MLS Fantasy Tips: Top midfield picks

The latest installment of our MLS Fantasy tips series sees us preview the best midfield options in the official mlssoccer.com fantasy soccer game.

With the 2015 MLS season fast approaching, we take a look at the best midfield options for your fantasy lineup. Here are the five who we think could top the points chart this term.

1. Lee Nguyen (New England Revolution) – $11.0m

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Lee Nguyen was the key playmaker in a great New England Revolution side in 2014 and we expect much of the same this year. With 18 regular season goals in MLS last term, he will be hoping to better that tally in 2015.

The return of Juan Agudelo up top will give Nguyen another man to aim at and whether he is scoring or providing, the USMNT man will be an asset to any fantasy lineup. But with a tag of $11.0m, he will need to do well to justify his price.

2. Sebastian Giovinco (Toronto FC) – $11.0m

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The second of three expensive picks is Sebastian Giovinco but the Italian is a huge gamble at $11.0m considering he hasn’t previously played in MLS.

Toronto needs to make the playoffs this season and Giovinco will be key to any success. Like Nguyen, he can pop up with goals as well as assists and the ‘Atomic Ant’ is someone to seriously consider so long as he can hit the ground running.

3. Kaka (Orlando City SC) – $11.0m

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Former Ballon d’Or winner, Kaka is the marquee signing for 2015 and we expect him to live up to his pedigree.

At $11.0m a lot of fantasy managers will be put off by the price tag but he is one that needs deep consideration. He’s won everything there is to win and now he’s hungry for an MLS Cup in Orlando City’s inaugural season. More than 20% of managers have already picked Kaka for their fantasy teams and he could be the top overall points scorer in 2015.

4. Lloyd Sam (New York Red Bulls) – $8.5m

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Lloyd Sam was the subject of a huge debate over whether he warrants consideration this year now that Thierry Henry has retired. But Sam will still give Bradley Wright-Phillips service and the English winger should at least make your shortlist.

It will be interesting to see what system is played by the New York Red Bulls in 2015 and if Sam is played more centrally, he has to be picked at $8.5m. Even on the right, he can cause problems and he scored as many points as Graham Zusi last year but is $2.0m cheaper than the Sporting Kansas City man.

5. Giles Barnes (Houston Dynamo) – $9.0m

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Although he is classed as a midfielder, Giles Barnes often plays up front for the Dynamo, and the further forward he is the more of a threat he is.

Houston are set for a good year under new boss Owen Coyle and the mid-season arrival of Erick Torres will only make Barnes more of an attacking threat. He is a slight risk at $9.0m but was the eighth-highest points scorer from all midfielders in the 2014 season.

Who do you think will be the best MLS Fantasy midfielder in 2015?

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Playoff Preview and Prediction: New England Revolution vs New York Red Bulls

New York Red Bulls travel to New England Revolution for the second-leg of the Eastern Conference Final. The Revs hold the advantage after netting two away goals in the 2-1 win at Red Bull Arena in the first-leg on Sunday night.

The Red Bulls suffered their first defeat of the season to New England on Sunday night as they dominated the game, but couldn’t find the net more than once.

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Bradley Wright-Phillips scored New York’s goal in what was his 32nd of the year but the Red Bulls will be without the MLS top goalscorer for the second-leg as he picked up a yellow card which rules him out.

The first-leg was intense, exciting and full of chances for both sides. Ten yellow cards were issued and we will likely see an equally high-tempered affair at Gillette Stadium on Saturday.

New England’s 2014 home record: Played 18 – Won 12 – Drawn 2 – Lost 4

New York need to score at least twice to advance to their first MLS Cup final since 2008 but that will be no easy task, especially without Wright-Phillips.

Don’t miss: The latest MLSGB podcast as the team look at both conference finals

New England have won their last seven home games and could have over 30,000 fans in attendance to try and help the Revs reach their first title game since 2007. They have not conceded more than one goal at home since July – a run of nine games.

New York’s 2014 away record: Played 18 – Won 3 – Drawn 7 – Lost 8

Thierry Henry has declared that he will play on the artificial turf at Gillette Stadium for the first time in his career in what could be his final game for the Red Bulls. The absence of Wright-Phillips may see Henry pushed into a more central position, and he will look to be the difference-maker.

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The Red Bulls won 2-0 in New England earlier in the regular season. The same result would see them through but the Revs didn’t have Jermaine Jones then, and he proved to be the difference once again on Sunday – scoring the winner at Red Bull Arena.

It should be an exciting game, full of drama and both sides will be looking to attack from the offset. The Red Bulls need goals, while New England will undoubtedly look to put the game at bed as early as possible in front of a huge crowd.

Don’t miss: Thierry Henry calls for “composure” as Red Bulls look to overturn first-leg loss to New England

Both sides are looking to win their first ever MLS Cup title and they are just one game away from the grand finale now, but only one can progress.

Key Player: Lloyd Sam – The Red Bulls winger will look to create chances from the right side at every opportunity and he needs bodies to aim at in the box with Wright-Phillips out.

