Want to win your league/the overall title this season? Better hope you make the right choices over the next two rounds. These two rounds are probably going to be among the most punishing all season for the minds of fantasy owners, as there are all sorts of balls in the air this round before we all try to cobble together a team next round with scores of players absent on international duty.
A good many of those players will be leaving after the weekend fixtures, specifically the USWNT’ers and (probably) the European players bound for WWC qualifiers in the middle of the month. If that wasn’t enough for you, it also happens to be a double game round for Houston, WNY, and Boston…who just happen to be three of the bottom four.
So what’s the strategy? Go with single gamers with favorable matchups on the weekend and hope for the best? Roll the dice with a very thin corps of double gamers who’ll be here for both games and produce? That the double game teams are so untrustworthy makes this a brutal task for fantasy owners this round. It’s a very real case where luck may have to trump skill if you’re going to end up with a big round and a move up the fantasy pecking order.
I climbed to #132 overall with a sixth straight week of over eighty points and fifth of six with over one hundred nine points. It’s helped boost me after a brutal start to the season, and if I keep the current pace, I’ll have a chance at the big prize come season’s end. Here’s hoping.
Round Nine Fantasy Team Rankings:
Portland – The good news is Portland has one of the best matchups of the round and should be relatively healthy and bolstered by their international additions. The bad news is nobody quite knows how exactly this is all going to be pieced together, meaning there’s certainly risk on the table for fantasy owners. NADINE ANGERER looks like a must have for fantasy owners against a toothless WNY club. She got hammered last round but could be in front of a much better back four this round and is still averaging over eight points a match. You almost have to have a Portland defender in your backline this round, but which one is a tough ask. RACHEL VAN HOLLEBEKE looks set to return from injury but is hardly worth an allocation slot. NIKKI MARSHALL is probably the safest option but has limited upside. Many are springing for STEPH CATLEY right off the bat, but will she go 75+ minutes right away? Catley comes in with a big reputation, but so did fantasy bust and compatriot Caitlin Foord. ALLIE LONG was one of few Portland players to have a decent fantasy round a few weeks ago, but I’m wary of her numbers with VERO now in the mix. The Spaniard is going right in my team and probably won’t be leaving it for the rest of the year. She’s shown her quality for Paul Riley at this level before and could feast on a wavering WNY club. ALEX MORGAN looks set for a return after a long injury recovery, but there’s no telling if she’ll be on form right away. Or if she’ll be good for more than an hour. I’d wait a bit to stick her straight back in. JESSICA MCDONALD was a big bust in Round Seven, and I’d wait until her role is more defined with Morgan back before picking her. CHRISTINE SINCLAIR had a fine two games in the same round and isn’t going to be dropped from the lineup regardless, so I think she’s the pick of the club’s forward options right now.
FC Kansas City – That’s two clean sheets in a row for FCKC, and the defense finally look like coming together after some shambolic displays. One of the teams they did shutout was Boston, though they did give up fourteen shots to the Breakers. NICOLE BARNHART’s a decent option in goal, but I might want to divide my allocations a different way this round. AMY LEPEILBET’s return could complicate things, and I’m guessing KASSEY KALLMAN would be the defender to give way if the former joins the starting lineup. Avoid both for fantasy purposes. LEIGH ANN ROBINSON finally showed some glimpses of last season’s form in her last game and might be the FCKC defender to pick this round, with NIKKI PHILLIPS the other obvious choice. AMY RODRIGUEZ keeps scoring and is average and absurd 12.82 points a match so far. You’re crazy if you drop her against Boston’s defense, and she’s a contender for the captain’s armband. The big question is whether you want to spring for LAUREN HOLIDAY as well. She’s been frustratingly erratic this season despite averaging nearly eight points a match and was held to one point last time out. She also did little against Boston in their first meeting, so I’m wary about tabbing her for a lineup spot this round. ERIKA TYMRAK could be a canny pick in midfield after a six-point showing in Round Eight and won’t cost an allocation spot.
