Behind the Numbers: MLS Fantasy Week 3

Behind the Numbers

Week 2 Recap

Week 2 was definitely a step in the right direction for the Behind the Number team, with some gut calls going right. Choosing Vela over Martinez was risky, but paid off. Watching lineups on Saturday made the Pomykal value dream a reality. Not to mention Barath coming through in a big spot for killer value. The BTN team scored 91 points in GW2, good enough for 348 on the week and skyrocketing up to 158 overall. Perhaps more importantly, a +$4.7 on the week brought the budget to $106.2. Unsurprisingly, previous performance is still a huge predictor of price rises. The average of the reddit price tread this week is $105.7. Surprisingly, it was a rough week for the fantasy experts, with the average of the MLSFB Experts League being a lowly 73 points.

If you’d like to follow me on twitter, I’m @MLSFB_BTN. I typically post my updated lineup on Friday nights before the games start to show if my thinking has changed since this column went up.

Fantasy philosophy

Week 2 made it very clear that the price system can still be and must be gamed. Same as last year, the best way to do this is to still look for players with good previous weeks. I tried to put together a model for this week, but it’s not yet predictive, so it will continue to evolve till at least GW 4 and probably GW 6. The takeaways from my initial analysis aren’t surprising: look for players with high recent averages (3-week average as the season goes on) and the GW2 scores were about 5% more important than the GW1 scores in predicting price rises.

As our budgets increase it opens up opportunities to use the switcharoo differently. I typically employ the 3 for 2 autoroo, but there are a few ways that can be realized. One strategy is to put two defenders on the bench and hope for clean sheets. This improves the likelihood of hitting a clean sheet and increases your protection against #becauseMLS moments. Another strategy is to put cheap to midrange players from any position on the bench hoping one of them strikes it rich. This is particularly good if you can find cheap strikers in good matchups who may or may not bag a goal. The final and my least favorite way to use it is to put a very expensive but boom/bust player like a Piatti on the bench to offer insurance against a dud game. Personally, if I’m spending that much it’s on a high floor guy and I’m not leaving 10% of my budget on the bench.

Sadly, the xG numbers from Week 2 aren’t up online yet, so we’ll continue to fly blind early in the season. However, we can finally answer the home vs. away in 2019 question. In Week 1, home teams scored a combined 22 goals while away team scored just 18. On the xG side, the difference is Home, 18.96 and Away, 14.27. Fear not. Home still where the xG are.

A final word on price rises. Take a realllllll long and close look at NYRB and TOR this week, and at teams who have byes early in the schedule. They’re often like a value and price rise cheat code because their prices haven’t increased, while your budget has.

Week 3 Defense Rankings

Total Budget this Week: $106.2


Budget Target: $10 – $12

The theme of this week will be finding the guys with high averages who still have the chance to score well. Value and Fantasy Mullets take a slight backseat. I don’t know that we have to look very far for good, but expensive options. Steffen ($6.7) is a high price for a goal keeper, but he has the top matchup of the week and is coming off an insane game which should guarantee a price rise. I’m honestly not sure it’s even worth looking at anyone else. Just toss in Vega ($4) in a “he can’t hurt me” keeperoo and let the money and the points rain down.


Budget Target: $22 – $26 (four starters + one $4 scrub)

I’m not changing my defender budget target this week, but I’m definitely going to be on the higher end. Looking at the top 5 defenses, CLB is a must invest. NYRB is a wildcard who should have good values and price rises, but you’ll definitely want to be watching the lineups on Saturday. ATL is still a bit of a mess and shockingly PHI is leading the league in xG, they just can’t finish to save their lives and don’t have Marco Fabian this week. ATL players may be good to stick in that switcheroo, but may not offer much in the way of price rises. HOU will get a VAN team still finding itself but aren’t historically reliable.

DCU gets to play at home against an RSL team who have yet to really be impressive offensively.

Really, I think players from any of these top five teams are good options. So just try to get the cheapest investment into those defenses. For me that’s Francis ($4.7) and Sauro ($5.5) from CLB, Duncan/Tarek ($4.8) if rotation happens from NYRB, Robinson ($5.6) from ATL, Figueroa ($5.5) from HOU, and Brilliant ($6.5) from DC.

Beyond those top 5 teams, Nick DeLeon ($5.5) is listed as a DEF but played attacking midfield for TOR in Rd 1. We call this an OOP (out-of-position) player. Rodney Wallace killllllled in a similar role a few years ago. Fire him up. Barath at just $4.8 is a good “what the heck” price rise option as well.

Week 3 Offense Rankings

Week 3 Top 50 M/F


Budget Target: $68.2 – 74.2 (7 starters + one $4 scrub)

Top Offenses for Week 3

  • The top offenses for Week 3 include NYRB, LAG, ATL, HOU, and TOR. Though it’s important to remember that these are based off 2018 stats.
  • NYRB has tons of value and premium options for good points and price rise opportunities. Check the lineups on Saturday and fire up the best values you can get. Valot and Royer are good options to consider.
  • LAG, ATL, and HOU are either a mess or coming off CCL. HOU ran out a mostly first choice squad against Tigres tonight, so remains to be see what they have in the tank. Manotas is off to a STRONG start to the year and is an xG favorite.
  • TOR mostly just has Michael Bradley coming off a huge game. Good floor, but wouldn’t expect a huge game. Likely just a solid price rise and 4-5 points.

Behind the Numbers

  • This week is tricky because I don’t think the 2018 numbers are really doing a good job on the offensvie side.
  • I’m interested in CIN in their home opener against a Chara-less POR. POR are real real bad without Chara and they’ve already given up 7 goals with him in the lineup this year.
  • Lucho Acosta is probably the big money play this week and probably the armband choice at home where they’ve been excellent.
  • The away players are really really tempting this week with the likes of Quintero, Valeri, and Vela up near the top of the league in passes in the final third. Stay tuned for the friday twitter update to see if I break my no away players rule.

2019 Week 3 BTN Team

Here’s my first draft based on the discussion above.

About Kyle Mcelhinny

Scientist by day, soccer fan by night. Nerd always. Using stats to overcome my lack of knowledge about the beautiful game.

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