By AVI CREDITOR
Major League Soccer's hope that the new Designated Player rule would have some owners open up their wallets is coming to fruition, as evidenced by the last few weeks.
With New York inking two DPs, Seattle adding two and shipping one to Chicago (which added another of its own) and D.C. signing one, MLS' star power in its big markets has surely increased.
It's not just the DP moves that have helped teams improve, though. Some of the lesser-heralded moves provide the chances for some players to thrive in new systems while helping their respective teams jockey for playoff position during the final third of the season.
Instead of the weekly player rankings, let's take the time this week to break down the potential fantasy impacts of the major midseason wheelings and dealings:
MIDSEASON ACQUISITION FANTASY FORECASTS
BRANKO BOSKOVIC, Midfielder, D.C. United
Likely to be the least effective of the new Designated Players, Boskovic is also hampered by the fact that he's on the league's worst team. Team success translates into MFLS success, and D.C. United's players haven't had a whole lot of either.
Of the 26 D.C. United individuals available in MFLS, only seven have NOT accumulated negative points. Curt Onalfo, Luciano Emilio and Josh Wicks are among those seven. Stay away from Boskovic, who's already at a -6 clip.
FORECAST FROM HERE ON OUT: 12 matches, 2 assists, -14 goal differential
NERY CASTILLO, Forward, Chicago Fire
Perhaps the most intriguing DP considering his age and potential, Castillo has boatloads of talent and scoring ability. Common sense would surmise that Castillo should light up MLS nets, but there's still a shred of skepticism considering his character track record.
Nevertheless, Castillo should be a major contributor as Carlos de los Cobos' side makes a push for the postseason. Only the Fire and the Philadelphia Union have as many as 15 games remaining, meaning that the Fire's attacking players will make for strong fantasy assets down the stretch. Castillo will lead the charge of that group, providing a consistent, dangerous threat at the top of the formation.
FORECAST: 15 matches, 5 goals, 2 assists, +10 GD
ALVARO FERNANDEZ, Midfielder, Seattle Sounders
Already a goal scorer in the Sounders' CONCACAF Champions League campaign, the Uruguayan international could make for the most stealth and under-the-radar of all the DP signings.
His fantasy production likely won't match that of his bigger-name counterparts, but in terms of fitting in to his team's mold, Fernandez certainly does that. His presence stabilizes the Sounders' midfield after Freddie Ljungberg's exit, and he combines with Steve Zakuani, Fredy Montero and Blaise N'Kufo to form a potentially special attacking core.
FORECAST: 11 matches, 1 goal, 3 assists, +12 GD
THIERRY HENRY, Forward, New York Red Bulls
The grandest (and least surprising) of all of the recent DP signings, Henry has already shown his ability to create in the Red Bull attack. The pairing of Henry and Juan Pablo Angel up top already is, and will continue to be, the most potent in the league, and the two will only become more lethal as they continue to play together.
Already with two assists to his name, Henry should be counted on week-in and week-out to produce like very few DPs have in league history.
FORECAST: 13 matches, 7 goals, 5 assists, +12 GD
FREDDIE LJUNGBERG, Midfielder, Chicago Fire
Ljungberg earned a ticket out of Seattle after falling out of favor at Qwest Field, and now he'll be out to prove that his first half of the season was a fluke. He joins a Fire team that has 15 matches remaining, and he fills one of the team's needs for a creative distributor on the flank.
Joining a midfield that already boasts All-Star Marco Pappa and the speedy Patrick Nyarko and playing behind Castillo, Collins John and Brian McBride, Ljungberg (assuming he stays healthy and happy) will have plenty of chances to rack up the fantasy points as the Fire vie for a playoff spot. He'll be especially motivated on Aug. 28, when the Fire meet the Sounders in Seattle.
FORECAST: 15 matches, 1 goal, 5 assists, +10 GD
RAFAEL MARQUEZ, Defender/Midfielder, New York Red Bulls
The Mexican international isn't available to be picked up in MFLS yet, and it's unclear whether he'll be listed as a defender or a midfielder.
If he's listed as a defender, that would boost his value significantly, because it's looking like he'll be deployed in the midfield and he'd be more offensively adept than most MFLS defenders. If he's listed as a midfielder, then his value won't be nearly as high, because his offensive numbers won't match those at the top of the position.
Keep an eye out for the decision (no, there won't be an hour-long special on ESPN), and act accordingly.