Key Stat: There have been five red cards in the last six games between these two at Gillette Stadium. One here could turn the tie.

New England Revolution’s last five: W/W/W/W/W

New York Red Bull’s last five: W/W/W/L/L

Score Prediction: 1-1 – A tense but open game should see both sides score, but the Revs’ two away goals will prove decisive come the final whistle.

Playoff Preview and Prediction: New York Red Bulls vs New England Revolution

The Eastern Conference Final kicks off on Sunday night with New England Revolution travelling to Red Bull Arena to take on the New York Red Bulls in the first-leg.

The Revolution have never won at Red Bull Arena and lost twice to New York during the regular season.

But the Revs are expected to come into the game at full strength seeing as Jermaine Jones and Lee Nguyen came home early from the USMNT’s mini-UK tour after facing Colombia last Friday.

The Red Bulls should be much of the same with their illustrious front three of Lloyd Sam, Bradley Wright-Phillips and Thierry Henry firing on all cylinders. While Peguy Luyindula will look to continue his fine run of form in the playmaking role.

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New York have made Red Bull Arena a bit of a fortress of late, having won nine out of their last ten at home. And have won back-to-back playoff games at home too as the days of home playoff losses could be over. New England will need to perform as they have been in recent weeks to change that.

New York Red Bulls Home Form: Played 19 – Won 12 – Drawn 4 – Lost 3

However, the Revs come into the game unbeaten in their last seven. And with the emergence of Charlie Davies and his recent proficiency, they haven’t had to rely on the outstanding Lee Nguyen as much.

Don’t Miss: Stats: Thierry Henry vs Lee Nguyen – Which playmaker will make the difference on Sunday?

The MVP candidate has stayed sharp from his trip to the UK with the National team and will look to be the difference-maker once more.

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New York are the favorites here though, seeing as their home form has been superb. And they will want to lay down a marker for the second-leg while remaining tight at the back to try and ensure away goals don’t become a deciding factor.

Red Bull Arena is expected to be at full capacity as the club revealed they had sold out the stadium ahead of the first-leg this Sunday.

New England’s Away Form: Played 18 – Won 7 – Drawn 2 – Lost 9

The Revs have netted a staggering 11 goals in their last four away games and with Lee Nguyen in the form of his life, it would take a brave man to back against them getting at least one in New York.

This should be a cracker!

Key Player: Lee Nguyen – ‘MVLee’ scored 18 goals in the regular season and is integral to any MLS Cup hopes the Revs have. Classy player, always expect the unexpected.

Key Stat: New York have not lost to New England in 11 home games. The Revolution’s last win against the Red Bulls in MLS was in July 2012.

Prediction: New York Red Bulls 2 – 1 New England Revolution

5 takeaways from New York Red Bulls’ 2-0 win against DC United

The New York Red Bulls beat DC United in a playoff game for the first time ever, as they put in a fine attacking display at Red Bull Arena to win the first-leg of the Eastern Conference semi-final 2-0.

Thierry Henry grabbed two assists as he setup Bradley Wright-Phillips and Peguy Luyindula, and the Red Bulls will take a decent lead into the second-leg in DC next Saturday.

Here are five takeaways from the game:

1. DC torn apart in midfield

The top-seeded side in the Eastern Conference struggled to get into the game despite showing signs early on and were lucky to leave with only a two goal deficit to overturn next week. Perry Kitchen and Davy Arnaud failed to control anything in midfield and were dominated by the Red Bulls in the middle of the park. Peguy Luyindula had all sorts of time to create chances, and DC must ensure that they don’t make the same mistake twice in the second-leg.

2. Thierry the master once more

Thierry Henry put in another exceptional performance and his form in the playoffs could see New York go all the way. The 37-year-old was as influential as ever as he bagged two assists, the first of which was a delightful backheel in the box to Bradley Wright-Phillips, and the Englishman netted for the 30th time in total this year. Speculation about Henry’s future continues to rumble on but he is showing no signs of slowing down as he put in another remarkable display for the Red Bull fans.

Henry’s great backheel assist for Wright-Phillips’ goal: (Via MLS on YouTube)

3. Bill Hamid gives DC hope

Hamid proved yet again why he is a Goalkeeper of the Year contender as he made two huge saves to deny Lloyd Sam and Wright-Phillips in the second-half. Hamid ended the game with five saves and his performance has kept DC United in this tie. His double save at 1-0 ensure that DC have something to fight for next week, and they will need their goalkeeper to be at his best yet again if they are to remain in the playoffs.

4. Red Bull right-sided dominance leaves DC stranded

Englishmen Richard Eckersley and Lloyd Sam caused all kinds of problems for Chris Pontius and Taylor Kemp down the right-side for New York. Eckersley put in another excellent display, while Sam continued to create chances down the right. Kemp will not want to watch the game back, as he struggled to deal with the Englishman all game, and DC must improve on their left side if they are to avoid a repeat result.

