NWSL – Fantasy Round Eight Preview

May 28, 2014. Where were you the day your fantasy team died?

OK, perhaps that’s a bit melodramatic, but for a lot of people who bet big on Portland this round (including myself), it was a veritable disaster, with the Thorns losing two matches which looked very winnable on paper. Jessica McDonald, who had been so reliable for much of the season before reverted back to her inconsistent and disappointing ways of the past. Kat Tarr’s penchant for fouls caught up with her, as she was sent off against Boston. And Nadine Angerer, captained by a big chunk of folks, was deep in the negatives after the Wednesday Night Massacre. The only good news for Portland from a fantasy standpoint is Christine Sinclair having a very good round. What does that mean in the long-term? Nobody really knows. Portland could have four new starters by the time they next step on the pitch. They’re idle this round though, so it’s time to turn your attentions elsewhere.

Amazingly, I did a good job of picking players around the Thorns in my lineup, and it resulted in me climbing into the Top 200 overall. If anything, the round should be a pretty big wakeup call for complacent fantasy owners: There’s nothing predictable about the league at times, and even the simplest rounds can go to hell with an upset or two.

This time out? Portland being off simplifies things (in a way), but with there only being five matches this round after a glut of games in previous rounds, there’s probably a whole lot less room for error if some of your players flop. Double gamers Western New York and Washington each have one tough matchup and one easier matchup on paper and should be featuring prominently in your lineup. Seattle’s got a strong matchup despite having just one game this round, while in-form Chicago might also be worth your attention despite a potentially tricky matchup against Washington.

Team Rankings

1. WNY
2. WSH
3. SEA
4. CHI
5. FCKC
6. BOS
7. SBFC
8. HOU

WNY Flash – The Flash’s defense has been a nightmare the past three matches after a strong start, giving up seven goals in those three games. It seems like the club is struggling badly on the road, which doesn’t exactly bode well for a midweek trip to Kansas City, but a home date with Houston on Saturday could be just the tonic they need. In goal, LYDIA WILLIAMS’ return from the Asian Cup could be the catalyst for improvement despite averaging just .25 more per match than KELSEY WYS. The nightmare scenario is the duo splitting the matches this round. Thankfully, the Flash’s first match this round is the first of the whole round, so you should have lineup info to make changes if needed. If Wys does start against Houston, I might suggest switching to either Hope Solo or Ashlyn Harris if you’ve got an allocation spot available. You probably want at least one defender from WNY in your lineup, From a point production standpoint, BRITTANY TAYLOR or KRISTEN EDMONDS are tops right now. The $64,000 Question is whether you can afford both ABBY WAMBACH and CARLI LLOYD in your lineup. Both will cost you an allocated slot, but both could bring you big points this round. If you can choose just one, I’d spring for Wambach, given Lloyd’s penchant for fouls. Anyone looking for steady production may well turn towards VICKY, averaging a cool 5.5 points a match, while SAMANTHA KERR is a sneaky pick if she starts right off the bat coming home from the Asian Cup.

Washington – Let’s put it simply: Spirit offense good, Spirit defense bad. Washington has one clean sheet all season and has given up a rather insane eleven goals in their past five, having not conceded fewer than two goals in that span. Given their current form, I’d stay far, far away from any Spirit defender until they show they can turn it around. About the only thing ASHLYN HARRIS has going for her in goal is two games to work with, but given the back four in front of her, I’d play it cautious and avoid this round. Offensively, you have plenty of options at your disposal. DIANA MATHESON is the obvious pick, though she’ll cost you an allocation slot. Not costing you an allocation slot are CHRISTINE NAIRN, whose golazo capped off a tremendous round, as well as JODIE TAYLOR, who also had a nice showing with a goal. I think Nairn has less downside and isn’t shy about shooting, meaning she’s a top midfield pick this round. Taylor’s got far more bust potential, but she’s clearly the option up top for the Spirit, so she deserves consideration.

Seattle – Last round was a stinkbomb by Seattle’s usual standards, and some doubt might be creeping in after two draws that followed three very close wins. The Reign are still scoring though, and even though MEGAN RAPINOE remains out, the return of NAHO should at least provide an injection of energy into a frontline that has been laboring as of late. The Japanese international was averaging over six points a match early in the season and should find SBFC pliable opposition. SYDNEY LEROUX has been far more miss than hit thus far, with one goal in nine games and isn’t worth trusting, despite a favorable matchup. BEVERLY GOEBEL won’t cost you an allocation, but she also has gone off the boil of late, putting up just a point last round. The matchup is tempting, but I’d probably wait to see how the frontline functions before sliding one of the above into my lineup. Have no hesitations about KIM LITTLE though, who continues to kill it in midfield for the Reign. JESSICA FISHLOCK hasn’t been able to match that pace, but she’s still been a solid option thus far and may be a savvy pick given the opposition. Defensively, KENDALL FLETCHER is again the top option thanks to her danger on set pieces, with LAUREN BARNES probably the best differential pick. HOPE SOLO’s the best of the one-game options this round, even with the club taking some backwards steps defensively. It may be hard to squeeze in an allocated keeper this round though.

