MLS Fantasy Focus: Who should you be bringing in for the first DGW of the season?

By Jamie Dawe & Sam Martin

Week 3 Review

The Good:

LA Galaxy forward Gyasi Zardes ($9.5) helped continue his side’s unbeaten home run as he netted two goals in his side’s 3-1 win against San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday as they climbed to 2nd in the Western Conference. Reigning MLS Cup champions Portland came from two goals down to grab a point at home to Real Salt Lake, with Fanendo Adi ($10.2) grabbing a brace, including one from the spot late on. Philadelphia picked up their second win of the season with a convincing 3-0 home victory over the New England Revolution. American forward CJ Sapong ($8.1) opened his MLS 2016 goals account with two in his side’s well-deserved victory, while rookie defender Keegan Rosenberry ($5.5) made four interceptions and two crucial tackles to preserve his side’s second clean-sheet in three matches. 

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The Bad:

Unbeaten Real Salt Lake threw away a two-goal lead at Portland Timbers in the last 11 minutes, but also saw two of their men receive red cards. With his side a goal up, midfielder Kyle Beckerman ($8.3) saw red, followed by defender Jamison Olave ($7.8), who received his marching orders in the 83rd minute. Manager Jeff Cassar will surely be frustrated with his side’s lack of discipline. A further three red cards were dished out across the weekend, making a grand total of 5 across all matches. San Jose’s Jamaican DP Simon Dawkins ($8.6), New England Revolution defender Je-Vaughn Watson ($6.9) and former Wigan Athletic midfielder Roger Espinoza ($7.2) all saw red for their misdemeanours. It certainly was another fiery weekend in MLS!

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Week 4 Preview

Must Buy:

With the first Double Gameweek of the season hurtling towards us at top speed, it’s time for you to stack up on players who could make a real impact in the Week 4 scoring charts. I’m going to attempt to recommend one player from each side that has a Double Gameweek this week. Firstly, from DC United, Brazilian midfielder Marcelo Sarvas ($7.1) is definitely a safe bet to score a decent quantity of bonus points in both matches, so if you’re looking for guaranteed points, he’s your man. FC Dallas are missing a number of their key players this international break, so it’s a chance for Mauro Diaz ($10.4) to continue to show his incredible credentials without the likes of Tesho Akindele and Kellyn Acosta surrounding him. The New England Revs have had a disappointing start to the season, but it could’ve been a lot worse if it wasn’t for star ‘keeper Bobby Shuttleworth ($5.8). A clean sheet and two saved penalties in three games make Shuttleworth by far and away the best performer so far in this poor New England side. I also expect that this week will be the week that Kekuta Manneh’s ($8.5) ability shines through for the Whitecaps in their double header of home games. However, I would not recommend picking up any Whitecaps defenders as they face free-scoring Houston on Saturday, followed by the visit of LA Galaxy, who are also a dangerous attacking outfit.

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Must Sell:

This week, I’m struggling to see anyone or any team that stands out to me as particularly worth selling over everyone else. Obviously, dropping any of the red-carded players can’t be argued against and anyone losing faith in the Sounders ever picking up form would be understood if they were to remove Clint Dempsey ($10.8) or Jordan Morris ($8.2) from their side. The New York Red Bulls also picked up a host of hamstring injuries in their 4-3 victory over Houston, so defenders Gideon Baah ($8.0) and Ronald Zubar ($7.8) could be ones to remove before their match against the Revs on April 1.

Seattle Sounders vs Vancouver Whitecaps 2016 Clint Dempsey


There’s a new leader in the MLSGB Fantasy League this week, as Damian Reed’s brilliantly named side De Jong Trousers now tops the leaderboard. However, this week’s highest scorer was SW Whistler’s squad Pits of Passyunk with 87 points, which included double figures from Philly players CJ Sapong and Fabinho, his chosen captain Cyle Larin and Red Bulls midfield maestro Sacha Kljestan.

Who do you think is the best player to select for the upcoming Double Gameweek?

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MLS Preview and Prediction: Real Salt Lake vs San Jose Earthquakes

Competition: Major League Soccer – Real Salt Lake vs. San Jose Earthquakes 

Venue: Rio Tinto Stadium – Friday, May 1st – 20:00 ET (03:00 BST)

Match Odds: Real Salt Lake 4/5 – Draw 13/5 – San Jose Earthquakes 100/3

Match Preview

Real Salt Lake entertain San Jose Earthquakes on Friday night as both sides look to lift themselves up the table in a very competitive Western Conference.

Real Salt Lake come into the game off the back of two defeats. Last weekend’s 4-0 drubbing away to New England Revolution has further highlighted their sticky patch of form after a 1-0 home defeat to Vancouver the week before ended their unbeaten start to the campaign.

