By CASEY CANNON
Hello and Welcome to the Soccer by Ives Fantasy Corner – now with even more pressure!! Every week I dig through statistics, news, and rumors to provide the reader with the kind of fantasy advice that only the best active MLS coach can provide.
This is be a very exciting week for weekly soccer pundits. As most folks know, the wildcard games will be followed by the first leg of the conference playoffs. The challenge is picking the winners of the midweek games to make intelligent predictions for this weekend’s games.
Last week my picks were fairly intelligent. I scored 85 points, good enough to move up to 37th in the SBI soccer league and 77th overall. A good week, but still in the dreaded scarf zone.
While my 85 points moved me up it is still below Kansas F5 Tornadoes who won the week with 93 points. Still higher up the table Marmots has extended his lead. With 2559 points Marmots is out of range of many of our players, but MLS prizes are still within easy reach. Also note for November I will report on the November results. Which is another way of saying: I’ll report on the playoff season excluding the silly play in game.
With a knockout round to pick a whole new team this week, there is still a chance to earn bragging rights.
Colorado Rapids @ Seattle Sounders - Colorado stayed in the northwest after suffering defeat in Vancouver. Even with the loss the Rapids have been the hotter of the two teams the last few weeks. Still, the Rapids have never won in Seattle. And this will be the second away game in a row for the Rapids while the Sounders played at home last weekend. AND the Sounders are returning to health.
My spreadsheet tells me Colorado will struggle to score a goal. The Sounders have a 46 percent chance of a earning a shut out with only a 16 percent chance to give up more than one goal. The most likely result is a 1-0 Sounders win. As a bonus prediction based solely on a hunch, Marvell Wynne will get a red card.
Montreal Impact @ Houston Dynamo - Montreal doesn’t always play well on the road as evidenced by their loss to Toronto FC last weekend. So it isn’t a surprise that Houston is a significant favorite. Admittedly, this will be a close game with the no more than three total goals scored. The difference is Houston have a 35 percent chance of earning a clean sheet while Montreal only have a 19 percent chance of holding Houston scoreless.
Conference Semifinal Round
Real Salt Lake @ Los Angeles Galaxy - The Galaxy have a 40 percent chance at a clean sheet and only a 20 percent chance of giving up more than one goal. Expect LA to score at least one and probably two goals in a 2-0 victory. Pick up plenty of Galaxy players.
Sporting Kansas City @ New England Revolution - For those who think “there is just too much scoring in soccer” MLS has a game for you. The most likely outcome of this first game is a 0 – 0 draw. Make sure to turn the volume down so the noisy announcers don’t interrupt pleasant dreams. Pick up defenders in this game because the second leg will be almost as exciting.
New York Red Bulls @ Houston Dynamo Houston’s third game in a week comes against it’s toughest opponent. Houston has a slight edge in the matchup under normal circumstances but this third game may be asking too much. Neither team will keep a clean sheet, but the best Houston can hope for is a 1-1 draw.
Portland Timbers @ Seattle Sounders The Timbers will rent ten speeds and ride down to Seattle, stopping at low impact coffee shops and vintage clothing stores along the way. Once there my spreadsheet says there is an 80 percent chance the Sounders hold the visitors to one goal or less. It also says the Sounders have a 50 percent chance to win. In this case I think my spreadsheet is lying. I’ll call it a Microsoft pro-Sounders bias. Tired Seattle against rested Portland = 3-1 Timbers.
Goalkeepers: Take the Sounders’ Michael Gspurning and Jimmy Nielsen from Sporting KC. Your backup goalkeeper should NOT be playing in the wild card round but instead play on a team with a chance of winning this weekend.
Defenders: Pick up mostly Sounders defenders since they have the best hope for a clean sheet. For those who worry about Seattle’s form, pick up Rapids defenders Chris Klute, Drew Moor and then a fill in with Houston Defenders. Friday drop everybody and pick up Rodney Wallace plus Sporting KC and New England Revolution defenders.
Midfielders: Pick up large chunks of Houston’s midfield. Brad Davis, Oscar Boniek Garcia, maybe Giles Barnes. Take Lamar Neagle or Brad Evans from Seattle. Go ahead and pick up Landon Donovan, Diego Valeri or Will Johnson to keep the bench warm. You will want them in the second week. Friday think about keeping the Houston midfielders but look real hard at their minutes. The matchup at home against the Red Bulls is good but that will be a tired group. Fill the midfield with the usual suspects.
Forwards: Pick up Sounders striker Eddie Johnson. I am also going with the Impact’s Marco Di Vaio but I won’t argue strenuously with anyone who disagrees. I don’t like the forwards that play midweek. Robbie Keane and Alvaro Saborio on the bench makes a lot of sense to me. On the weekend definitely start Keane and Johnson.
Individual picks – Knockout Round
Vice Captain – Eddie Johnson, Seattle Sounders - His 4.2 PPG doesn’t instill confidence in me, but I want more upside than Gspurning and Johnson has a fair shot of getting a goal.
Caparoo guy- Oscar Boniek Garcia, Houston Dynamo - If – when – Johnson disappoints sub in Garcia from Houston. His legs are younger than Brad Davis and he and Davis have the same Form value. The bonus is Garcia is only owned by 2.9% of the league.
Individual picks – Conference Semifinals
Vice Captain – Rodney Wallace, Portland Timbers - When I grow up I want to be Rodney Wallace. I’ll score a million fantasy points and when all the ladies stand in line to thank me I’ll just smile and tell them I’m glad I can help them win an awesome scarf.
Caparoo guy – Robbie Keane, Los Angeles Galaxy - 7.7 PPG playing at home makes him the best bet for Sunday. If he isn’t at least on your squad next week you may be kicked out of the league.
That’s all for today. I’ll be back next week to examine the carnage from this week and provide even more fantasy advice.