Eastern Conference 2023 Preseason Preview Part 1
Bob Bradley’s first season in charge of the Reds was a rough one. The club brought in highly regarded Italian wingers Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi during the summer transfer window, but Toronto was ultimately undone by a poor backline and inconsistent goalkeeping. Regardless of the on-field results Insigne and Bernardeschi were generally solid fantasy providers during the back half of 2022. Insigne, in particular, finished the season averaging just over 7 fantasy points per game across 11 matches played.
2023 Fantasy Take
Toronto has made some decent moves in the off-season to shore up the backline. Matt Hedges (D, $6M) and Sean Johnson (GK, $6.5M) were acquired via free agency. Additional defensive support also arrived from outside the league. I’m still going to want to see some early results before I start putting my fantasy resources in Toronto’s defense but there are some solid fantasy bets for Toronto in attack.
- Lorenzo Insigne (M, $10M): Here’s an obvious first-choice midfielder for your lineup. He’s expected to slot in on the right side of Toronto’s 3-man front line. He’s also, along with Hany Mukhtar, the highest priced midfielder currently in the game, so you may want to wait until Week #3 for Toronto’s first home game before rostering him. On the other hand, the Reds open the season at 2022 Wooden Spoon winners DC United so maybe you just want to slot him in immediately?
- Federico Bernardeschi (F, $9.5M): He’s expected to be holding down the left side of that 3-man front line.
- Adama Diomande (F, $7.5M): Dio gets to reunite with former manager Bob Bradley this season and is expected to slot in as the first-choice striker in the middle of the front attacking line. If he does start and you fill confident about Toronto’s attack, but need a budget option to complement Insigne, Dio may fit the bill.
- Jonathan Osorio (M, $8M): Don’t overlook Oso. He’s not going to blow your doors off with his production but he’s a solid player with a reliable fantasy floor.
DC United won their MLS record (?) fourth wooden spoon in 2022. If you ever had anyone other than Taxi Fountas (F, $8M) (or maybe Julian Gressel before he was shipped to Vancouver mid-season) on your roster you were probably looking to win a fantasy wooden spoon yourself.
2023 Fantasy Take
With huge amounts of roster turnover in the off-season and not much positive to take away from 2022 I am going to be steering well clear of United until on the field results dictate otherwise.
- Taxi Fountas (F, $8M): Fountas is expected to be on the right side of DC’s 3-man front line. Fountas was pretty much the only viable attacking fantasy option for DC after his arrival last summer.
- Christian Benteke (F, $8.5M): Benteke didn’t get to play too much in 2022 after arriving during the summer transfer window but he brings a strong goal scoring pedigree with him from Europe.
- Ruan (D, $5.5M): He’s new to DC, but not new to MLS. If Ruan can reclaim the form that he had at Orlando City a few years ago AND DC can shore up the backline he may become a viable bench option for fantasy.
New York Red Bulls
2022 saw the Red Bulls maintain their presence as a regular finisher among the top teams in the Eastern Conference. They finished 4th in the regular season and made their 13th consecutive trip to the playoffs. On the fantasy side if I was rostering Red Bulls players it was usually defenders with Carlos Coronel (GK, $6.5M), Lewis Morgan (M, $8M) or Cristian Cásseres Jr. (M, $7M) thrown in if the matchup seemed right.
2023 Fantasy Take
Morgan remains on the attacking side but the club have also brought in a number of other attackers who might be worth a look depending on how early results go. On the backline Aaron Long left in free agency but the club retains some other solid options worth considering, especially if the Red Bulls are playing at home.
- Lewis Morgan (M, $8M): If you’re looking for an $7.5M – $8M midfielder to round out your roster early in the season Morgan might make sense in the right circumstances. In 2022 he averaged more fantasy points than most other players currently at the $8M price point.
- John Tolkin (D, $7M): Tolkin returns at left back and has a pretty decent attacking upside.
- Carlos Coronel (GK, $6.5M): Coronel is a solid keeper option especially if Andre Blake from Philly at $7M is just a bit too pricey for your budget to start the season.
- Other budget options to watch: Kyle Duncan (D, $5.5M) has returned to the club and might be a decent budget play on the back line. Corey Burke (F, $6M) joined the club from Philadelphia in the off season. He’s not projected to be a starter but if you see him in the starting lineup he might be a good budget play.
Supporter’s Shield contenders. MLS Cup finalist. Solid fantasy options at all spots. Most fantasy managers were taking 3 Philly players almost every week last season and for good reason.
2023 Fantasy Take
All the popular fantasy picks from 2022 are still on the roster to start 2023. There are also a few under the radar options worth keeping an eye on. Until results dictate otherwise I’m going to be rostering 3 Philly players every week to start the season even it means having to go the budget route when filling out the rest of my squad.
