The 2019 season formally ended on Sunday 10th November with Seattle Sounders trumping Toronto 3-1 at Century Link Field to claim their second MLS Cup. In a final look back at the season, with a particular focus on the MLS Fantasy campaign, we present our 15-man Team of the Season, with the best of the best from the Fantasy game getting recognised for their point-scoring efforts during the season. All aboard.
MLS Fantasy 2019: Team of the Season
The MLS Fantasy season ended with Week 31 on Sunday 6th October 2019, with Carlos Vela breaking the goal-scoring record in MLS during the regular season, with the Mexican international dominating the game during the entirety of 2019. Every article we or others produced had a heavy concentration of all things Carlos Vela as a default weekly topic.
Much like the game, we pick a full squad of players that represent the best of the Fantasy season - with 2 Goalkeeper's, 5 Defender's, 5 Midfielder's and 3 Forward's - making up a who's who of MLS Fantasy.
MLS Fantasy 2019: Team of the Season (GK)
Making the cut: Vito Mannone (MIN) and Daniel Vega (SJ)
Missing out: Bill Hamid (DC), Brad Guzan (ATL) and David Bingham (LA)
In every Fantasy football game you'll ever play that has a starting 11 and 4 benched players, you'll know that the starting keeper will be a regular for his team and the bench option is a bargain basement pick that might get game time. We had the perfect mix of this during the 2019 MLS Fantasy season.
San Jose's Daniel Vega became an immediately popular pick as Matías Almeyda's side opted for the $4.0 million priced Vega. The Argentine shot-stopper earned his highest score of the season during Week 6, with Vega saving a penalty from Diego Valeri and kept a clean sheet in a 3-0 home victory, San Jose's first of the season. That sparked Fantasy players into players largely retaining the budget option due to price hikes, with Vega well-worth his selection after a solid season as the 13th best Goalkeeper in the Fantasy game - more than was ever expected from the player.
The feature pick in goal goes to Minnesota's Vito Mannone, the former Sunderland and Reading FC shot-stopper who went from the second-tier of English football, to the summit of MLS and its Fantasy game. Mannone, who managed 11 clean sheets and 1 penalty saves during the season, played every minute of the campaign and was the top Fantasy custodian at the first time of asking. This is also the highest ever score of a Goalkeeper in the game, which in itself makes Mannone the man to have, particularly as Minnesota were very reliable at home, keeping 9 clean sheets at their new Allianz Field stadium.
MLS Fantasy 2019: Team of the Season (DEF)
Making the cut:
Missing out: Reto Ziegler (DAL), Matt Hedges (DAL), Leandro Gonzalez Pirez (ATL), Ike Opara (MIN) and Eddie Segura (LAFC)
Defensive picks were the most contentious to pick from this year, with a host of options to weight up and debate, the first place to start was with the ever-present picks. D.C. United's Brillant and Birnbaum had relatively similar and fantastic campaigns, with Brillant the top Defender in the game (and the only Defender to crack the 'Overall Top 10' of players as the 9th best player during the 2019 game. For us Fantasy players, one or both of the defensive options, were a lock until DC's season stalled near the end of the campaign.
Atlanta are also represented through the promising young central defender, Miles Robinson, who managed more bonus points (90) than any other defender in the game - which aids the fact that the cheaper of the pair between himself and Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, didn't score or assist at all during the campaign.
Undeniable from contention this year is Dallas full-back Ryan Hollingshead, the only Defender in the game to reach $11.0+ million this season in the game. Hollingshead scored 6 times from right-back and provided 3 assists, to go alongside 8 clean sheets and 56 bonus points. Ideally, we would have also liked to have included penalty kick taker, Reto Ziegler (174 points), and dominant central defender Matt Hedges (165 points), who both had equally good seasons, but if push comes to shove (which it did in this case), Hollingshead's Fantasy output was the clear winner on this occasion.
Lastly, Minnesota earn a defensive double as Romain Metanire was highly coveted and sought after every time the right-back was available. 7 assists is more than any of the 5 Defender's earning their place in our Team of the Season, whilst his 6.11 average points-per-game is only topped by Brillant's 6.35 points-per-game.
MLS Fantasy 2019: Team of the Season (MID)
Making the cut: Carles Gil (NE), Alejandro Pozuelo (TOR), Eduard Atuesta (LAFC), Diego Valeri (POR) and Nicolas Lodeiro (SEA)
Missing out: Maxi Moralez (NYC), Saphir Taider (MTL), Magnus Eriksson (SJ), Julian Gressel (ATL) and Michael Barrios (DAL)
The bread and butter of a strong MLS Fantasy team is attaching yourself to as many of the attacking midfielders in the league that attract bonus points as possible. Due to the weighting of points, CAM's are highly active players, and more often than not the designated set-piece takers for most clubs, with Designated Players likely to fill these positions.
The first and most prominent selection of the season is the unrivalled rise of former Aston Villa, Carles Gil, who has found his calling in Major League Soccer. New England Revolution aren't one of the league's glamour clubs. They're not an LAFC, LA Galaxy, Atlanta United or Seattle Sounders, who get more mainstream attention. No, instead The Revolution are a salt of the earth side that transformed into a monster of a side once Bruce Arena returned to the club, going on an 11-game unbeaten streak between Week's 13-23. In fact, New England only lost 3 of their last 22 matches - against LAFC, NYCFC and Atlanta on the final day of the season.
