Sports

MLS Week 6: Fantasy Breakdown

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With another week in the books, it has become increasingly evident that there are two groups of fantasy teams in 2012: those that include New York Red Bulls superstar Thierry Henry, and those that don’t include New York Red Bulls superstar Thierry Henry. The legendary striker leads MLS with 59 fantasy points this season, almost 50% more than his next closest competitors, Chris Wondolowski and Kenny Cooper.

It would be easy to include Henry as one of the “Two to Add” section every week, but if you’re reading USFutblog, then you’re probably smart enough to have figured that out already. So for the 6th week of the season, I continue to leave the Frenchman out of my recommendations, opting instead to highlight several less-heralded players, who would also make excellent additions to your team at this stage of the season.

Two to Add:

Nick LaBrocca – Midfielder, Chivas USA ($7.4M)

It can be easy to forget about Chivas USA, but LA’s second club has been better than expected in 2012, and LaBrocca looks like he will continue to be a mainstay in the Goats’ lineup after his breakout 2011 season. There is little flash in LaBrocca’s game, but if you need a consistent performer in midfield, then he is your man. He has played every minute of this season, and scored his first goal of the 2012 campaign (a game-winner) last week.

Few players can match LaBrocca for minutes on the field. In 2011, he started all 34 games for the Goats, and he has played in at least 28 games every year since 2008. Recently however, the 27-year-old has evolved from a minutes-eating midfielder to an effective playmaker. His final tally of eight goals and six assists last season compare favorably to many of the top midfielders in the league.

The bottom line: Perhaps the quietest playmaker in the league, LaBrocca is a sure bet to contribute every week, while adding a handful of goals and assists as well.

Hamdi Salihi – Forward, D.C. United ($8.1M)

Having a top fantasy team is all about taking the right risks. After a goalless start to the season, United’s once-heralded Albanian newcomer certainly represents a risk for owners in need of a scoring boost. However, despite contributing a paltry seven fantasy points in the first five games of the season, Salihi and his D.C. teammates may be poised for a breakthrough in the near future.

Next up for United is a trip to Foxboro, where they will face an ordinary Revs side that will be without its captain and midfield enforcer Shalrie Joseph, after he was suspended for a hard tackle last week. Without Joseph, who has given D.C. nightmares for much of the last decade, the game is likely to open up to the benefit of all attacking players. The following week, D.C. faces both Montreal and New York, which means Salihi will have three opportunities in eight days to get back on track.

The bottom line: Though he hasn’t performed thus far, D.C. didn’t spend big bucks on Salihi to keep him off the field, and his goal-scoring is still more a question of when than if.

Two to Drop:

Danny Mwanga – Forward, Philadelphia Union ($8.2M)

Though it may be too early to declare the team a train-wreck, the Union appear to have at least veered off track in their third MLS season. Despite a decent collection of young players, including Mwanga himself, the club has regressed from its 2011 playoff form. Mwanga’s own problems with finding a consistent role in the team speaks to the greater problems at the club, as the players and coach Piotr Nowak continue to search for a winning formula.

After a promising rookie campaign in 2010, Mwanga has been unable to nail down a regular place in Nowak’s starting XI, much to the frustration of Philadelphia fans who expected Mwanga to be a part of the team’s core for years. At only 20 years of age, there is certainly plenty of time for Mwanga to reach his potential, but his short-term prospects don’t look as good. He played just four minutes as a sub in the Union’s last game, a drab 0-0 draw with Vancouver, and has only played the full 90 minutes once so far in Philly’s winless season.

The bottom line: Mwanga’s high value ($8.2M) has more to do with his obvious potential, than the reality of his situation in Philadelphia under Nowak.

Fredy Montero – Forward, Seattle Sounders FC ($11.4M)

A popular pick for MVP before the season began, Montero hasn’t come close to meeting those expectations through the first five weeks of the season. His teammate David Estrada stole the spotlight in the first two games, but alarm bells are beginning to sound in Seattle as they have gone goalless in consecutive weeks. What’s more alarming to Sounders fans and Montero owners is that the Colombian striker has yet to find any fluidity with the rest of the team.

Going without a goal over four games is understandable, but Montero has been invisible for large stretches of those games. He has been no stranger to scoring slumps during his days in Seattle, so there is still plenty of time for him to regain his MVP-candidate form, but for now the best course is to leave him off your fantasy roster until he shows signs of life.

The bottom line: Montero has been a streaky player in the past, so the goals are still likely to come at some point, but you can do more with his $11.4M price tag right now.

Bargain Watch:

Raushawn McKenzie – Defender, Chivas USA ($5.1M)

It was another week and another 90 minutes for McKenzie, who has apparently nailed down a starting position on the Chivas back-line. After two seasons each with Sporting Kansas City and Real Salt Lake, the 25-year-old has found a home in LA, and is taking advantage of his opportunity. After five games, McKenzie has already played more minutes this season (450) than his previous career high (437 in 2009).

The bottom line: If you need a cheap defender, and you’re concerned that Mark Burch’s run of starts might be over, then McKenzie is your new bargain.

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