Fantasy League / National Women's Soccer League

Return of the Jedi, Fantasy Shots Style

Look at that! Here I am! Another NWSL season begins, and another Fantasy League along with it. Another year I thought I might not be able to do Fantasy Shots, another spring where Lauren talked me into it. Or, I talked myself into it. It really depends on who you ask.

Anyway, if this is your first time, allow me to explain: Fantasy Shots is just that: a shot at picking the winning NWSL fantasy roster. Every week, we inform our loyal readers of our picks, our reasoning (or biases) in an effort to help you choose a roster more easily, with far less stress that what I get put through with it.

Allow me to reintroduce myself. I’ve been doing a Fantasy roster since the WPS (remember those days, kids? Well, I was also there from game one of the WUSA…I’m a grandma compared to a lot of these whippersnappers. Anyway, I birdwalk.) In fact, during the final season of the WPS, my roster finished the overall season in the top 10. I am confident to say that I would have been top 3, but I forgot to update that final week’s roster, and it definitely hurt me.

As you returning fans will probably remember, I started the 2014 season with a bang, and then, as my work schedule intensified, I began slacking until finally, I couldn’t update anymore. Or, maybe you didn’t notice and just accepted my disappearance as a normal thing.

This year, I’ll have TWO jobs, AND training (if you forget, I’m also a athlete with USA Skeleton). So, naturally you’re probably thinking…what are you doing here? Why are you doing this? Well, GOOD NEWS!

I have a co-writer! Well, a contributor, Caitlin Buckley, who, around July, will likely take over Fantasy Shots for the remainder of the season. Hurrah! A full season of Fantasy predictions that may or may not totally bury your team! So, for the first couple months, you’ll be treated to TWO fantasy rosters. As I doubt anyone ever totally agrees on their rosters (come on, I’ll admit that I still play favorites…Cat Whitehill, I’m lookin’ at you!) that means double the insight! So gooooooood luck with that!

The 2015 NWSL season begins on Friday, which means fantasy rosters must be updated by 8:15pm on April 10. That is 15 minutes prior to the first game kickoff, which, if I remember correctly, seems pretty close to game time than last year…so you might even get lucky and see Washington and Houston’s starting lineups before you actually submit your rosters.

Unlike years past, this year, I’ve actually done my research…well, as much as I’ve been able to. I’ve read plenty of NWSL previews from a variety of sources, including Equalizer Soccer, All White Kit, and of course, our very own Nutmeg Inc. I’ve also been keeping track of preseason games, World Cup rosters and scheduling, and generally putting an ear to the wall for anything related.

It’s a tough position to be in, though. Preseason game are notorious for not being a the same intensity as NWSL games themselves, as most are played against collegiate teams. Still, one does get the feel of who is scoring, who is assisting, and who is starting. It seems to me that those are still good indicators for an opening day roster. Time will tell. I’ve never been one of those lucky (or creepily smart) people who choose exactly the right people to score in the opening week. As an example, all those who picked Kim Little last year…bravo. I didn’t do my research, so didn’t know who she was until too late. But then, everyone knew who she was.

And so, with all that in mind, let’s begin!

NWSL WEEK 1 SCHEDULE

WAS at HOU (Friday, 830pm)
BOS at PTFC (Saturday, 10pm)
SBFC at FCKC (Sunday, 4pm)
WNY at SRFC (Sunday, 7pm)
match times listed in EDT

NWSL Official injury report (April 11, 2014)

NWSL National Team Call-ups (April 7th, 2015)

CAN WNT for International Friendly vs France on 9 April, 2015: K. LeBlanc (CHI), E. McLeod (HOU), Allyshia Champman (HOU), L. Sesselmann (HOU), R Wilkinson (POR) K. Kyle (POR), J. Filigno (SBFC), A. Leon (CHI) C. Sinclair (POR), M. Tancredi (CHI)

**Nadine Angerer (Germany), defender Steph Catley (Australia) and forward Jodie Taylor (England) were all named to the rosters of their respective national teams for international friendlies from April 7-9.

USWNT players will join their clubs this week, and likely will be available through May 1. They have three World Cup send-off games in the month following: 10 May v Ireland, 17 May v Mexico, and 30 May vs Korea Republic. 