Chicago – The Red Stars are rolling, topping the form table and entertain a Washington side down to bare bones on defense in midweek. Everyone’s wondering when CHRISTEN PRESS is going to play, and with this one coming in midweek, you aren’t going to have a safety net to fall back on if you pick her and she doesn’t suit up. Given some of the ITC problems facing the club’s ABBY ERCEG, I’d just as well avoid the mess for this round and wait until confirmation that Press is going to play comes down. Chicago scored points for fun last round, and the likes of JEN HOY, LORI CHALUPNY, and ADRIANA LEON all have to be in the front of your mind as you try to pick a team this round. Personally, I’d shy away from Leon given her inconsistency, as she scored more points (15) last round than she had in six previous rounds (13)! Hoy and Chalupny both started slow but have ridden the crest of the Red Stars’ wave that has led them up the table. KARINA LEBLANC was a stud last round but may find it tougher against an in-form Washington offense, so you might want to use an allocation place elsewhere. Defensively, MICHELLE WENINO and JULIE JOHNSTON are decent options if you fancy the club grinding Washington out, but I wouldn’t opt for both this time out.

FC Kansas City – It didn’t actually turn out all that bad for FCKC last round despite having just one game, as they caught Boston before they had an out of body experience. WNY may look daunting at first blush, but they’ve been crap on the road so far and will be facing a rested FCKC side, so the Flash could well be up against it in midweek. There’s no reason to drop AMY RODRIGUEZ right now. She’s been tops in the fantasy game thus far, and WNY’s defense hasn’t been able to stop much as of late, so keep playing her. The big question is what to do with everyone else. LAUREN HOLIDAY had a nightmare last round with -0.5 to her name, and while it’s difficult seeing her get shutout again, there are probably better allocated options available this round. ERIKA TYMRAK also bageled last round and could be another boom or bust play this round. I’m not recommending an FCKC defender this round, but NIKKI PHILLIPS is probably the top option if you’re gambling, while you can probably do better than NICOLE BARNHART in goal this round also.

Boston – Where the hell did that come from? After looking to be a dead team walking for weeks, the Breakers crushed Portland in midweek, and likely many a fantasy team with them. The win creates a massive headache for fantasy owners though, as there’s no telling how the club will line up after such huge changes last time out. I’ll go out on a limb here and say that JAZMINE REEVES won’t be leaving the lineup though. I doubt she’ll have a hat trick again, but the former Hokie has a nice chance against a shaky and ailing Washington defense. I think HEATHER O’REILLY will be back in the lineup as well. She was on the bench in the last game but was still very effective off the bench as a reserve. Anyone else? I would stay away. I still think this is a pretty flawed team, especially on defense. There may be more viable days ahead for fantasy owners, but I’d be wary right now.

Sky Blue FC – That round was SBFC in a nutshell. Excellent against Portland, awful against Chicago. You’ve got a death wish if you’re betting on SBFC against Seattle this round though. I’d make one exception for KELLEY O’HARA though. She’s already one of the best scoring defenders after being moved back up top in the past few weeks, and I’d say she’s still worth the risk even if she’s moved back into defense to try and stifle Seattle. I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t want to risk wasting an allocation though. Otherwise, I’d stay far, far away from SBFC for this round against the leaders.

Houston – There’s a pulse! The Dash finally provided some offensive returns in their two matches this past round, and they may well have a chance to keep doing so this time out against a WNY defense that hasn’t exactly been stout as of late. The club is getting hammered by injuries though, so I’m not optimistic about a positive result on the road. NINA BURGER looks like the safest option up front, and the Dash will be hoping she’ll move from strength to strength after breaking her duck this past round. ELLA MASAR actually had the most points for the club last round, but her penchant for idiotic fouls and bookings should have you looking elsewhere at the moment. The defense? Please tell me you aren’t considering the defense that hasn’t kept a clean sheet so far. The situation in goal, with ERIN MCLEOD listed as doubtful through injury, doesn’t exactly help things either.

Player Rankings

GK

1. Williams (potentially Wys) – WNY
2. Solo – SEA
3. Harris – WSH
4. LeBlanc – CHI
5. Barnhart – FCKC

DEF

1. O’Hara – SBFC
2. Fletcher – SEA
3. Taylor – WNY
4. Barnes – SEA
5. Johnston – CHI

MF

1. Little – SEA
2. Lloyd – WNY
3. Matheson – WSH
4. Nairn – WSH
5. Chalupny – CHI

FW

1. Wambach – WNY
2. Rodriguez – FCKC
3. Taylor – WSH
4. Naho – SEA
5. Hoy – CHI

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