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MLS Fantasy Scout: RSL vs. Seattle Sounders

MLS: U.S. Open Cup-Seattle Sounders 2 at Real Salt Lake Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Congratulations to everyone in the RSL Soapbox league for a pretty good week 1 – looks like many in the RSL Soapbox group are off to a good 2016 season for MLS Fantasy play. Special congratulations in particular to Yuraburrito for a dominating Week 1 performance, hitting #129 for the week in the entire MLS Fantasy league.

Throughout the season, I’ll periodically take a look at the fantasy market to provide you some RSL flavored food for thought when you’re evaluating your team. Sometimes the results in MLS Fantasy don’t line up to conventional wisdom from social media or what we saw in the game. Based on my standing this week (top third of the RSL Soapbox standings) – I certainly don’t expect to enlighten everyone with brilliant strategies. But there are some interesting things to consider when you’re looking at RSL or other players for your team this season.

Quite a few people are talking about how awful the RSL defense was against Orlando, especially in the last five minutes. Turns out if you’re picking RSL players for your fantasy team, some of the better picks were defensive players – including Olave.

Here are the fantasy scores for all the RSL players last week.

Player Team Price Points Position Points/$
Plata RSL $9.20 13 F $1.41
Beltran RSL $7.50 6 D $0.80
Beckerman RSL $8.50 6 M $0.71
Olave RSL $8.00 5 D $0.63
Martinez RSL $8.50 5 F $0.59
Rimando RSL $6.00 4 GK $0.67
Morales RSL $10.50 4 M $0.38
Movsisyan RSL $9.00 4 F $0.44
Maund RSL $7.00 3 D $0.43
Mulholland RSL $8.00 1 M $0.13
Sunny RSL $7.00 1 M $0.14
Garcia RSL $6.50 1 F $0.15
Wingert RSL $6.90 0 D $0.00

From a fantasy scoring perspective for RSL, Plata was tops, thanks to his two goals. Coming in second was Tony Beltran. His consistent runs up the side with passes into the forwards (attacking bonus), combined with the key cross in Plata’s second goal got him a solid six points for the week. When you look across MLS – it is a decent score, but not great. Since defenders score six points for a goal, the top defenders to pick up a goal were at the top of the defender Fantasy scoring – Coelho from SKC, Steres from LA, and Waston from Vancouver all scored and dramatically improved their scores.

Speaking of defenders, the keys to good fantasy points on the back line aren’t just scoring. The most consistent defensive scoring will come from clean sheets (+4 points for both goalkeepers and defenders) and from defending bonuses (+1 point for clearances, blocks, interceptions, tackles, and recovered balls). The latter item is where everyone’s favorite punching bag – Olave – benefited from a fantasy perspective. Defensive mistakes at the end of the game may have cost RSL the victory, but (sometimes desperate) defensive plays throughout the game kept them in front for much of the game. Olave’s four defensive points put him tied at fourth place for RSL fantasy points – tied with Martinez for the week, despite Martinez playing like a whirling dervish and making the MLS Team of the Week. While Olave may have some issues, his defensive blocks and interceptions benefited the team – but also your fantasy points if you picked him. Wingert in the meantime played a decent game – but his yellow card and lack of key defensive plays meant he ended up with no points for the match. Decent play doesn’t always mean a decent fantasy week – if the defender’s spot isn’t being attacked, they’re points are going to suffer. Check the upcoming team’s preferred side and you’ll understand which outside back will see more action.

From a midfielder perspective, RSL wasn’t that great for fantasy points. Beckerman’s points were improved by four defensive bonus points – something we should see consistently through the year, since he is the ‘destroyer’ focused on disrupting opponent’s attacks. I’d picked up Sunny, hoping to see him have another good game. That got torpedoed when he was substituted after Phillip’s red card. I’ll probably keep him around, hoping to see him get through subsequent games and get complement Beckerman in performance and points – plus some upside in value, as he’s new and somewhat unknown. Morales had a quiet week – no scoring, no assists, but also no yellow card. Hopefully Plata and Martinez’s visibility will catch other team’s attentions and get Morales more opportunities. Key to midfielders is offensive production – they get more bonuses there than defense. But defensive midfielders can provide consistent points throughout the year. Morales will tend to have more upside than Beckerman or Sunny, but you might want some consistency for your team.

Last up – forwards. With two goals, Plata easily led RSL’s fantasy team performance. Hopefully he’ll keep up the scoring and improve over his 2015 season. You can bet that he’ll get a lot more attention from Seattle and other team’s defenses. Perhaps that means Yura or Burrito will get more opportunity. I picked up Burrito based on his great performances in CCL games leading up to the MLS season. Unfortunately forwards get most points from scoring or assisting in scoring – which means goal production or key support. For RSL’s success, the front line scoring is key. If you’re looking for key places to gain points, RSL’s potential for scoring this year means their forwards are a better bet than other teams.

There’s been a lot of talk of substitution patterns. Understanding them is a key thing for fantasy choices. Given the smaller benches this year, you can buy more expensive players as starters, but that means if your starters don’t play – you may miss out if you’re backup players don’t hit the field. RSL’s subs this week were pretty predictable – Garcia and Mulholland. Their lack of impact on the game was reflected in their points. Let’s hope for RSL and (if you picked them) your fantasy points that they do better next time. I’d picked up Allen hoping to see him sub in – no luck for me and unfortunately no luck for RSL either. Expect to see those names frequently, so if you need backup they might be a decent pick for modest points. We’ll probably see Sandoval and Stertzer on a regular basis too. If you’re looking for some affordable backup players with some upside, other good choices could include Justin Glad for road trips where there’s turf and Jeff Atinella when Rimando gets a break or is out for USMNT duty.

Keep in mind – check the MLS injury report for your players. Luckily for RSL, they don’t have anyone on the list. Keeping your fingers crossed that they stay healthy until Saturday.