The Total MLS staff lives for friendly banter. If a day goes by that someone hasn't made a joke at your favorite team's expense, you probably didn't visit the site's Slack that day. So, given the chance to provide a little friendly competition during Copa America, we jumped at the chance.
We took 8 of our staff members and gave them rules. A live draft, 8 selections (7 players and a team defense). 2 points for a goal, 1 point for an assist, 3 points for a clean sheet from your team's defense and -1 for any goal they allowed. Simple enough, right? Let the games begin. Below, you will see everyone's team they drafted an a short explanation on what exactly they were thinking.
We'll update the scoreboard as the tournament progresses. If you have any thoughts on the team selection, let us know in the comments below.
Gonzalo Higuain, Carlos Bacca, Oribe Peralta, Raul Jimenez, Chile Defense, Bryan Ruiz, Luis Tejada, Michael Bradley
I want to preface this by saying, I know little to nothing about the vast majority of Central and South American teams, not to mention the smaller countries that don't frequently qualify for the World Cup. Drafting for me was difficult but I had fun with it nonetheless, and to be honest, for someone who is in near complete ignorance, I don't think my team is half bad. Under my own circumstances, I had to take a logical approach: I compiled a list of familiar names that I knew of from each of the qualifying countries. Once I had my list, I pulled up all the rosters of the competitors and made sure that the names I had listed were actually part of their respective country's final selection. In addition to that, I pulled up the career national team stats for all the qualifying teams and tried to find who had the best goals per game scoring rate. Also, I had a quick look at who seemed to be in best form for the club sides as well - hence my first and 2nd picks. To my misfortune, my fellow drafters probably took a similar approach and my lack of knowledge of the rest of the "unfamiliar" names came shining through. My list became smaller and smaller with each passing selection. Because it's a pretty difficult tournament to predict, I tried my best to spread my picks around to across the board, selecting players from countries I figured had a chance to go deep into the tournament. With my last pick, being the homer I am, how could I pass up a chance to pick my very own club captain Michael Bradley! I'm glad to be taking part. It'll be a good opportunity to broaden my soccer watching horizons.
Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Joel Campbell, Diego Rolan, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Gyasi Zardes, Kaka, Costa Rica Defense
I know that there are going to be some raised eyebrows here as I selected two players that may or may not be injured, but fortune favors the bold and if Messi is available and there’s a good chance he plays, you pick him. Suarez is a bit more of a wild card, but if he pops up after the group stages I couldn’t turn down the chance to have the two best players in the tournament on my side. Joel Campbell is a personal favorite of mine, and I expect he’ll be good for a goal or two. Diego Rolan is a pick that sort of hedges my gamble on Suarez a bit as he should see time for Uruguay while the star forward is recovering from injury . Lavezzi should be good for at least a goal or assist. Zardes while not the most polished player, is seemingly always good to at least blindly get his name in the goals or assists column through dumb luck or a random burst of competence. Kaka was still available really late in the draft so I took a chance that he’ll wind up having a decent role to play for Brazil. I knew I was going to end up with basically whatever defense was still available, and I’m pleased that the Ticos were there for me late in the game. Obviously I would have preferred having Keylor Navas minding the nets, but I think group A has the potential to be a low scoring group, and for no reason whatsoever I have a lot of faith in backup Patrick Pemberton to be the breakout goalkeeping star of the tournament.
Sergio Aguero, Argentina Defense, Clint Dempsey, Erik Lamela, Abel Hernandez, Lucas Lima, Mauricio Pinilla, Blas Perez
My first instinct in this draft was to mitigate point loss. In order to do so, I had to draft a defense early. Argentina’s back line has been solid over their past two major tournaments, allowing only four goals in seven matches in 2014, and only four in six in last year’s Copa. On top of that, they walked away with four clean sheets in both tournaments. Based on this tournament format, clean sheets are much more valuable than anything else, and losing more than six points would be unacceptable. On the positive side, I chose high-end strikers where I could, with the idea that they will at least net something during the group stages, and last as long as possible in the knockouts. My only mistake was Clint Dempsey, as I went in for Douglas Costa only to be reminded he was sent home, and subsequently panicked at the lack of time I had to pick someone. Not a bad panic pick, but there were lots of options left.
Alexis Sanchez, Juan Cuadrado, Willian, Uruguay Defense, Salomon Rondon, Javier Pastore, Ever Banega, Juan Iturbe
My philosophy was to pick the best player available that would make a contribution to his team over a long tournament. With my Alexis Sanchez pick, I felt he was the best choice of what was left available to me. Alexis can provide, but he will also grab a few goals. He was a no-brainer pick for me. Chile can go very far in this tournament, so I wanted a player who will score goals or get assists for them. The remaining picks were the same philosophy. Best part: I got all of the guys I wanted. Obviously, Messi would have been great, but I knew he would be gone, so he wasn’t even on my draft board. My only concern with my draft selections is that most are wingers or midfielders. I want finishers, but my main goal was to get the most impactful players in a fantasy situation. Tournaments usually require a full squad, so that’s why I picked Pastore and Banega. Iturbe was my last pick, because his team (Paraguay) will most likely not make it out of the group, but I do think he will have a good chance to get me points. Also, Uruguay’s defense is the best going into the tournament for goals against, so they were my top defensive choice and I was able to get them early, knowing I could take Rondon et al in the latter rounds.
