columbus central midfield than Portland’s wingers so look for most of the play to try to flow through the middle. He’s going to keep turning a lot of heads this weekend to prove last year wasn’t a fluke.
TOP DEFENSIVE PICKS
Kendall Waston, Vancouver Whitecaps, $9.0
Kendall Waston is the anchor of the Vancouver Whitecaps defense. He’s one of the best defenders in the league and was a finalist for Defender of the Year in 2015. He’s a great set piece target but gets most of his points with defending bonuses and clean sheets. Vancouver welcomes Montreal Impact to B.C. Place this weekend without Didier Drogba to worry about since he doesn’t want to play on turf yet. Montreal still have plenty of offensive weapons to throw at Waston and the Vancouver back line but they don’t pose the same kind of danger. This means Montreal will rely on trying to push the ball up the middle with their midfield instead of just chucking it forward to Drogba—this will work out well for Waston clearances and blocks. A clean sheet isn’t out of the question to start the year.
A.J. DeLaGarza, Los Angeles Galaxy, $8.0
A.J. DeLaGarza is one of the most reliable defenders in MLS. He’s been part of the L.A. back line since 2009 and gets better every year. DeLaGarza is coming into his prime and this could be his best season ever for a team that will need stability with all their new players. The Galaxy looked weak in CONCACAF Champions League play against a team more ready for competition but that won’t factor when the much weaker D.C. United come to town this weekend. He’s going to pick up plenty of defending bonuses with a likely clean sheet due to D.C.’s lack of attack but look for him to pick up attacking bonuses with his passing and through balls.
Brek Shea, Orlando City S.C., $8.0
It’s hard to pick what kind of player Brek Shea is. Is he a defender? Is he a midfielder? I’m not sure it matters anymore because all that matters is that he plays on the wing, preferably the left side. He’s the type of defender you pick for your roster because of his offensive abilities. He’s a streaky player who is susceptible to long stretches of slumping offensively but this week he’ll be on fire at home against a weak, tired Real Salt Lake squad that won’t be able to handle his pace or crossing. He’s going to get his defensive bonuses and possibly a clean sheet but don’t be surprised if he’s able to put one in the back of the net.
GOALKEEPER PICK OF THE WEEK
Jesse Gonzalez, F.C. Dallas, $6.0
Jesse Gonzalez was the biggest surprise of the 2015 MLS season when the 20-year-old homegrown player took over as starting goalkeeper for F.C. Dallas over Dan Kennedy. He plays with the understanding of his position beyond his years and a talent that is on par with veterans like Luis Robles or David Ousted. He’s one of the league’s best shot stoppers with his ability to stretch fast to either post and commands his defense with authority. The Philadelphia Union attack won’t match up very well against the F.C.D. defense but anything they happen to let through will be easily stopped by the young goalkeeper. This match is ripe for a clean sheet from the homegrown stalwart and won’t be his last this year.