Lauren’s Picks:

FC Lake Placid (WEEK 1)

Lake Placid_1

Picks for Week 1 (*denotes captain/~denotes vice-captain/#denotes allotted player)

(***please note…while these are my predictions, they may not be exactly the same when the Fantasy deadline comes through. I have a bad tendency to change my mind the hour before said deadline. For the most part, though, this is the official roster of FC Lake Placid***)

Formation: 3-4-3

Why the 3-4-3? Never used one before, and thought….why the hell not? Give another forward a chance, keep a full midfield, and hope for the best on the back line.

Goalkeeper: H. Solo#~ (SEA)

It’s strange…I don’t normally voluntarily go for Solo in goal. But, following return from a 30-day suspension from US Soccer, Solo looked more relaxed and at ease between the posts than I’ve seen her in a few years. She earned some respect (from me, anyway) back after volunteering that she had been in therapy, and her performance against New Zealand last week was the final nail for me. I’d put her between the posts any day right now.

WATCH LIST: M. Betos (POR), A. Harris# (WAS)

Betos will take the net in the absence of Germany’s Nadine Angerer, 2013 FIFA World Player of the Year. She’s a promising keeper, and could have lots to face from Boston, if the Breakers can get their offense moving.

Harris, the current #2 USWNT goalkeeper, will be welcome with Washington against a Houston side that now boasts the dangerous Carli Lloyd. Harris’s position with the USWNT is not for nothing: when she’s on…she’s on.

Defenders: K. Fletcher (SEA), T. Huster (WAS), K. Johnson (POR)

I feel like Fletcher was on my roster a lot last year, but she, along with Johnson, is really one of the defenders who I can trust to keep a clean sheet, as well as to possibly get a shot or two off. Huster, with Krieger at her side, could be vital to keeping Washington with a clean sheet this week.

WATCH LIST: K. Kallman (BOS), B. Sauerbrunn# (FCKC), A. Krieger# (WAS), B. Taylor (WNY)

The only reason Kallman isn’t on my starting roster is that she’s facing a Portland Thorns side that, on paper, could rain shots down on them. Boston’s defense has always been a little shaky, but Kallman is one of the best in the league. Her trade for Heather O’Reilly was one of the biggest talking points of the off-season.

Sauerbrunn is arguably the best in the world in her position, and if I had the availability of another allocation spot, I’d put her in my lineup. With Robinson at her side, FCKC will have a strong back line when the World Cup athletes are with their teams. When they’re not…well let’s cross that bridge when we get to it.

Krieger is one of Washington’s biggest assets. When she’s with the team, don’t ever skim over the possibility of including her in the roster.

Taylor was one of my favorite picks last year. I struggled to decide my back line this week, and Taylor was one of the top contenders. She’s scored goals, she’s kept clean sheets. But without Abby Wambach and, perhaps more importantly, Carli Lloyd, in front of her, will she be able to keep WNY out of the bottom of the table?

Midfielders: K. Mewis# (BOS), S. Mewis (WNY), K. Little* (SEA), E. Tymrak (FCKC)

Kristie Mewis isn’t one I would normally put on my roster. In fact, I’m not sure I ever have put her on a NWSL roster. Still, she’s been performing well in the pre-season, so I thought I’d give her a chance.

ESPNW’s Soccer Player of the Year and 4th overall draft pick Sam Mewis will have a lot of pressure on her shoulders to perform. She’ll be trying to help a WNY side that has lost their biggest personalities (and goal-scoreres) in Carli Lloyd and Abby Wambach. It’ll be up to Mewis to step up and perform at an elite level.

Kim Little…aaah how well I remember how little I knew her. EVERYONE knows her now. It’s a crime that Scotland didn’t qualify for the World Cup, because now it means that one of the world’s most talented midfielders won’t get a chance to prove that at the highest level. Still, that means good things for Seattle, as the League’s 2014 MVP and Golden Boot recipient will be with her team all season. Kim Little is with Scotland for a match against Australia on 9 April. Little WILL be back for Seattle’s match:

WATCH LIST: H. O’Reilly# (FCKC), L. Holiday# (FCKC), A. Long (POR), C. Lloyd# (HOU)

Ok. FCKC. On paper, holy shit. The quadruple threat of Tymrak, Holiday, O’Reilly and Rodriguez. Um…yikes. Tymrak makes the starting 11 for me simply because she is not an allocated player. If I had the spot, I’d probably give it to Holiday before O’Reilly. But the NWSL 2013 MVP and Golden Boot Recipient Lauren Holiday has been solid for two years with FCKC, and when she’s with the team, I don’t much see her slowing down.

