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Fantasy Focus: Back for 2019

There are a few changes on hand for this season

2018 MLS Cup - Portland Timbers v Atlanta United Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The off-season is over! We’re less than a week from the start of the 2019 MLS season, and MLS Fantasy has gone live. As usual, we have both a classic league and a head-to-head league (that will have playoffs this season)! Come join us!

Before we get into the players you should choose for your teams, let’s take a look at the published changes:

  • Managers may only select three players per team instead of four
  • Improved player pricing model to better react to player’s most recent performance
  • Improved visual representation for players with double-game weeks
  • Improved search functionality
  • Dynamic share: Managers are now able to share an image of their current roster on their preferred social media channel
  • Managers are now able to navigate within the game while editing their roster while using the MLS app

The first one here is the biggest, especially when you have a great match-up that you want to exploit. If I’m being honest, four players, or 36% of a starting lineup from one team, is probably too much, but it’s going to be hard to get accustomed to it, especially for players who have been playing for years. Now, how the player pricing model has changed remains to be seen, as it isn’t explained in much detail beyond this:

Player prices change based on a formula that considers past performance. Every game the player plays is taken into account in the calculation of their price changes, with a sliding scale of weightings. The most recent game receives the highest weighting.

That’s fairly ambiguous. Only time will tell.

As for the improved search, I can personally confirm that it does exist, but I have questions.

You wouldn’t know it, but those two search fields in the red box are for minimum and maximum salaries, which means that you’re not constrained to searching in $1.0M increments. Unfortunately you can still only select numbers on the million, but you can, for example, search for all players between $4.0M and $6.0M if you’re looking for a cheap player to plug in. That said, how did these fields get to this point without being labeled? You only know what’s in there if you click it. And really, why can’t we enter a number of our choosing instead of picking in a drop-down? We should be able to search for players between $4.0M and $4.7M when all we have is $4.7M in the bank. One other thing that they’ve added is a box to click to search only for players with two games in a round. That’s a bonus!

Sadly, if one of your starters doesn’t play, the game still gives you your highest scoring bench player, so players can still deliberately field up to two starting players who are on bye or otherwise won’t play, and be rewarded with their two highest scoring players off the bench. This is probably the change I’ve been most unhappy with since the new system rolled out, because the players who do it are only made to choose nine players, and then have the system choose their other two. I won’t ever take that route.

Now let’s get onto the players of choice for 2019.

Goalkeepers

Everybody likes: Andre Blake (PHI, $5.5, 11.45%), Stefan Frei (SEA, $6.0, 9.97%)

I like: Tim Melia (SKC, $6.0)
Melia was the highest-scoring goalkeeper in 2018, and he’s no more expensive than any other top goalkeeper. I’m not buying Blake, even at $5.5, because I don’t trust Philadelphia’s defense.

All Value All-stars: Matt Turner (NE, $5.0), Tyler Miller (LA, $5.5)
Turner averaged 4.44 points per game last year, which is just a hair more than $6.0M man Brad Guzan (ATL), and $5.5M men Jesse Gonzalez (DAL) and Tim Howard (COL). Miller’s 5.0 PPG was sixth among all goalkeepers with eight or more appearances, and his 165 points were good for fourth among goalkeepers.

Sleeper: Daniel Vega (SJ, $4.0)
Listed as Mario Vega, this man has seemingly earned the Earthquakes’ starting job. He’s a no-brainer if you need the cheapest bench player possible, because he’ll probably get a few points and maybe increase in value for selling.

Defenders

Everybody Likes: Graham Zusi (SKC, $7.0, 17.77%), Michael Parkhurst (ATL, $5.5, 16.06%), Reggie Cannon (DAL, $5.5, 11.69%)
Even with a new coach and weird tactics, people are still on Parkhurst. I’ll wait until Atlanta plays a few games.