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Jeff Cassar’s side have won just twice this season and need to avoid getting caught up in a lengthy spell before their next win, but this game will be yet another hard outing against a San Jose side that have already won at the Seattle Sounders this season.

The Earthquakes are above Real Salt Lake on goal-difference but they too are struggling to put together a winning streak after a promising start to the season.

Winning three and losing four of their seven games so far isn’t too much of a concern for Dominic Kinnear but he needs to get his defence to tighten up having conceded nine times.

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The Quakes lost 2-0 last week to the New York Red Bulls. They will feel they have a chance to take points from this one, but the standings are incredibly tight with just two points separating 5th and 10th in the Western, showing why it is so hard to split these two.

Team News

Real Salt Lake have seven injury concerns as Joao Plata, Chris Schuler, Sebastian Jaime, Javier Morales, Boyd Okwuonu and Nick Rimando could all miss out. Plata is nearing a return but is still at least three weeks away. While John Stertzer will miss out through suspension, so Cassar has his options limited, but he will be hoping that he can take something from this game ahead of their next tie against LA Galaxy.

San Jose Earthquakes have four out as Mark Sherrod, Steven Lenhart, Shaun Francis and Jordan Stewart will miss the trip. Kinnear needs Chris Wondolowski to lead the line as he did at the start of the season as the forward hasn’t scored in his last three outings and needs to put that run to an end as soon as he can.

Key Points

Real Salt Lake’s last five: W/W/D/L/L

San Jose Earthquakes’ last five: W/L/L/W/L

Key Stat: Leaky – both sides have conceded more than they have scored this season (9) and so it could go either way in this game.

Key Player: Kyle Beckerman – The midfield powerhouse needs to show his ability to dominate the middle of the park in these sort of games. If he can hit top form, RSL will reap the benefits.

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Score Prediction

Real Salt Lake 2-2 San Jose Earthquakes – Nothing to split these two in what will be a hard fought tie. Goals can be expected though as there have been 17 in the last six meetings between the two sides.

Brad Davis now the longest-serving player with one club in MLS

Houston Dynamo midfielder Brad Davis is now the longest-serving player to be with one Major League Soccer club as he enters his 10th season with the Dynamo.

Chicago Fire defender Gonzalo Segares announced his retirement on Monday, putting an end to a 10-year career, and so Davis is now the longest-serving player in the league to have been with one club.

Houston teammate Corey Ashe is not far behind Davis as the left-back has been with the Dynamo for eight years, while Real Salt Lake trio Nick Rimando, Kyle Beckerman and Javier Morales have all been together in RSL for eight years too.

Longest-serving players with one club in MLS

List of active MLS players with longest tenures with one club (via Houston Dynamo) 

Davis is currently tied for fourth with Preki (112) for all-time MLS assists and is only two behind Colombian legend Carlos Valderrama (114).

The USMNT playmaker, who was a part of the 2014 World Cup squad, will expect to climb to at least third on the all-time assist list this season but he is still 24 behind Landon Donovan, who leads Major League Soccer for assists with 136.

Davis will play alongside Mexican striker Erick Torres when he joins up with the squad later this year and he will expect to pick up plenty of assists while playing with the former Chivas USA star.

The Houston Dynamo open up their 2015 season against the Columbus Crew on Saturday, March 7th and the club will hope to start life under new coach Owen Coyle with victory.

How important is Brad Davis for the Houston Dynamo?

Tim Howard named as US Soccer Male Athlete of the Year

Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard has been named as the US Soccer Male Athlete of the Year after beating off competition from a number of fellow USMNT stars to claim the award.

Howard beat Kyle Beckerman, Alejandro Bedoya, Clint Dempsey, Fabian Johnson and Jermaine Jones to the award by picking up 64% of the votes, with MLS duo Jones and Beckerman in second and third places respectively.

The 35-year-old is currently taking a leave of absence from the National team after some incredible displays at the World Cup in Brazil this summer, but he certainly earned the award, which he also claimed in 2008.

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2014 saw Howard make eight international appearances in a year which also saw the shot-stopper earn his 100th cap for the USA.

The Everton ‘keeper picked up two Man of the Match awards during the World Cup and set a competition record for most saves in a single match with an extraordinary 16.

Howard becomes the fifth player to win Male Athlete of the Year on multiple occasions, joining defender Marcelo Balboa (1992, 1994), goalkeeper Kasey Keller (1997, 1999 and 2005), forward Landon Donovan (2003, 2004, 2009 and 2010) and forward Clint Dempsey (2007, 2011 and 2012).