Seattle – The matchup isn’t an easy one, and the Reign’s defense is showing signs of crumbling, having conceded 1.5 goals a game in their past four matches after having kept four clean sheets in their opening six. Chicago isn’t the type to pour on the offense though, even if Christen Press is ready to roll in this one. The Red Stars will probably try to make this one ugly and try for a smash-and-grab win on the road. That might increase clean sheet odds but also might mean a scoring disaster for HOPE SOLO if she concedes. There are worse options though if you have an allocation slot to spare. As always, KENDALL FLETCHER is the defender of choice in your fantasy backline. Don’t drop KIM LITTLE. Ever. OK, drop her when she leaves for WWC qualifying, but otherwise, don’t even think about it. Against a combative Chicago squad, JESSICA FISHLOCK could be a prime contender for a booking, so tread carefully. NAHO remains Seattle’s best forward producer of points, and the offense runs so much more smoothly with her in the mix. She’s the one you want this round and for the foreseeable future unless BEVERLY GOEBEL or SYDNEY LEROUX turns it up.
Washington – They’re flying right now, with three wins in a row and being unbeaten in five. The problem? The defense, already getting stomped for much of the season, won’t have ASHLYN HARRIS in goal or ALI KRIEGER on the backline in midweek through international duty. Washington hasn’t shutout an opponent not named Chicago this season and shipped two to Boston just ten days before this midweek fixture. As such, I’d stay far away from the Spirit defense, though CHANTEL JONES might be a decent desperation play in goal if you want a contrarian pick. The offense is a different story and torched Boston last time out. JODIE TAYLOR is in red hot form, scored two goals against Boston in their last meeting, and should be a contender for the armband after missing the cut for England’s WWC qualifiers. DIANA MATHESON should be here midweek and had two assists against Boston earlier and is averaging a little under seven points a match. She’s a good pick in midfield if you have an allocation slot open. If you don’t, go with CHRISTINE NAIRN, who netted double digits in Round Eight and looks to be growing in confidence as the season progresses.
Houston – If you want to play it ultra risky, you may want to double down on the Dash, who have two very favorable matches, facing a slumping SBFC and a WNY side that could be very weary after a potential beating from Portland. The problem is there’s really no telling who to use. The Dash’s top fantasy player thus far has been NINA BURGER, and she’s not even in the Top 50 for total points on the season! She’s also likely to be gone in midweek for Austria’s WWC qualifiers, so you may instead want to turn your attention to KEALIA OHAI, who finally broke her duck in front of goal with a strike in the last round. TIFFANY MCCARTY’s an even riskier pick but seems a decent shout to get major minutes with Burger gone midweek. Burger’s in form though and still a decent player if you can stomach having her for just one game. There’s nobody in midfield worth considering. STEPHANIE OCHS would be a great sleeper on the backline…but won’t be changed there in the game until after this round. The rest of the defenders aren’t worth burning an allocation slot for, though they could have the knock-on effect of making the defense as a whole more solid. That would mean a lot for the goalkeeper…whoever that might be. Both keepers are off the injury list, but its up in the air as to who starts given BIANCA HENNINGER’s solid form. Given we won’t know if one will start both games, I’d stay away.
WNY Flash – They look like an absolute disaster without ABBY WAMBACH, and with the forward listed as doubtful this weekend, they’ll be up against it going to Portland. The club’s lack of a pure backup center forward is pretty damn glaring at the moment, as the cadre of offensive midfielders and wingers has led to an offense with no punch for much of the past two games. CARLI LLOYD with two games and Abby in the lineup would be worth a shout. With one game before leaving for USWNT duty and no Abby? Avoid. MCCALL ZERBONI was the only Flash player in double digits despite the club’s two games last round and could take a more offensive role this round. As such, she’s a sleeper pick. SAM KERR and ADRIANA should both get two games, but neither look to most appealing options in any event. VICKY’s a low risk pick if she gets major minutes, but the odds of her exploding for a big round aren’t that great. Catching a clean sheet on the back end against Houston’s probably the thinking of some tipping the Flash’s defensive players. As such, BRITTANY TAYLOR’s probably going in my lineup and might deliver a few shots on goal in the bargain. LYDIA WILLIAMS is one of the few non-allocated keepers to be confident of a starting spot. With a hammering a possibility against Portland though, I’d steer clear.
