*** Follow Duke on Twitter for DFS updates throughout the EPL/UCL/UEL… For now, enjoy this Intro to DFS Soccer ***
INTRO TO DFS SOCCER
As we enter into an extended period without the “main” sports you are most likely playing in the Daily Fantasy world, we in the soccer community would like to welcome you with open arms.
We are going to begin at the absolute ground floor and work our way through to more advanced strategies to make sure you have not only an understanding of the positions on the field but why you are building a roster to go have a leg up on our competition.
Let’s start with the basics:
Soccer is played with 11 players per team on the field at any one time. There is a number of different formations, but for this example, we will use a basic 4-4-2 formation that will look like this on the field:
In this formation, you see one goalkeeper, four defenders, four midfielders and two forwards: 4-4-2.
The players all have different roles within the framework of the team.
The goalkeeper is the player who can use his hands to keep the other team from scoring.
Defenders are primarily responsible for stopping the other team’s attackers from taking shots on the goal they are trying to defend.
Each spot on the backline has a different role as well. The two players in the middle should always be more defensive ONLY players. They rarely push into the attack in the flow of the play and are more geared towards tackles and interceptions than crosses and shots.
If we look to their partners out wide, the fullbacks, the players both defend and attack in the modern game. We love to target cheap players in this position to take advantage of even limited attacking ability, as they still pick up defensive stats while also scoring points with crosses and the occasional shot.
As we move into the midfield, the formation will largely dictate the role of each player, but let’s stick with the 4-4-2.
Typically, as we are with defenders, we are looking towards players who will push further up the field into the attacking areas and pick up attacking daily fantasy stats like crosses and shots. In the image above, you’ll see two midfielders sitting centrally in front of the defenders but the two wide midfielders pushed further forward to join up with the two forwards. Typically, we would like to target these types of players.
What about the two players in the middle of the field? It’s rare that both of the central players would sit defensively and even more rare that both the central players would attack without defensive responsibility! Instead, in the flow of play, it would look something more like this:
Here we see one midfielder clearly taking a more offensive responsibility and one more defensive. Obviously, figuring out which player on the field will fill each role is crucial to your fantasy success. That is what I’m here to help with on the daily.
How about those two forwards?
These are the players who are typically most likely to score a goal. These players can have high upside with shots, shots on goal and goals providing statistics but typically are not drifting into the wide areas where they can pick up crossing statistics or adding defensive stats like tackles or interceptions to their total.
Following me so far?
We’ve looked at the 4-4-2 primarily, but there are a host of other formations that are en vogue. There is no need to go through the nuances of each formation in an introduction article, but know that I will guide you down the right path to success.
Quick! Which defenders do we typically target?
The wider ones who put crosses into the box. We call those fullbacks.
Which midfielder do we typically want to avoid?
The holding midfielder who does not push into the box.
You’ll get there! You don’t have to know it all right now.
Now that we have a base knowledge of the positions on the field, let’s give you an introduction on how to play DFS soccer. As with all other sports in DFS, there are both cash and GPP tournaments available.
For rules and scoring info, click this link to take you to the DraftKings website. I’ll add it here as well:
|Shot on Goal||1.00|
|Clean Sheet (Defender)||3.00|
|Clean Sheet (Goalkeeper)||5.00|
|Win (GK only)||5.00|
|Save (GK only)||2.00|
|Goal Conceded (GK only)||-2.00|
RULE 1: ALWAYS CHECK THE LINEUPS BEFORE THE GAMES START
The only thing we know for sure is that these managers are complete idiots. Who they choose to play and when is sometimes the equivalent of playing pin the tail on a donkey. I will always provide a preview with a PROJECTION of which players will start. After team news is released, there will be changes!
We’ll start with the big picture followed by more granular details.
Who’s the biggest favorite?
How big of a favorite are they?
Are they healthy or missing players, and does this affect the potential outcomes of the game?
How many players do I need from this team?
Where is the cheap value?
Typically, fullbacks (outside defenders who cross, hopefully often) who are inexpensive or other mispriced players.
Who takes set pieces (free kicks and corner kicks – SEE BELOW), and how many can we project they will take?
Who is most likely to score a goal (or two)?
