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Fantasy Focus: We’re back!

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Who should you put on your roster?

2017 MLS Cup - Seattle Sounders v Toronto FC Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

The 2018 MLS season is nigh, and the return of Fantasy MLS brings an entirely new user interface. Before we get to that, the classic and head-to-head leagues are back. The head-to-head league is limited to 30 teams for unknown reasons, so places are limited. Go thee forth and sign up.

The new UI is flashy, but I don’t like the look, organization, or functionality. Other than that, I guess its okay. The way they organized the information isn’t a table, so I can’t use it in Excel, which is also not great. So yeah, I give it no thumbs up.

But enough of that. Who should you put on your team? I’ll go position by position, and for each of the positions you’ll see the top scorers from last season with some numbers for each, accompanied by recommendations, sleepers, and AVAs (All Value All-stars). Let’s get to it.

Goalkeepers

Above, you have the top five scoring goalkeepers from a year ago. This image is taken from the Stats Center. To give you an idea of part of the problem I have, if you didn’t know what teams these guys play for, that information is not shown in stats center. Cool.

Recommendation: Sporting Kansas City’s Tim Melia ($6.0) didn’t score the most points last season, but he scored at a better rate than the leading scorer, Zack Steffen. Steffen benefited from playing four more matches. I don’t foresee Melia falling off much this season, and I’d love to have a look at his performance over previous seasons, but it seems that can’t be done anymore in the new interface. Fun.

Sleeper: I don’t think Brad Guzan (ATL, $6.0) is a particularly good goalkeeper, and I don’t think Atlanta’s defense is very good, but Guzan averaged 3.6 points per game last season, the highest rate at his position (he only played 15 games.) Finding a goalkeeper sleeper is hard because there are only as many players worth considering as there are teams. Guzan is a sleeper for me because I think few will pick him, and his somewhat small sample size may not be representative of his ability over a full season.

AVA: Zack Steffen (CLB, $5.5) led goalkeepers in scoring, scored the fourth most points per game, and is the cheapest player per point, yet he costs less than Melia, Guzan, and Philadelphia’s Andre Blake.

Defenders

Those are the top five scorers last season.

Recommendations: Don’t necessarily be fooled by Graham Zusi’s (SKC, $6.0) position-leading 6.54 points per game. He’s 31, and I wouldn’t bet on him improving his numbers this year. Meanwhile, if soon-to-be 26-year-old Leandro Gonzalez Pirez (ATL, $6.0) doesn’t post similar or better numbers this season, it will be a surprise. I also like Alexander Callens (NYC, $5.5) to improve on the New York team’s improved defense.

Sleepers: Did the Red Bulls get better this offseason? I don’t think so, but Aaron Long (NYR, $5.0) could, and should, do better than his 108 points last season. Just wait a round to add him, since the Red Bulls are off in round one. Also look at Matt Polster (CHI, $5.5), whose 114 points were dwarfed by teammates Johan Kappelhof (145) and Brandon Vincent (120,) but Polster scored more on average (4.75 points per match) than either of them. Lastly, keep an eye on Houston’s Kevin Garcia ($4.5). The fullback has been getting preseason minutes with the first team, and if he does begin the season as the starter, he’s very cheap and worth at least having on your bench.

AVAs: Minnesota’s Jerome Thiesson ($5.0) scored the sixth most points among defenders (150,) but he’s the second cheapest per point ($34k). Also consider Orlando’s Scott Sutter ($5.0), with just 131 points last year, but the seventh cheapest per point ($39k)

Midfielders

Recommendations: Nicolas Lodeiro (SEA, $11.0) and Romain Alessandrini (LAG, $11.0) are obvious here, with Lodeiro leading the league in scoring, and Alessandrini coming in with the highest average points per game (9.93) in the league. That said, I really like Albert Rusnak (RSL, $10.5) at a slightly lower price (half a million goes a long way in the early going,) and after a full offseason under Mike Petke’s guidance.

Sleepers: Rusnak’s RSL teammate, Brooks Lennon ($5.5) will probably not be an opening match starter, but I like the odds of him getting good minutes, especially when the inevitable Joao Plata injury comes. And while Diego Valeri gets most of the Portland plaudits, his teammate, David Guzman ($8.0), had the 12th most points per game (7.0) among midfielders, and he’s much cheaper.

AVAs: D.C. United’s Yamil Asad ($8.0) is tied with Nicolas Lodeiro for the lowest cost per fantasy point ($35k). The caveat here is that Asad has a new team, and he doesn’t have Josef Martinez. Just behind Asad is Minnesota’s Ibson ($8.0) who’s 3rd at the position in cost per point ($37k). Looking a little further, Seattle’s Gustav Svensson ($7.0) is cheap, but he gets you 5.03 points per game at that price.

Forwards

Recommendations: You generally won’t go wrong with anyone on this list, though I’m not convinced of Ola Kamara’s production continuing in LA. David Villa just turned 36, and he has to slow down sometime. Don’t forget about Josef Martinez (ATL, $11.0), who scored the third most points per game (7.1) among forwards behind Sebastian Giovinco (TOR, $11.0) and the aforementioned Villa (NYC, $11.0).

Sleepers: Diego Rubio (SKC, $8.0) played just 19 times last year, but he averaged more points per game (4.58) than the more expensive players like Orlando’s Dom Dwyer and Houston’s Romell Quioto. I feel like Dominique Badji (COL, $8.0) is always in this section or the AVAs, and he’s here again as a projected starter for the Rapids at that price and with 4.15 points per game a season ago.

AVAs: Seattle’s Will Bruin ($7.0) is inexpensive, scores nearly 4 points per game, and is likely to get plenty of matches this season after playing in 32 last season. I can’t pretend to know what LAFC will look like in a few months, or even in round one, but if Latif Blessing ($6.5) is a regular starter, he’ll be worth keeping around with any measurable production.

That’s it for each position. Who do you like and why? Let me know in the comments, and let’s do this thing!