O’Reilly, the subject of a huge trade with Boston, now adds her speed and versatility to an already deep midfield. I stubbornly insist that she is still one of the most dangerous wing midfielders in the world, and though she hasn’t had a chance to show that much lately with the USWNT (a crime), her performance at the professional level is astonishing.

Allie Long has always been a “take risk” pick for me. A foul-magnet, Long either performs huge or not at all. Like Carli Lloyd, when you pick her in the right week, your team will skyrocket. With Portland playing a defensively weak Boston side this week, Long may be the right choice for you.

See above for Carli Lloyd. Sometimes a foul-magnet, she’ll perform in bursts of glory. The trade to Houston was a shocker to me, but Houston is desperate for goals. Lloyd is one of the best central midfielders in the game right now (ignoring that silly move by Ellis to put her on the wing a few weeks ago), and if she can click with her Dash teammates, she’ll be a powerful asset.

Forwards: N. Nadim (SBFC), M. Rapinoe# (SEA), A. Rodriguez# (FCKC) 

Nadim is all the talk in the pre-season or so I’ve seen. I don’t think I’ve ever put her on a roster, so here’s your chance, Nadia! Then again, she’s facing an FCKC side that will have both Leigh Ann Robinson and Becky Sauerbrunn anchoring the backline, so if she can get a goal through…well!

Rapinoe had a stellar game with the USWNT against New Zealand, despite the fact that she didn’t score (though she did pick up an assist). If she can continue that momentum, WNY has something to worry about.

Rodriguez had a stellar 2014 year with Blues. Though she hasn’t had much time with the USWNT this year (seriously, Ellis, what the heck is that about??) she’s playing some of the best soccer of her life. Paired with her teammates at FCKC, I don’t doubt she’ll make something happen this week.

WATCH LIST: J. Taylor (POR), S. Groom (FCKC), A. Morgan# (POR), S. Roche (HOU), M. Mathias (SEA)

Jodie Taylor is one player I’m most interested in watching, after seeing the fuss made about her during the off-season. This week, she’ll be with England for an international friendly, so I don’t have to be guilty about not including her.

Shea Groom is another who is hotly anticipated in Kansas City. Still, with Rodriguez in town this week, I’d be surprised if Groom got a ton of playing time.

Never count Alex Morgan out of any lineup. Though she is just coming off injury, she’s looking closer and closer like her normal, dangerous self. She could find the back of the net this week, which will help restore her confidence in finishing with the WNT.

I don’t know much about Irish forward Stephanie Roche, but I did check out her goal that was nominated for FIFA Goal of the Year (it came in second). It was a brilliant touch, and if she can do more things like that in the NWSL, we’ll have an exciting person to watch.

Merritt Mathias was traded in the off-season to Seattle from Kansas City, a trade that left me scratching my head. Still, with Mathias listed as a forward on the Seattle roster, perhaps she’ll settle in well in the Pacific Northwest.

Caitlin’s picks

Unlike Lauren I have no experience with fantasy sports. At all. I also just found out Return of the Jedi is a movie. So clearly I’m not the brightest when it comes to pop culture or fantasy sports. However I do love statistics and soccer so this could end up working out. At the very least, seeing a complete novice attempt fantasy soccer should be entertaining and/or self-esteem boosting.

At first I thought choosing the team name was going to be the hardest part. I struggled over several days before finally naming my team “I’m So Dunn” to match my mood about picking a team name.

Then I found out that picking a team for opening week when I had no clue what to do is pretty hard as well.

To start off I made quick predictions about each NWSL game so I could know where to pull my players. For example, all my starting forwards come from the FCKC vs SBFC game, which is a match-up of two teams with much better offense than defense.