Generally, we look at teams who are favorites.
Are there any correlated players who might assist a goal, and can you afford both players?
See CHASING ASSIST TO GOAL CORRELATION below.
Plug in a goalie.
Kind of, but not really. See GOALKEEPERS below.
SET PIECES OR FREE KICKS
Have you ever watched Brad Stevens draw up a play out of a timeout and the Celtics score at a higher percentage of those plays vs. something drawn up in the flow of a game? It’s very similar in soccer. The game of soccer is more fluid and less stop-start than traditional big sports. The majority of the game is played in the middle of the field, and it’s the teams with the best-attacking players that typically go on to win games. The fluid nature of the game does not allow for a ton of coordinated “plays” within the framework of open play. However, there is a great equalizer in the game of soccer: the set piece. This is an organized, rehearsed “play” these teams work on in training.
A “set piece” is any time after a foul or the ball goes out of play and the attacking team has a chance to put a cross into the area just in front of the goal to create an excellent chance to score. You can also put a shot directly on goal in certain areas.
Here is a two-minute video from what looks to be 1980 explaining Law 13 – Free Kicks:
Knowing which players are TAKING these set pieces and free kicks is key to your success in daily fantasy soccer and more specifically CASH games, as we prefer to target those with more stable ability to score points.
FLOOR VS. CEILING POINTS
You will often see me write about floor or ceiling points. Let’s quickly define each so that we are on the same page.
Typically, these are points that are more easily projectible. They include crosses and shots assisted but depending on the player can have a wide variety of statistics.
For example, a player like Roma’s Forward Edin Dzeko averages 4-5 shots per game. While it’s not typical for one player to see this many shots, due to several years worth of data, we can include at least a portion of this statistic in this “floor” projection. A player like Aston Villa’s Midfielder Jack Grealish is being fouled at an astounding 4-5 times per game. Fouls drawn is a stat we wouldn’t typically include in a “floor” but again, we have enough data to include at least a portion of this stat in his “floor.” Having this type of knowledge is useful for you but a requirement for me to make sure you are ahead of the competition. I got you!
As you can probably guess, this refers to the “upside” of a particular player. Ceiling is of particular interest in those larger, GPP (guaranteed prize pool) type of contests where we want to finish as high up the leaderboard as possible.
When evaluating ceiling, we are looking towards the goal scorers, the players who pick up the most assists, the defenders who put in crosses and shots who might also keep a “clean sheet” – see below and the goalkeepers whose team will win while they keep the clean sheet and he makes a few saves.
(Clean sheet is the soccer equivalent of a shut out. It literally means to not let in a goal.)
Forwards and midfielders are typically the highest scoring players on a slate but not always. We can look to the betting odds to see which games are likely to have the most goals and target attacking players from those games. We can look towards the attacking players from the biggest favorite on the slate. We can look to the players with the best goal-scoring odds.
The ceiling of a player is the top end of his projection.
GPP VS. CASH STRATEGY
There are going to be a million “experts” coming out of the woodwork telling new DFS soccer players how to win money. Again, let’s be sure to understand what type of contest we are playing and align my recommendations with your goals. If the goal is to play strictly GPP tournaments where you can win big money, we’ll target those players. To win these, you need goals. Not a goal, all the goals (most of the goals).
To find the goals, you need to take risks. Sometimes that means a player with a lower floor who could get you four points for $9k of your salary.
Sometimes, it means forgoing the old worn-out strategy of just plugging in cheap fullbacks, and instead, looking for a CB with goal upside. Who’s good in the air on set pieces? Which team will be attacking a lot to potentially get more set pieces? Which team is likely to get a clean sheet for a bonus three points?
Sometimes, it could mean taking a defensive center midfielder of a team who is going to dominate possession and be in the other team’s half the whole game. They are usually cheap and will allow you to pay up elsewhere.
Building a roster to win a GPP requires a lot of thought and a little bit of luck.
This is not a strategy for the weak!!
If you want to play it safe and stick to more cash lineups, I would recommend looking for players who take corner kicks and free kicks. Fullbacks who get up and down the line and put crosses in the box. A cheap GK with save upside and players who are M/F eligible in the F slots who pick up assists and shots but don’t rely on scoring goals to hit their floor. If you get the odd goal, you are golden. That is called a CASH strategy.