5. New York may live to regret missed chances

New York may have got the result they wanted, and kept a clean-sheet too, but they will be disappointed that they couldn’t wrap the tie up in the first-leg. They had countless chances to put the game out of DC’s reach, but couldn’t capitalise – a common problem for the Red Bulls. They had 17 shots during the game and two goals is good but not enough to see them through, and they must make sure they don’t live to regret those misses.

Takeaways from Houston’s trip to the Big Apple

New York Red Bulls ended Houston’s unbeaten streak on Saturday night with a 1-0 victory at Red Bull Arena, with Thierry Henry netting the winning goal just after half-time.

The result all but ends Houston’s push for a playoff berth, as they lost their first game in six in New York last night.

We take a look at what to expect from the last few games, taking into account what we saw last night:

1) Henry hitting form

King Thierry was in full flight last night and in a commanding performance, reminiscent of his Arsenal days. Sometimes playing your prized asset out on the wing can haunt you, but Henry seems to have likened to playing out wide.

He sees a lot more of the ball on the wing, and with two holding midfielders he is allowed the freedom to cause havoc to opposing defences.

We expect Henry to play a huge part in any Red Bull title push, as he has always shined on the big occasion.

2) On a silver platter

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Houston lacked conviction in their approach last night and were punished for a negative tactical approach. They invited the Red Bull’s onto them all night and were punished for doing so.

On another night this would have been a blow out, however, New York strike sensation Bradley Wright-Phillips was far from his best.

We question where Dynamo go from here, knowing that a playoff place is all but gone for them. Coach, Dominic Kinnear, got it wrong last night and Houston should have been looking for a win and not sitting so far deep.

3) Red Bull gives you wings

In contrast to the Dynamo, New York have an attacking force that can open up any defence in the league.

With Thierry Henry and Lloyd Sam on the flanks they have all the firepower to stretch teams and allow Wright-Phillips all the space he needs.

As mentioned before BWP was off his game last night and should all three of this Red Bull attack hit full flight, New York can take off.

Next Fixtures:

09/10/14 Toronto FC vs Houston Dynamo

12/10/14 Toronto FC vs New York Red Bulls

5 Takeaways from Toronto FC’s important victory against New York Red Bulls

Toronto FC got a crucial 2-0 win against the New York Red Bulls on Saturday night, as the Red Bulls fall to their second consecutive loss. It is the first time Toronto have beaten New York in 11 attempts. Here are our takeaways from a key game in Major League Soccer.

 

1. Jermain Defoe is still as deadly as ever!

The England international showed yet again why he is still a world-class finisher with his goal at BMO field, as he let the ball run across his body before smashing it into the top corner.

The ex-Spurs striker will be pleased with his performance, and many will once again question his exclusion from England’s World Cup squad.

One thing that’s for sure is that Toronto will benefit from England’s loss.

 

2. Gilberto is a waste of a designated player.

The Brazilian currently fills one of the three designated player slots the Reds are allowed, and it is bewildering as to why, as he hasn’t scored a goal this season.

In his seven appearances this season he has only one assist to his name, and with Luke Moore opening his account on his MLS debut for Toronto last night, time is ticking for Gilberto.

More pressing matters for Toronto are the rumoured returns to MLS for Brek Shea and DaMarcus Beasley. Surely, they would want to challenge other franchises for those signatures, with the ambition they have shown over the past six months?

 

3. Toronto has more depth than it seems.

With Michael Bradley absent with the USMNT, the Reds went with on-loan Blackburn right-back, Bradley Orr, in the middle of the park.

What was more surprising than his position on the pitch was that he played a perfect pass to set-up Defoe’s goal, quickly calming any Toronto supporters nerves about how they would cope without Bradley.

And of course they have recently acquired Collen Warner from Montreal Impact, who also plays in the centre of midfield.

Deputising for the flu-ridden Julio Cesar, Joe Bendik started in goal once again, and kept a clean sheet against a strike force, which has produced twelve goals this season.

 

4. Bradley Wright-Phillips is human.

Coming off his second hat trick of the season against Chicago Fire, BWP couldn’t carry his form into last night.

The Red Bulls failed time after time to break down Toronto, and it was an hour before BWP had a decent chance.

And It was a sitter! But the former Charlton forward put it straight over the bar from six-yards.

Just a minor blip in his season? We shall see as the weeks progress.

 

5. New York doesn’t like the road.

The Red Bulls have only won one game away from home this season. Just let that sink in!

A team that boasts talents such as Bradley Wright-Phillips, Thierry Henry, Tim Cahill and Lloyd Sam has won only one game away all season.

On paper they are arguably the best team in the league, but struggle to use their dominance in possession to its full advantage.

Last night marked the second time they have failed to score away from home this campaign, and although they usually seem to have no problem scoring, they are desperate for a solid center-half. Rio Ferdinand anybody?

The philosophy is perfect: dominate possession and use your width in attack to stretch the opposition in order to create holes centrally. However, with Cahill missing through the World Cup, they have lost their playmaker, and catalyst in the final third.

Tough times appear to be ahead for New York if they don’t bring in a decent defender.