Boston – Fantasy nightmare. With the Breakers having shocked everyone against Portland a little earlier, Tom Durkin basically rotated his underachieving starting core back into the lineup against Washington. The offense showed signs of life, but the defense got torched (again). As a result of the unpredictable switching, he’s almost made all of his players untouchable for fantasy purposes in the short term. First of all, unless you’re a masochist, avoid the Boston defense at all costs, as A-Rod and Jodie Taylor could feast on it this round. With Boston being in the round’s first game, you should know their lineup before the deadline for your team’s lineup. LIANNE SANDERSON and HEATHER O’REILLY would be canny plays if both were here for both games. They won’t be. And against an improving FCKC defense, I’d be pretty way of tabbing either for a lineup spot. JAZMINE REEVES would be a pretty intriguing play if she’s guaranteed big minutes in both games. Considering Durkin benched her for the loss to Washington, that’s not a given. LISA DE VANNA showed signs of life against Washington…but she’s still on a whopping 1.7 points per match so far in 2014. She probably carries more risk than she’s worth as a result for this round.
Chicago – They’ll be near the top of next round’s rankings, but one game, at Seattle this round should have you avoiding their players. They were a massive fantasy disappointment against Washington, and it won’t get easier this round. Complicating matters is the potential debut of CHRISTEN PRESS, if her ITC situation has been sorted. We won’t know about that by roster deadline time though, or whether she’ll be tossed right into the starting lineup, so she’s a very big gamble despite her quality. I’m staying away given the matchup and that uncertainty, but if you do opt for her, make sure to have a good forward on the bench. I’d avoid the rearguard or KARINA LEBLANC in goal given the Reign’s offensive weapons and other matchups elsewhere. The club could nick a goal through the likes of JEN HOY and LORI CHALUPNY on offense, but there are too many balls in the air with the matchup, Rory Dames’ rotation of attackers, and Press’ potential debut for me to be too enthusiastic. As a result, I’m staying away from them this round before betting big next round.
Sky Blue FC – First thing’s first: It’s KELLEY O’HARA’s last round being listed as a defender (probably), so feel free to use an allocation slot on her. Think it’s not worth it? She’s the game’s top scoring defender by a full 8.50 points over Kendall Fletcher. SBFC has just one game this round, but it’s one where a clean sheet is a very attainable goal, so there’s really no reason to not go with her, even though it cuts into your offensive allocation possibilities. Otherwise? Yeesh. KATY FREELS’ fantasy breakout season continues in earnest, as she’s #13 overall in total points and may feast on a pedestrian Dash midfield. With MONICA OCAMPO questionable, the club’s frontline options are really limited though. You may think about springing for NANASE KIRYU though as a contrarian pick, as she had 9.5 points last round after a very slow start to the season. In goal, the rotation of JILL LOYDEN and BRITTANY CAMERON continues apace. Using an allocation slot on a keeper who doesn’t play is a disaster though, so if you want a SBFC keeper, go with Cameron and a viable backup option in case she doesn’t play.
Round Nine Fantasy Player Rankings
1. Angerer – POR
2. Barnhart – FCKC
3. Solo – SEA
4. Williams – WNY
5. Jones – WSH
1. O’Hara – SBFC
2. Marshall – POR
3. Robinson – FCKC
4. Fletcher – SEA
5. Taylor – WNY
1. Little – SEA
2. Vero – POR
3. Matheson – WSH
4. Holiday – FCKC
5. Nairn – WSH
1. Rodriguez – FCKC
2. Taylor – WSH
3. Sinclair – POR
4. Naho – SEA
5. Ohai – HOU