By CASEY CANNON
Hello and Welcome to the Soccer by Ives Fantasy Corner – now with more magical moments! Every week I dig through statistics, news, and rumors to provide the reader with the kind of fantasy advice that only a guy who really dislikes scarves can provide.
One team – MyGameFairPlay – had a huge week and displaced marmots at the top of the SBI league. The good folks at KFC Official are still the best during the playoffs with 318 total points. This round I had the top team in the SBI Fantasy League the week with 90 points.
I’m now in 57th place overall and 27th in SBI. I am just a few points away from a real prize and will push for the top 50. Thank goodness, because my competitive side hates to tank. For those in the lower 100’s to 80th or so it may be time to throw in the towel.
For those sitting around 90th right now with nursing dreams of top 50, play a long shot and go all in for Houston. (more on Houston below) If they somehow win the differential boost may be enough to get in range of a real prize. If the expected happens then it will be an effective tank move.
For more strategy on selections read on below.
CONFERENCE FINALS ROUND
Real Salt Lake @ Portland Timbers - Portland only has a 20 percent chance to advance, but it will be fun to watch them try. I think the biggest question for this game is the tactics Real Salt Lake head coach Jason Kreis employs. In the first leg of the conference semifinals at the LA Galaxy, RSL played Alvaro Sabario as a single forward and put Yordany Alvarez on as a second holding midfielder. RSL escaped that game with an acceptable 1-0 defeat after Robbie Keane inexplicably blew several big chances. Will Kreis play more defensively on the road again or will they try to outgun Portland?
While Gill, Morales, Grabavoy and Beckerman will start regardless of formation choice the forwards are up for debate. If there is only one forward is Sabario healthy enough to play or does Findley get the call again? For those with trades and time to spare I suggest picking up both players, checking the starting lineups before the lineups lock Sunday and inserting whichever forward gets the start.
I expect this game to be the goal-fest out West. Portland will break through, RSL will score on a counter, the Timbers score a second and then IT’S ON. Or maybe I am just being hopeful. The spreadsheet says Portland have a 41 percent chance of scoring 2 or more goals. I recommend taking Diego Valeri, Will Johnson and Darlington Nagbe from the Rose City midfield and adding Javier Morales and one RSL forward for balance. Rodney Wallace is the only acceptable defender to start from this match.
In the end I will be personally disappointed to see the Timbers fall short, 3-2. Note that I plan on replacing four Portland players for the finals. That represents four of the six free trades available.
Save a trade for the finals! – In the final round of the season we only have six trades. In my case if – when – Portland is eliminated four of those six trades are shot. If SKC is eliminated then I will desperately need every free trade I can get. The very last week of the season isn’t the time to be forced into a -4 penalty.
Houston Dynamo @ Sporting Kansas City - Sporting Kansas City have a 44 percent chance of earning a shutout against Houston. Like the other Conference final, Sporting KC have a 41 percent chance of scoring more than two goals. Unlike out West, this game won’t go well for the visiting team. Houston only has a 25 percent chance win this game.
Let me be clear. Outside of desperation gambits don’t pick any Dynamo players. Houston is unlikely to earn a shutout. The defenders are not a good bet this week and a horrible bet next week. I understand folks want to take Oscar Boniek Garcia or Brad Davis. Neither of these players are better options than Valeri, Nagbe, Johnson, Graham Zusi, or Morales.
Will Bruin has had one good game this fall and Omar Cummings is still 4th among forwards on form. That is two at best questionable forwards playing on a team that will struggle to score goals this week. If the Dynamo shockingly moves on to the MLS Cup final, they will travel to Portland or Salt Lake where they have a 40 percent and 47 percent chance respectively of being shut out. Houston players are inefficient selections this week and disastrous next round.
Individual picks – Conference finials
Vice Captain – Aurélien Collin - With a 44% chance of earning a shutout SKC defenders are good choices. Collin who can score goals is an even better option. Currently the leader in PPG at 6.3 this well groomed defender is the correct play Saturday.
Caparoo guy- Will Johnson – Johnson is a scoring threat from his free kicks and has a 5.5 PPG average. For this game he will be pushed forward in an all-encompassing effort to overcome aggregate goals. For those with anti-Canadian biases Valeri is also a fair choice here.
That’s all for today. I’ll be back before the MLS finals to review and advice for the last game of the week. Good luck everybody.