HOU v sWAS: DC has weak attack, Houston has weak defense

FCKC vs SBFC: Great attacks, weak defense on both sides

SEA vs WNY: Seattle defense solid, WNY young and hasn’t played together much unlike Seattle

POR vs BOS: Never quite sure what to expect from Thorns, who knows about Boston

Some of the two things I value most in life are predictability and consistency. So trying to pick players from the Portland vs Boston game scared me a lot. I ended up not picking any from that game since I didn’t think it was worth the risk.

Same thing as Lauren, this is the final roster for the most part, but it could change at the last second.

I’m So Dunn (Week 1):

Dunn_1

 

Formation: (3-4-3)

This formation offered many attackers, and I was really having trouble thinking of solid defenses for this week.

Goalkeepers: H. Solo~# (SEA)

For someone looking for a predictable goalkeeper and consistent defense, Solo was an easy answer. Coupled with playing the Flash, a team that isn’t exactly dominating on offense, I have no concerns about Solo. I like the chances of her posting a clean sheet so I decided to make her vice-captain as well.

Backup: B. Henninger (HOU)

This was a toss-up between Henninger and Cameron. Both goalkeepers were similar in terms of talent last year, but Henninger had a worse defense in front of her. While both will have young backlines this Sunday, the Spirit attack is nowhere near the danger that the front four of FC Kansas City will pose to Sky Blue.

Defenders: K. Fletcher (SEA), C. Dydasco (WAS), C. Dunn# (WAS)

I figured I want one of my defenders to post a clean sheet and Fletcher and the Seattle defense is my best chance. I didn’t want to place too many bets on teams keeping clean sheets so for the other two defenders I went with ones that could easily end up as part of the attack. Dydasco and Dunn both have good chances of not actually starting on the backline or at the very least being involved in the attack in some form. Dydasco is a rookie, but I was impressed by what I saw of her in preseason but it’s one of the more risky picks.

Backup: Lauren Barnes (SEA)– If any team is getting a shutout this weekend, my money is on Seattle. Barnes is consistent and reliable, what’s not to love.

Midfielders: H. O’Reilly# (FCKC), L. Holiday# (FCKC), K. Little*(SEA), J. Fishlock (SEA)

I’m not sure if there’s a single NWSL coach who hasn’t had a nightmare about FCKC’s full-strength front four. That made it a given to put O’Reilly and Holiday in. Holiday was also the human punching bag of the league last year so at least she’ll suffer some fouls in addition to being an amazing playmaker (looking at you Jill Ellis). Also, if I didn’t put Little, the 2014 Golden Boot winner, on my roster I’d be doing something wrong. For good measure I also made her captain. She’ll be coming off a friendly against Australia on the 9th, but Little not quite at full-strength is still a great player. Fishlock led the league in assists and it looks like she has calmed down on the fouls, and if I’m throwing that many eggs in Seattle’s basket why not put in another?

Backup: Katy Freels (SBFC)- For what it’s worth, Freels has put up solid numbers in preseason and is a certain starter for Sky Blue. It was a toss-up between her and Erika Tymrak but I went with Freels since she had more shots on goal and will have a greater responsibility than Tymrak.

Forwards: N. Nadim (SBFC), A. Rodriguez# (FCKC), J. McDonald (HOU)

If you score seven goals in six games you’re going on my roster. Committing 13 fouls in that number of games also makes Nadim not my captain or vice-captain. Rodriguez is a goal scoring machine at club level and with a midfield of that strength behind her, it’d be hard for her not to score. McDonald had good numbers last year, averaging around .75 goals per 90 minutes and the 6-foot forward will have a big advantage over a Spirit side that doesn’t field anyone over 5-foot-9. McDonald is also not officially on Houston’s roster because of a paperwork issue. I’m optimistic it will work out by Friday, but it’s something I’ll keep my eye on in case I make a last second switch.

Backup: Estefania Banini (WAS)- This feels like a big risk. Friday will be Banini’s first NWSL game. And it’s not like she’s played in Europe either. Before catching some of the Spirit preseason games, all I had seen of her was a clip on YouTube. But from what I saw during preseason, she was exciting and most of all she made things happen which can’t be said for many of the Spirit’s forwards last season. This was a toss-up between her and Beverly Yanez but I went with Banini since she’ll have more responsibility for her team.

If you’re interested in joining an NWSL group, come and join ours! The password is, appropriately, megged. Good luck!

So, what do you think of our picks? Leave a comment below!

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