I wanted to break goalkeepers out because there are a million different hypotheses on how to decide on a GK. The short answer is, no one knows with 100% certainty. To say you know exactly when a GK is going to pick up a clean sheet, get the win and pick up four saves is probably a stretch. However, I’ve proved over three years of producing content that GK is one of our bigger edges over the field. I’m not right every week but typically get us in the right slot often enough to be in contention in both Cash and GPP.
However, we need to make educated guesses. Just plugging in the cheapest GK is not a strategy, no matter how many times the “experts” say to do so.
Roster strategy varies, but for GPPs, my roster strategy is to start with who I think will score goals, find the cheap value, and then look at potential money leftover and what my options are at GK. If I find a cheap-ish GK with save upside who MIGHT get a W bonus, then they are an option. If I can’t see a scenario where they will get more than five points, they are not. Does that guarantee my goalie will get five or more points? Unfortunately, no. But at least I feel as though I’ve done the work to make an educated guess and feel good about my selection.
Last but not least, if you don’t love any of the goalies and like your roster as constructed, find the goalie that fits the salary available who isn’t playing against your rostered players.
GENERAL DFS SOCCER RULES
USE THE UTILITY SPOT WISELY
Any player (besides GK) can be used in the utility spot. Make sure the player with the LATEST start time is used in this spot. You want to be able to pivot and have options available should you need to do so.
ALWAYS CHECK THE LINEUPS BEFORE THE GAMES START
As much as we think the managers know what they are doing, there are always surprises. I’m going to recommend players I think present good value, high upside, and will likely be starting. I won’t intentionally recommend a bench player, and taking a ZERO is a surefire way to lose your money. Be smart and take a few minutes to confirm all of your players are playing.
CHASING ASSIST TO GOAL CORRELATION
Assist to goal is not as correlated as a PG assisting a C might be in basketball. It’s hard to peg down, and while we need to be considering this, chasing it can result in bad results. The easiest way to do this is with a capture method of rostering all three attacking players (think Man City in EPL). This is usually expensive and not +EV, but in the PERFECT situation, it can be done. Instead, we can pick our spots with a player who takes corner or free kicks with a tall center back who often finds himself on the end of these crosses and scores occasionally.
ROSTERING PLAYERS AGAINST YOUR GOALIE
The general rule is don’t roster a forward or midfielder against your goalie and expect both to hit the nuts.
Typically, do not roster a field player against your goalie. I say typically because there are going to be small slates. We are going to see several showdown contests where it might not only be possible but optimal to roster a player against your goalie. You might have to end up on a player, or even two, against your goalie.
Situation: A slight underdog goalie is underpriced, and you like his team to nip a win (Team A). You can hope for a situation where they score and then Team A bunkers to protect the result. In this scenario, you might then find correlation as Team B presses forward to chase the game. Team B’s outside defenders might cross more. Their midfielders might try longer range shots, which could mean easy points for the goalie and points for the midfielder. Hence, you have the GK from A and a defender from B.
Be smart with this.
As with any other DFS sport, understand your goals and the likely outcomes of your roster construction. Playing a bunch of players who pick up points and have a high floor but rarely assist/score? Cash. Going TommyG/Duke balls to the wall and trying to hit the nuts? GPP.
Have a smaller budget? Maybe start with smaller, cheaper tournaments or cash games to build the bankroll.
It’s natural to want to unload a lot of cash into these tournaments, as there is literally nothing else to do! My recommendation is to manage your bankroll. That can mean many things to many different people. If you have a daily/weekly/monthly budget, I’d ask you to stick to that.
WHAT TO AVOID
Cash games are a great way to get your feet wet. The player pool is typically smaller, as is the number of players you need to beat. I would avoid 50/50s and Double-Ups with 11 or fewer players involved. Those are all gobbled up by the soccer regulars who are excited for the fish to join up! Any single entry contest for tournaments or cash games (over 30 entries) is worth your time to get your feet wet.
If you have any questions, I’m always in the chat room to help out with construction or providing information on certain players before kickoff. Welcome the wonderful world of DFS soccer!
Good luck and stay cashin!