FORECAST: 13 matches, 1 goal, 1 assist, +12 GD
MISTA, Forward, Toronto FC
Oddly enough, Maicon Santos could turn out to be the more fantasy-relevant of the two signings that TFC made in reshaping its front line. Time will tell if Mista can be a consistent contributor in Toronto, but with a suddenly-crowded forward brigade that includes Santos, Mista and Chad Barrett, Preki has to go with his hottest hands in order to keep the Reds afloat, considering the team's recent lack of a scoring stroke.
Granted he was robbed of his first MLS goal by Jimmy Nielsen last week, but Mista probably won't turn out to be as prolific as some of the league's newest DPs.
FORECAST: 13 matches, 1 goal, 0 assists, -2 GD
BLAISE N'KUFO, Forward, Seattle Sounders
Technically he was acquired months ago, but he's just as much of a newcomer as everybody else. The physical Swiss international will add some muscle up top to Sigi Schmid's attack and should act as a brilliant complement for the in-form Montero.
N'Kufo has the ability to batter defenders, draw fouls and hold up the ball, and he has some capable pieces around him that can benefit from his skills. Now that the Sounders have emerged from their first-half swoon, N'Kufo could be a difference maker in carrying the squad to a sustained playoff run.
FORECAST: 11 matches, 4 goals, 2 assists, +12 GD
EDUARDO COUDET, Midfielder, Philadelphia Union
Chacho has the ability to make a difference for the Union in terms of their collective effort, but he shouldn't register a blip on the fantasy radar. Known more for his control and touch than goal scoring, Coudet probably doesn't belong on your roster.
FORECAST: 15 matches, 0 goals, 1 assist, +8 GD
PABLO HERNANDEZ, Forward, D.C. United
Hernandez should actually contribute more from a fantasy standpoint than Boskovic, though neither player should really be owned. In his limited time since joining United, Hernandez has shown a natural ability and creativity in the final third, though that hasn't translated into goals just yet.
FORECAST: 12 matches, 2 goals, 1 assist, -14 GD
GIANCARLO MALDONADO, Forward, Chivas USA
Venezuela's all-time leading scorer packs a finishing punch for the new-look Goats, who have seemingly found a winning formula over the last few weeks. Can Martin Vasquez' men sustain their level of play? That remains to be seen. After impressive showings against Real Salt Lake and the Columbus Crew, though, it appears that Chivas isn't the pushover it once was, and Maldogol should be able to find some success, though probably not enough to warrant a place on your roster.
FORECAST: 13 matches, 2 goals, 2 assists, -8 GD
JUSTIN MAPP, Midfielder, Philadelphia Union
The change of scenery could do wonders for Mapp, who brings balance to a Union midfield that has been heavily reliant on Sebastien Le Toux. The former U.S. national teamer still has the goods when healthy, and he could really blossom under Peter Nowak's guidance.
FORECAST: 15 matches, 2 goals, 3 assists, + 8 GD
ANTHONY OBODAI, Midfielder, Houston Dynamo
The Ghanaian international provides a lift for the injury-stricken Dynamo, but not much should be expected from a fantasy-production standpoint. The Dynamo have a pretty manageable schedule the rest of the way (two games against San Jose and New England, one against D.C., Philadelphia and Kansas City), which is something that should boost his chances.
FORECAST: 12 matches, 0 goals, 2 assists, +2 GD
MILTON RODRIGUEZ, Forward, FC Dallas
The Colombian striker already has a league goal to his credit after scoring the equalizer in FCD's draw with Toronto FC a couple of weeks ago, and he is clearly going to be given every chance to contribute by coach Schellas Hyndman. He could be a sly fantasy pickup over the next three weeks (vs. Philadelphia, at D.C., vs. Chivas) as Dallas continues its turnaround from a dismal start to the season.
FORECAST: 13 matches, 3 goals, 1 assist, +4 GD
Soccer By Ives League Standings (Top 10)
1. Campione……………………………………..479 points
2. Cpt. Pancakes and Lt. Waffles……..477
3. Yankee Racers……………………………..475
4. I <3 MLS………………………………………..472
5. FC Byrd Turgler…………………………….466
6. Miles Davis FC……………………………..450
10. Catfish FC……………………..,…………443
LAST WEEK'S SBI LEAGUE TOP SCORER
united2win (39 points)
Which midseason acquisition do you think will have the biggest MFLS impact for the rest of the season? Which of the new DPs have you added to your squad? What's your lineup looking like for Week 19?
Share your thoughts below.