I like: Cannon, Auston Trusty (PHI, $5.5)
I just said that I don’t trust the Philadelphia defense, but I like Trusty because not earning a clean sheet isn’t as much of a blow for him than for the goalkeeper. I can see why Zusi, the reigning positional scoring champion (by 35 points!), is the player selected the most, but he turns 33 this summer, and is frankly unlikely to maintain that productivity this season.

All Value All-Stars: Justen Glad (RSL, $5.5), Kim Kee-hee (SEA, $5.5)
Both of these guys, especially Glad, look good value in terms of cost per point from a season ago. Glad is seventh among defenders in that category.

Sleepers: Florian Jungwirth (SJ, $5.0), Brad Smith (SEA, $5.0)
Jungwirth, after increasing his goal and assist total from five in 2017 to seven in 2018, will probably come in around the latter number again this season. That’s not terrible output for $5.0M. Meanwhile, Brad Smith is an inexpensive (assumed) starting fullback for the second stingiest defense in MLS last season.

Midfielders

Everybody Likes: Nicolas Lodeiro (SEA, $11.0, 19.74%), Diego Valeri (POR, $10.5, 12.83%), Nani (ORL, $9.5, 11.69%)
Hold up. Nani, who is playing for Orlando, is the third most frequently selected midfielder? I need a drink.

I Like: Lodeiro, Mark-Anthony Kaye (LAFC, $8.0)
Lodeiro should be a no brainer, despite being edged by a point by Maxi Moralez for the midfield scoring lead, but Moralez lost David Villa, and Lodeiro is getting back Jordan Morris. Kaye, with his reasonable price tag should be set to benefit from the Rocky Mountain departure of Benny Feilhaber, even though he’s coming back from ankle surgery in August. Before he got hurt, Kaye had two goals and five assists in 20 appearances, and he was scoring 5.35 PPG. That should only improve.

All Value All-Stars: Rasmus Schuller (MIN, $6.0), Diego Fagundez (NE, $8.0)
Schuller is a very inexpensive player who scored 5.1 PPG last year. He’s the most inexpensive midfielder per point. I don’t know that he’ll start all the time, but you can do worse for the money. Fagundez, whose 190 points were 12th at the position, is the second highest scoring midfielder at $8.0, and the other guy (Benny Feilhaber) has gone from LA to Colorado.

Sleepers: Florian Valot (NJ, $7.5), Paul Arriola (DCU, $8.5)
I’ll never pick a Metros player, but Valot performed well in his 14 appearances last season, scoring 5.64 PPG. For Arriola, the security of not starting the season at fullback should be reassuring for coaches who select him, and with Yamil Asad (probably?) not returning, that’s more responsibility, and hopefully more production for the MNT regular.

Forwards

Everybody Likes: Zlatan Ibrahimovic (LAG, $11.0, 31.32%), Josef Martinez (ATL, $11.0, 23.53), Carlos Vela (LA, $11.0, 11.05%)
This is generally unsurprising, especially now that Martinez doesn’t have Miguel Almiron to set him up.

I Like: Vela (if healthy), Wayne Rooney (DCU, $11.0)
Despite the love affair that casual MLS fans have with Ibrahimovic, Vela outscored him by 22 fantasy points in just one additional appearance. His early season production will likely depend upon how bad his knee injury is. For Rooney, we’re getting a full-ish season with a (eek) tuned in Luciano Acosta.

All Value All-Stars: Teal Bunbury (NE, $7.0), Danny Hoesen (SJ, $7.5)
Buyer beware, but Bunbury and Hoesen are the fourth and fifth least expensive forwards per point, and the players above them are named Martinez, Vela, and Rossi. It’s a gamble, but they’re inexpensive for production.

Sleeper: Adama Diomande (LA, $9.5)
Diomande arrived in MLS with a bang, scoring 12 goals in 18 appearances, and he actually edged $11.0M man Diego Rossi in PPG, 6.22 to 6.16.

That’s it. Go thee forth and conquer! Have you joined our leagues yet? You should join our leagues.