Do you think Tim Howard deserves to be named as US Soccer Male Athlete of the Year for 2014?

2014 MLS Season Review: Real Salt Lake

Western Conference Final Position: 3rd

Western Conference Playoffs: Semi-Final

Review

Real Salt Lake‘s capitulation in what turned out to be their last game of the season when they lost 5-0 at LA Galaxy was both inexcusable and inexplicable, but one poor game should not overshadow what was – on the whole – a brilliant season.

They made the playoffs for the seventh consecutive season and also enjoyed great form at home winning 11 games and suffering just one defeat. Only LA Galaxy and FC Dallas fared better on home soil in the 2014 MLS season.

Best Moment

The 12-game unbeaten run at the beginning of the season set the tone for a successful campaign and it shouldn’t be underestimated as to how hard it is to maintain that kind of form.

Worst Moment

An obvious choice, but the 5-0 defeat against LA Galaxy in the playoff semi-final will be a painful final memory for 2014 and one they’ll want to forget as soon as possible.

Player of the Year

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Javier Morales was a joy to watch and was truly inspirational for his side. Picking up nine goals and 12 assists from midfield makes it hard to look any further, although Kyle Beckerman deserves a special mention for another great season at the heart of the team.

Biggest Win

Real Salt Lake 5-1 Colorado Rapids (September 20 2014)

Biggest Defeat

Regular season: Seattle Sounders 4-0 Real Salt Lake (May 31 2014)

Including playoffs: LA Galaxy 5-0 Real Salt Lake (November 9 2014)

What to improve for the 2015 season…

It’s hard to pinpoint any areas that specifically need improving for a side that are so consistent, but one disappointment for RSL would be their form on the road. They only managed to pick up four wins on their travels and if they could improve that number next season and maintain their strong home form, then they would be serious contenders for the Supporters’ Shield title in 2015.

Preview and Prediction: Republic of Ireland vs USA

USA will complete their 2014 schedule on Tuesday night when they travel to the Aviva Stadium to take on the Republic of Ireland in another international friendly.

They will be looking to bounce straight back from the defeat to Colombia on Friday night and a positive result will be essential, with a strong performance to match high on the agenda.

Ireland will be without their all-time leading goalscorer in Robbie Keane, as he was released on Saturday in order to prepare for his upcoming MLS playoff matches with the LA Galaxy.

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[Ireland and LA Galaxy star Robbie Keane will not feature against USA on Tuesday as he was released from the squad]

Furthermore, Jurgen Klinsmann has released four MLS-based players from duty in order to increase game time for those not involved in the playoffs.

Lee Nguyen, Jermaine Jones, DeAndre Yedlin and DaMarcus Beasley have all been sent home following the loss to Colombia. Nguyen and Jones need to prepare for New England Revolution’s push for the Eastern Conference title, while Yedlin will be with Supporters’ Shield winners Seattle Sounders as they look ahead to their clashes with the Galaxy.

Klinsmann has not called anyone else up so he will go into the Ireland game with a 21-man squad and several players will be hoping to impress.

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[Jurgen Klinsmann looks on from the dugout at Craven Cottage during the USA vs. Colombia game]

The last time the two sides met was in April 2002, just prior to the FIFA World Cup in Korea/Japan. The game ended in a 2-1 win for the Republic of Ireland.

As much as this is billed as a friendly, both teams will want a result, as Ireland will be looking to regain a bit of form following their loss to Scotland, and the USA will be hoping to build towards the 2015 Gold Cup – which they are hosting.

This should be a good game, possibly open and end-to-end, but we expect that the USA will come out on top.

They played well against Colombia on Friday, and have enough quality to end 2014 on a high – something Klinsmann will be desperate to do.

Predicted USMNT lineup: Brad Guzan, Fabian Johnson, Geoff Cameron, John Brooks, Greg Garza, Alejandro Bedoya, Mix Diskerud, Kyle Beckerman, Julian Green, Jozy Altidore, Bobby Wood.

Key Player: Kyle Beckerman – Was influential on Friday night and provided cover for the USMNT when they were going forward. Expect him to anchor the US midfield once again.

Key Stat: USMNT forward Rubio Rubin would have been only three months old (18 years ago), the last time the USA beat Republic of Ireland.

Score Prediction: Republic of Ireland 0 – 2 USA

USA can take positives despite Colombia defeat

Jurgen Klinsmann watched his USA side lose 2-1 late on against a talented Colombian side at Craven Cottage last night, but there were positives to be taken despite the defeat.

The first of the USMNT‘s final two games of 2014 ended with a loss. A late Teofilo Gutierrez header sent a Colombia-filled Craven Cottage into raptures as they finally broke the spirited USA resistance.

