Welcome to From The Upper Deck, my blog about RSL and soccer in general. I have a lot of passion for the beautiful game. I am just a fan that likes to sit in the upper deck and take it all in.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Fantasy Strategy- The 4 Million Dollar Man

By Nic Shellabarger

Having only $120 million in your pocket to spend sounds like a problem I’d like to have. However, as you get involved as a MLS Fantasy Soccer Manager, you’ll likely find that $120 m is nowhere near enough to buy all of the players you want for your perfect team. A team comprised solely of top shelf players would cost you upwards of $180 million. A few concessions must be made.

The Balancing Act
Salary caps in the MLS strive to keep the pitch equal and the same is true for the initial $120 m allotment for MLS Fantasy managers. As is the case with the pro counterparts, many fantasy managers attempt to create a well-balanced team within the confines of their given budget. Sure, you might splurge and spend $11 m on Thierry Henry, but then you’ll look at saving money elsewhere such as purchasing a low-cost alternative for the forward position when Henry won’t play because of artificial turf. That, or you may have to skimp a bit on another position to make up for the high cost of your handsome French forward.

These accommodations for budget aren’t necessarily a bad thing. The majority of players on MLS teams don’t make a whole lot more than the $36,500 minimum, but they’re still a strong contributing factor for the success of their team. Take Luke Mulholland for example. As a relatively low played member of Real Salt Lake’s team, Mulholland has been a huge contributing factor to their success, making an appearance in all 9 games and contributing 2 goals and an assist to the score sheet.

Mulholland has been a great acquisition for RSL this year providing a very high cost-to-benefit ratio. However, if money weren’t an issue, do you think Real would hesitate to snag Landon Donovan or Tim Cahill to fill that position? I doubt it.
Unfortunately, in the real world and in MLS Fantasy Manager, money is an issue and we must carefully distribute it to get the greatest players and most depth that we can afford with our allotted portion. Or do we?

Loose the Depth
In case you’ve gotten a little too involved with your fantasy team lately, let me remind you (and myself) that this is not the real world. We don’t have to and shouldn’t play by real-world logic.

Depth on the bench is a necessity in the real world as you can’t exactly predict game situations and injuries that you will face in any given match and you have to be prepared to deal with whatever you face. Fantasy soccer is different. There is nothing you can do during a match to adjust for in-game situations. All adjustments must be made prior to the beginning of the match. Because of this, depth becomes an unnecessary option.

Your team is comprised of 18 players and only 11 of them can be used on game day. The other 7 do you absolutely no good. That’s a lot of wasted players and a lot of wasted money. You have no control over how many players are on your team, but you can control to an extent how much you spend on wasted players by purchasing as many $4 m players as possible.

On the conservative end, I would suggest that you have at least three $4 m players. One in each third of the field. This arrangement would still leave you at least one solid backup for each position while freeing up a little bit of money to buy quality players that will actually see time on your virtual pitch.

Unfortunately, conservative measures aren’t likely to make you the hero on game day, so I’d like to suggest something a little more drastic: fill your virtual bench with five $4 m players. That’s right, five players that will never step foot on the field. Five players that will never earn a single point.

Five unusable players seems to create a situation where you only have a single substitute on the bench. If you use that substitute, there’s also a pretty good chance your team’s formation will be forced to change. This is the stuff that a football manager’s nightmares are made of. However, this only sounds like bad news.

The good news is that it’s not true. In MLS Fantasy Manager, you have an additional 2 transfers each week to compensate for players who were injured, disciplined, or just not performing. A little bit of quick, careful math tells us that 2+1=3, and we’re right back up to real-world substitution options with a little bit more money to spend on quality.

A quick word of caution though, this approach will require a bit more foreword planning if you still want to take advantage of double-game weeks and lopsided matchups, so be prepared to put in a little more prep time each week.

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