- The Usual Suspects: Andre Blake (GK, $7M), Kai Wagner (D, $7.5M), Jack Elliot (D, $7M), Jakob Glesnes (D, $7M) and Dániel Gazdag (M, $9M) are all known quantities. Wagner is probably a “must have” in defense and you could make a strong case that Gazdag is the same in midfield.
- Under the Radar-ish Options: Young DP Julián Carranza (F, $8.5) was solid at forward last year. Olivier Mbaizo (D, $6M) is a less expensive way to buy into the Philly backline. Joaquín Torres (M, $7.5M) who joined from Montreal and Andrés Perea (M, $6.5M) who joined from Orlando City offer less expensive midfield options IF they start.
The Pigeons finished 3rd in the east despite a mid-season coaching change and losing 2021 Golden Boot winner Taty Castellanos during the summer transfer window. They fell to Philadelphia Union in the playoffs, but things still looked fairly “Fantasy Strong” as the off-season started.
2023 Fantasy Takes
The off-season saw a number of significant departures at key positions. Sean Johnson (GK), Anton Tinnerholm (D), Alex Callens (D), Maxi Moralez (M), Santi Rodriguez (M) and Heber (F) are all gone. Some replacements for these key pieces have arrived late in the offseason but “wait and see” is probably the best bet, at this point, for fantasy managers.
- Maxime Chanot (D, $6M): Chanot returns in the back but most of the pieces around him are new / unproven as solid fantasy options.
- Talles Magno (F, $8M): Can the young DP, as the expected full-time starter, fill the boots of the now departed Castellanos and Heber? Is he worth a budget play?
- Gabriel Pereira (M, $8M): He was decent last season and should be expected to take on more of a playmaking role with the departures of Moralez and Rodriguez. Maybe a decent differential play?
- Tayvon Gray (D, $6M): You could do worse if you’re looking for an attack-minded budget defender to round out your squad.
An unexpected second place finish in the east. A decent performance in the playoffs. An MLS Coach of the Year finalist. It was a strong season for CF Montreal both in “real” MLS and fantasy. But that off-season…
2023 Fantasy Takes
Wilfred Nancy has left for Columbus and the exciting, but still unproven, Hernan Losada has been brought in as his replacement. Key 2022 fantasy favorites Ismaël Koné (F/M), Djordje Mihailovic (M) and Alistair Johnston (D) are all gone. Their replacements are largely unproven. Solid backup options remain at striker but where will the service come from? The backline seems stable and worth considering as well as at least one option brought in during the off-season.
- James Pantemis (GK, $6M): He was fairly solid in 2022 and could be a decent budget keeper option to start 2023.
- Starting Backline: Camacho (D, $5.5), Waterman (D, $5.5) and Miller (D, $5.5) all return for 2023 so if you’re looking for stability…
- Out of Position Possibility: Aaron Herrera (D, $6) joined from RSL in the offseason. He’s a bit of a reclamation project but it looks like he’ll be starting higher up the field on the right side of Losada’s preferred 3-5-2 so the possibility of attacking and defensive points is there.
- Don’t Forget About the Strikers: Romell Quioto (F, $8.5), Kei Kamara (F, $7) and Mason Toye (F, $7) may also be viable bench/budget plays in the right situation.
New England Revolution
Supporters Shield winners in 2021, things definitely went south for the Revs in 2022. Even solid fantasy picks like Carlos Gil and Matt Turner (who left during the summer transfer window) mostly under performed. The club finished 10th in the eastern conference and out of the playoffs—a first for a Bruce Arena-coached squad.
2023 Fantasy Takes
The backline looks pretty solid. Dave Romney (D, $5.5) joins from Nashville and other core starters remain including Turner’s replacement Djordje Petrovic (GK, $6.5M). (I see you Matt Polster, but you’re a d-mid which means you’re probably a ‘no go’ for fantasy points unless it’s a double game week.) But, there are questions marks on the attacking side—not so much in terms of personnel but formation. I’m keeping the defense ‘in play’ for rostering but I’d like to see some actual attacking results from the Revs before I consider rostering their midfielders and forwards.
- Djordje Petrovic (GK, $6.5): There seems to be a general consensus (both in “real” and fantasy MLS) that Petrovic is probably the best keeper in the east behind Andre Blake.
- The Fullbacks: Brandon Bye (D, $6M) and D Jones (D, $6M) could be decent budget options with a high attacking upside if they can recover their 2021 form.
- Carlos Gil (M, $9.5M): Great player. Solid fantasy points through 2021. But we saw in 2022 that if he’s playing out of position or without the right pieces around him his production can really dip.
- Giacomo Vrioni (F, $8.5): He’s a definite “David Gass Theorem” candidate for 2023. The question is: How does he integrate/line up if the Revs try to get more of their attacking talent (Gustavo Bou, Latif Blessing, Bobby Wood) on the field at the same time.