Jozy Altidore had given Klinsmann’s side an early lead from the penalty spot after Pablo Armero handled in the box, and they took their 1-0 lead into halftime.

However, the yellow surge of Colombian talent kept driving in the second-half and Carlos Bacca’s goal in the 60th minute turned the game on its head.

Colombia were lifted by the goal and their relentless pressure eventually paid off as Gutierrez guided his header past Brad Guzan in the 87th minute to seal the victory.

Klinsmann will be unhappy with the result, but the performance his players gave will leave him with plenty of positives to take:

Panoramic view of Craven Cottage ahead of kickoff between USA and Colombia on Friday.

Panoramic view of Craven Cottage ahead of kickoff between USA and Colombia on Friday.

1. Jermaine Jones was immense in the centre of defence

Jones was once again started at centre-back despite failing to convince in the previous friendlies against Ecuador and Honduras. But the New England Revolution powerhouse put in a dominant display against the no.3 ranked team in the World and was at the centre of everything the USA did defensively. Klinsmann’s experiment looks to have paid off and Jones could be given more and more time at the back as a result.

2. Jozy Altidore led by example with another goal

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Altidore took the captains armband for the game on Friday night and impressed as he led the line well and got on the scoresheet yet again. His goal came from the penalty spot but take nothing away from his performance as he worked tirelessly up top and proved once again that he should be getting opportunities at club level with Sunderland.

3. Kyle Beckerman bossed the midfield again

Playing against a player of the calibre of James Rodriguez would test even the best holding midfielder in the world, but Beckerman wasn’t phased and looked calm in the middle of the pitch. The Real Salt Lake veteran broke the play up on several occasions and his ability to remain calm at all times helped the team to escape pressure throughout. Another excellent display by the 32-year-old.

4. Rubio Rubin makes good start to life with USMNT

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The 18-year-old forward was handed a starting role against Colombia and didn’t look out of his depth on his international debut. He worked hard and looked more than capable of holding his own against experienced defenders. He had a great chance to make it 2-0 after the break but his header just flew past the right-hand post. His positioning to get the chance was encouraging though and Rubin looks set for a bright future.

5. Lee Nguyen can cut it at the top

Nguyen was brought on late in the second-half for his first USMNT appearance for seven years and he didn’t look out of his depth one bit. The New England Revolution playmaker found space in the final third when he came on and nearly set up a wonder goal with a lovely back-heel flick in a promising move late on. The MLS MVP candidate looks set for an increased number of minutes for Klinsmann’s side in upcoming games.

What did you make of the USA’s performance against Colombia on Friday?

Breaking down the USMNT 25-man squad for upcoming friendlies

Jurgen Klinsmann named his 25-man squad for the upcoming USMNT friendlies against Colombia and Republic of Ireland today and there were a mixture of familiar faces as well as new ones in the roster.

The two friendlies may not be competitive games, but Klinsmann will want to end an excellent 2014 on a high and the first game against a no.3 ranked Colombia side on Friday will be a real test that many players will relish playing in.

“We want to finish 2014 on a high note and continue to try to meet the top teams eye to eye,” said Klinsmann.

“In these last two games we want our veterans to really become mentors both on and off the field, and we want to see our youngsters take advantage of the opportunity to make their case and grow from the experience. These performances will set the tone for 2015.”

Goalkeepers: Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Bill Hamid (DC United), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

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No real surprises here. Tim Howard is taking a year off international duty so Brad Guzan will expect to continue as first-choice. Though the fact that these are friendly games should see rotation between the sticks. Sean Johnson will be delighted with his call-up but he is unlikely to feature. Bill Hamid is certainly looking like the future no.1 ‘keeper and he deserves more and more responsibility from now on.

Defenders: DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Timmy Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt), Greg Garza (Club Tijuana), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Jermaine Jones (New England Revolution), DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle Sounders FC)

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Mostly usual names in here but some surprise inclusions nonetheless. Firstly, Matt Besler looked extremely tired at the end of Sporting Kansas City’s season and needs a long rest during the offseason. A long trip to Europe is not what he needs.

John Brooks is also a surprise inclusion as he has fallen down the pecking order at Hertha Berlin while Geoff Cameron and Jermaine Jones have been called up in defence to presumably play centre-back but neither are naturals in the position. Jones is a far better midfielder and the experiment at centre-back against Honduras didn’t exactly flourish. Facing a pacey Colombian attack will be a major test.

DeAndre Yedlin is one of three players called up who are still likely to be involved in the MLS Playoffs and so his game time may be limited. And any action he does see could be in midfield once again.