Edinson Cavani, Enner Valencia, Coutinho, Derlis Gonzalez, Alberto Penaranda, Paolo Guerrero, Edwin Cardona, Colombia Defense
Aside from my first three picks, I feel that soccer hipsters across the United States and more than likely the globe will rejoice in the later stages of my draft column. Why? Through tons of googling and the sheer, spiteful spirit of I-can-pick-more-sleeper-picks-than-the-rest-of-you I think I’ve managed to pick many subtle stars. After Dustyn managed to nab choices of mine on two occasions my hand was forced into donning a Nat Borchers beard, argyle Inverness Caledonian Thistle scarf, and a 06-07 St. Pauli Home kit and pick the as many players that would go well with a bowl of kale and a craft beer. Hop on your fixed-gear bicycles and jump on this fixed-gear bandwagon. Aside from the deluge of sleeper picks the best highlight of my column is Coutinho, mainly because Philippe was snatched from the clutches of Mark Kastner at the last second. His tears taste so, so good.
James Rodriguez, Angel Di Maria, Arturo Vidal, Jesus Corona, Nicolas Lodeiro, Mexico Defense, Gabriel Barbosa, Marlos Moreno
My strategy was pretty simple, really. I wanted to pick players that were on teams that I thought had the chance of playing the most games in the tournament. I spent my first 3 picks on sure fire stars. After that, I wanted to pick some high upside players. Lodeiro slots in for an injured Suarez and has the chance to be an assist machine, given his set piece ability. Both Gabriel Barbosa and Marlos Moreno are high reward picks. I chose Mexico’s defense because they have a pretty easy group (aside from Uruguay) and could potentially make the Semi-finals.
Hulk, Jonas, Eduardo Vargas, Brazil Defense, Antonio Valencia, Giles Barnes, Charles Aranguiz, MIller Bolanos
I basically had no strategy going in to this draft. As you can tell by my early picks, I have a lot of faith in Brazil. Hopefully Hulk and Jonas are getting the goals for them and their defense can put together a few clean sheets. Eduardo Vargas was a bit of a gem for me and I was glad he fell to me. I doubled down on Chile by taking Charles Aranguiz late, in the hope he can get an assist or two. Giles Barnes was a no brainer for me and I had to scoop him in the sixth round as there was information from my sources that other teams were interested in him and he may not last much longer. Manchester United winger Antonio Valencia was a bit of a homer pick but he should play well in a group that Ecuador can advance out of. To go with that thought, I finished my draft with former MLS striker Miller Bolanos, grabbing goals late can never hurt.
Chicharito, Andres Guardado, Jefferson Montero, USA Defense, Bobby Wood, Darlington Nagbe, Christian Cueva, Dario Lezcano
Let me start by saying I went into this with no strategy. I mean sure, “pick good players” is technically a strategy, but anything deeper than that I was making up as I went. The big names were off the board by the end of the first round when I picked and those are the guys on the favorites (Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay). You need your players’ teams to make it out of the group stage to have any chance at winning, so I decided to bank on Mexico and snag two of their key guys. Chicharito had a great year in the Bundesliga as did Andres Guardado in the Eredivisie, hopefully that carries over to the Copa. Jefferson Montero is Ecuador’s only hope and should be good for at least three or four points in the group stage. Then we come to rounds four, five and six. At this point, if you can’t tell, patriotism kicked in and I went all in on a US team I think will at least make it out of the group. There is some strategy here other than “America! Yeah!”. Klinsmann favors playing defensively at major tournaments which hopefully translates to not many goals allowed. Bobby Wood is 1) A Klinsmann favorite (who knew the 2. Bundesliga was a top league??) which means he’ll start and 2) Actually pretty good. I think he’ll be the breakout star of the tournament (sorry Christian “the savior” Pulisic) and grab at least two goals and maybe an assist. Darlington Nagbe looks like the only player on the team capable of hitting a good pass in the final third so rack up those assists please. Now, as an avid fantasy football guy, I love a good sleeper. A quick consultation with a Peruvian friend yielded the name Christian Cueva, a player I will shamelessly claim to “have known about for a while” when he finishes the tournament as Peru’s leading scorer. Lezcano is another semisleeper, the thought being he’s pretty much all Paraguay has in terms of goalscoring.
Overall I’m very pleased. I got to spend a morning drafting, I ended up with two US players and the US defense that I can shamelessly cheer for, and I get to feel like a genius when the US and Mexico meet in the final while the rest of the guys don’t have any players left. Perfect.