This leads us to Gil, who surpassed everyone's expectations this season with 10 goals and 14 assists to his name, as well as 100 bonus points in MLS Fantasy, only topped by Eduard Atuesta's 102 bonus. Once many had clocked on to Gil's consistent Fantasy returns, the top Fantasy midfielder was a lock for most players on a weekly basis, with Gil breathing life into New England as an attractive MLS outfit. The best compliment we can make of Gil is that his arrival to the club matched the club itself - a little low-key and underwhelming - but we ultimately witnessed a coming of age story for the 26-year-old, who was vastly overlooked by the mainstream media during the season, but provided enough substance and style to fill any back page.
Talking of back pages, and fresh off the heels of their MLS Cup defeat, the arrival of Alejandro Pozuelo (a former Swansea City player) from Belgian outfit, Genk, was met with a fanfare in MLS. Pozuelo didn't dissapoint, especially in the early stages of the season. Poz scored twice and assisted another against NYCFC in a 4-0 home win, including a filthy panenka penalty kick past Sean Johnson in between the sticks, earning the Spaniard 20 points on his Fantasy debut too. From there, Pozuelo was a mainstay in teams until around Gameweek 20 when a downturn in form, and a minor injury, derailed his season slightly. The third highest average of points for a midfielder can't be ignored, however, with Pozuelo a worthy midfield pick during the 2019 Fantasy season right up until the end.
The first LAFC inclusion to the team is the only midfielder from this list who isn't a Designated Player (or an out-and-out attacking midfielder), with bonus points magnet Eduard Atuesta an ironclad pick for our Team of the Season. As we mentioned further up, the central midfielder's ability to pick up bonus points was unrivalled in MLS Fantasy, with 3 goals and 11 assists for the Supporters' Shield winners a welcome bonus to a midfielder who sometimes take command of free-kicks when Carlos Vela showed mercy on his opposition. Atuesta was at times an overlooked force as other premium midfielders more often than not boasted set-pieces to their advantage, but LAFC's free-scoring nature meant that Atuesta was the best pick from LAFC to double up with Vela in your squad too.
The last picks were veterans to both the league and MLS Fantasy, with Diego Valeri and Nicolas Lodeiro both providing hot-streaks of form throughout the season to see off the vast competition for midfield places, with Maxi Moralez and Magnus Eriksson unlucky to miss out altogether. Lodeiro only played 28 of the 34 regular season games and had the highest average points of any midfielder, whilst a chunk of Portland homes games mid-way through the season saw Valeri as a regular pick in sides from Week 11 onward, with Valeri now the only player in MLS Fantasy to be in the 'Overall Top 10' list for 3 years running.
MLS Fantasy 2019: Team of the Season (FOR)
Making the cut: Carlos Vela (LAFC), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (LA) and Josef Martinez (ATL)
Missing out: Diego Rossi (LAFC)
Last but not least, we move on to our selection of Forward's, which in truth was the easiest trio of picks any person would make given the season's they've all just endured. Josef Martinez scored 27 goals, the fewest of our selections, which highlights just how high the bar was as Martinez, Vela and Ibrahimovic totally dominated the picks at the top end of the team selections.
We're also talking about 3 of the top 4 players in MLS Fantasy this year, with New England's Carles Gil the only player that stopped the trio from taking every podium during the 2019 season with their individual efforts.
Moreover, we can just let the stats do the talking, though as romantics we will leave on the thought that the likelihood of finding this allure of talent, all firing to new heights, might never occur again, so we have entered a special territory of mention with the terrific trio. Vela was simply the talk of the town, Zlatan was one of his only captaincy contenders and Josef's scoring streak solidified the Venezuelan as an MLS icon for the rest of time.
The statistics take speak for themselves:
Carlos Vela (LAFC) broke the goal-scoring record in the regular season, also beating a record set in 2018. Vela scored a hat-trick during Week 31 on the final day against at Colorado Rapids, meaning the Mexican scored 34 goals in only 31 games. In 2018, Josef Martinez (Atlanta), scored 31 goals in 34 league appearances.
Carlos Vela also broke the record for most MLS Fantasy points in a single season, beating Miguel Almiron's (Atlanta) 268 points achieved in the 2018 season. Vela, who scored 34, assisted 15 and won 4 penalties, managed 363 overall. This also means that Vela is the only player in MLS Fantasy to reach 300+ points in the game.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic (LA Galaxy) also beat Miguel Almiron's 268 points from 2018 on the final day of the season, with Zlatan's 8 points away at Houston Dynamo, meaning the Swede finished on 272 points.
Carlos Vela is also the only player to finish the season earning an average of 10+ points-per-game. With Vela playing in 31 league games, the Mexican international averaged 11.71 PPG, with Ibrahimovic the next best with a 9.38 PPG average from 29 games played.
Priced at $15.9 million, Carlos Vela also ended the season as the most expensive player in MLS Fantasy. The Forward also finished the campaign as the most selected MLS Fantasy player, being selected by 15.76% of players.
To end the season, Carlos Vela scored in his last 9 MLS appearances, and only failed to score or assist in just 6 matches, meaning the Forward provided a direct attacking returns in 25 of his 31 appearances.
Josef Martinez (Atlanta) registered the long scoring spree in the league, scoring in 15 consecutive games between Week's 13 and 29. In this time, Martinez scored 21 goals and earned 147 of his eventual 234 Fantasy points in that time.
Vela (34), Zlatan (30) and Martinez (27) were the only 3 players in the league to scored 20+ goals during the regular season. There is an 11-goal gap between the 4th top scorer, Diego Rossi (LAFC), who scored 16 goals.
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