It’s a shame not to see Bolton Wanderer’s Tim Ream called up as he has been in good form this season.

Midfielders: Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg), Julian Green (Hamburg), Alfredo Morales (Ingolstadt), Lee Nguyen (New England Revolution)

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Michael Bradley misses out as he recovers from a foot injury so some new faces are involved. Lee Nguyen has been rewarded for an incredible year though New England’s participation in the playoffs could limit his game time. Alfredo Morales in involved once again but it would have been nice to see a couple of MLS players called up considering the games are non-competitive.

The likes of Luis Gil, Will Trapp and Perry Kitchen could have all been given the nod by Klinsmann but he has overlooked all three on this occasion.

Kyle Beckerman will hope to forget about Real Salt Lake’s humiliating MLS playoff loss to LA Galaxy by ending what has been a great year for him on a high, while Julian Green could impress again.

Graham Zusi has been overlooked but he looked just as tired as teammate Besler and will likely be pleased that he can recover.

Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Sunderland), Miguel Ibarra (Minnesota United FC), Jordan Morris (Stanford), Rubio Rubin (Utrecht), Bobby Wood (1860 Munich), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

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The major surprises in the roster are in the attack. Clint Dempsey misses out playing at his former ground Craven Cottage as some new faces are set to see some action. Bobby Wood, Jordan Morris, Miguel Ibarra and Rubio Rubin have all made the squad and will be desperate to impress.

Miguel Ibarra plays in NASL and Bobby Wood is struggling to make any kind of impact for an 1860 Munich side that is near the bottom of the 2.Bundesliga.

While Jordan Morris has yet to leave College and is still a student at Stanford. All three will hope to see some minutes but Rubio Rubin is the most exciting to watch.

The 18-year-old has been called up for the second successive time and will expect to win his first cap this time around. He has four assists in nine games for Utrecht in the Eredivisie and is a versatile attacker with a bright future ahead of him.

Jozy Altidore continues to earn call-ups despite failing to get in the Sunderland team while Aaron Johansson and Terrance Boyd are not deemed fit enough having recently recovered from injuries.

Eddie Johnson has been overlooked once again and his USMNT career looks to be over as long as Klinsmann is in charge.

What do you make of the latest USMNT squad?

Preview: Real Salt Lake look to pile misery on hapless San Jose Earthquakes

Real Salt Lake take on San Jose Earthquakes Saturday evening as they look to pick up their form off the back of two losses.

San Jose are on a dismal run of 12 without a win. Salt Lake, only a point ahead of Dallas, need to fend off the Earthquakes to avoid falling down the table, and they will expect to pick up all three points in Saturdays encounter.

The last two games between the Western Conference sides have ended in a draw this season, although there were 8 goals in those two games, so a similar match up looks to be on the cards.

The Royals are unbeaten in their last nine home games, with the Quakes without victory in their last 10 away in the league. With that in mind you’d have to be a brave man to back San Jose to win this weekend.

Key player: Kyle Beckerman – The 32-year-old will be expected to steady the midfield with his vast experience.

Key stat: San Jose have conceded a staggering 27 goals in their winless spout, spanning 12 games.

Prediction: Real Salt Lake 2 – 0 San Jose Earthquakes

What next for Klinsmann and the USA?

USA fell narrowly to Belgium in the last 16 of the World Cup on Tuesday night, losing 2-1 in extra time but they gave a great account of themselves and earned many plaudits from worldwide supporters.

The USA impressed and exceeded expectations at the World Cup and have now officially announced themselves as an elite footballing nation.

The performance last night typified them as a group. They were unified in defeat and resilient towards the end, with a never-say-die attitude that has to be admired.

Jurgen Klinsmann now has the task of building towards the next World Cup in Russia in 2018, and he has the potential in this squad to succeed there.

DeAndre Yedlin and Julian Green both showed promise and were both a threat against a very strong Belgium side.

Going forward, this ageing USA squad must develop the younger players, which will leave question marks over the international futures of players like DaMarcus Beasley and Kyle Beckerman.

The USA look very strong at the back, and have potential to better the current unit with the likes of John Anthony Brooks and Yedlin coming through the ranks.

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There is a question regarding the excellent Tim Howard and if he will be around for the next World Cup as he will be 39 by the time the tournament in Russia comes around.

There are plenty of emerging American goalkeepers in MLS that now have a chance to prove their quality to Jurgen Klinsmann ahead of the next tournament.

One thing is for sure, the USA can be proud of their team and they have more than proved they are capable of challenging the best on the biggest stage.

Belgium now progress to the quarter-finals on Saturday, where they will play Argentina.