MLS Fantasy season is upon us, and with the game's official release The Hype Train will be taking a look at some standout performers from last season in each of the four positions, from Goalkeeper to Forward. In the second article of the series we take a look at the top points-scoring Defender from the 2017 season who will be playing in the MLS this season, which takes us to Eastern Conference side, Atlanta United. All aboard.
2017's best MLS Fantasy Goalkeeper?
If you haven't had a chance to read our first article, we provide analysis over Columbus Crew's number one, Zack Steffen of the Columbus Crew, and we also talk a little about some of the troubles that The Crew are going through as we approach the 2018 MLS season.
2017's Best MLS Fantasy Defender: Leandro González Pírez (Atlanta United)
Atlanta United are entering their second season in MLS, and the secret is out about the youthful and driven side managed by former Argentina and Barcelona Manager, Gerardo Martino. The technical staff prefer to bring in Argentine players under the age of 25 to make a splash in MLS, and it worked very well in the club's first season during 2017.
Atlanta finished 4th in the Eastern Conference (and 4th in the overall standings) at the end of last season and were eliminated in the first round of the MLS Cup, losing in the Knockout round against Columbus Crew it Atlanta, downed only on penalties after a 0-0 draw.
Across both Eastern and Western Conference's in the regular season Atlanta conceded 40 goals, with 3 clubs conceding fewer - Sporting Kansas (29), Toronto (37), and Seattle Sounders (39).
We recently delved into Atlanta's Designated Players, and they are all under-25 Argentine's looking for a breakout season, and the top MLS Fantasy defender from last season very much fits the bill with the profile that Martino is looking for in a player to take MLS by storm.
Top 5 MLS Fantasy Defenders (Who will be playing in 2018)
1) Leandro González Pirez (Atlanta) - 184pts from 33 appearances
2) Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas) - 170pts from 26 appearances
3) Ike Opara (Sporting Kansas) - 161pts from 33 appearances
4) Alexander Callens (New York City FC) - 155pts from 34 appearances
5) Marlon Hairston (Colorado Rapids) - 152pts from 34 appearances
González Pirez is a 6ft 1inch central defender who partners club captain Michael Parkhurst at the heart of Atlanta's defence. The defender joined Atlanta from Estudiantes in Argentina, boasting 100 career appearances for clubs such as River Plate and Tigre, as making 7 appearances for Belgian side Gent in the 2013/14 season.
In the 2017 MLS season, González Pirez appeared in 32 regular season matches, scoring once and assisting three times, as well as helping Atlanta to 12 clean sheets. The Argentine also scored the first MLS goal in Mercedes-Benz Stadium history in a 3-0 win over FC Dallas on September 10th 2017, which was Gameweek 25 of 34.
Atlanta's move to the Mercedes-Benz Stadium was rewarded with instant success, with the team hosting 6 consecutive league matches at the ground, winning five, and drawing once, scoring a massive 22 goals from the six matches. Atlanta have only lost one fixture at their new home, losing 2-3 to Minnesota United during Gameweek 32.
What is interesting with MLS Fantasy is how the bonus points differ from the FPL over here in England. Instead of counting BPS scores, if a player performs well, they get bonus points irregardless of the BPS tally that has FPL players sweating on for hours after a matches.
How does a Defender accumulate Bonus Points in MLS Fantasy?
The official MLS Fantasy game does bonus points differently. Instead of in the Fantasy Premier League, which sees players rewarded based of BPS (Bonus Points System), players in MLS don't miss out on bonus and are awarded on the following criteria:
4 clearances = 1 bonus
2 blocks = 1 bonus
4 interceptions = 1 bonus
4 tackles = 1 bonus
6 recovered balls = 1 bonus
Error leading to a goal = -1 bonus
González Pirez led the league with 98 interceptions last season, and made more recoveries and tackles than his Atlanta teammates. All of this means a defender's destiny is in his own hands, and of the two central defenders, Pirez is the man to back ahead of Michael Parkhurst when it comes to bonus points.
The only caution to note is Pirez's disciplinary record, receiving 10 yellow cards, and being sent off once last season. Reminds us of another Argentine central defender, Nicolas Otamendi, who is cautioned on a regular basis in the Premier League.
With Atlanta starting their season away to Houston Dynamo, who finished 4th in the Western Conference, there will certainly be a few eagle-eyed MLS Fantasy players keeping an eye out for Atlanta defenders, and it may be central figures that get our nod of approval ahead of the season opener on March 3rd.
Designated Players in the MLS: Atlanta United
As previously mentioned when looking at Pirez's form from last season, we have gone into some depth regarding Atlanta's Argentine trio of Designated Players ahead of the season opener. Check out the embedded tweet below, or check out out MLS page by clicking here, to read more about Atlanta and the league in general.
The 2018 MLS Fantasy Season
MLS returns on Saturday March 3rd 2018, and you can join our very own MLS Fantasy League by clicking here, or alternatively by using the league code RDPUAHR2 whilst on the MLS Fantasy site, or checking out our pinned tweet on our @HypeTrainMLS Twitter account. We'd love to have you aboard for the ride.
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The Hype Train is an entertainment website founded in 2015, specialising in the Fantasy Premier League (#FPL), providing beautiful graphics and weekly insight for hopeful players attempting to climb ranking tables. We are also occasional media reviewers, with a keen interest to review movies, live sport, and professional wrestling.
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The Hype Train were nominated and shortlisted for the 'Best Football Blog 2016' by the Football Bloggers Association at their annual Football Blogging Awards (The FBA's), with the final presentation held at Old Trafford in Manchester.