MLS Fantasy 101: How to set up your MLS Fantasy Soccer Manager team

Based on what my sources have told me, what I've seen this preseason and how injuries, suspensions and new additions will change the dimension of how a team lines up, I've come up with projected starting XIs for each team in MLS for opening day. I've also included a fantasy pick of my own and a few players to watch as well. On Wednesday, we'll take examine the Eastern Conference and on Thursday, we'll look at the West.

Due to the FIFA fixture date on March 5 and the traveling involved, some players (e.g. Tim Cahill) may not start, but will likely be in the gameday 18. For these players it's still a little merky as to what their role will be come kickoff. The Armchair Analyst will provide you with lineups for the season in each of the team previews below, but my projections will focus solely on Round 1 and Round 2 for those who are on a bye.

CHICAGO FIRE

Projected Starting XI: Round 1 (4-1-4-1 formation)

Fantasy Pick: Dilly Duka ($6.5m / selected by 5.8 percent of teams) – Had four goals and three assists in 2013 and should improve upon that total in 2014. Speedy winger who can get into the attack and create his own shot or distribute the final pass, Duka provides good bang for your buck – Players to watch: Juan Luis Anangonó, Mike Magee, Patrick Nyarko

COLUMBUS CREW (4-2-3-1)

Projected Starting XI (Round 1): Steve Clark, Josh Williams, Michael Parkhurst, Giancarlo González, Waylon Francis, Wil Trapp, Tony Tchani, Hector Jimenez, Federico Higuaín, Bernardo Añor, Jairo Arrieta

Fantasy Pick: Federico Higuaín ($10.5m / selected by 12.6 percent of teams) – This one's pretty easy. Finished sixth overall in scoring last season and his team didn't even make the playoffs. He takes set pieces, corners, penalty kicks and will likely be among the league leaders again in both crosses and key passes – Players to watch: Steve Clark, Wil Trapp, Jairo Arrieta

D.C. UNITED (4-4-2)

Projected Lineup (Round 1): Bill Hamid, Sean Franklin, Jeff Parke, Bobby Boswell, Christian Fernández, Nick DeLeon, Perry Kitchen, Davy Arnaud, Luis Silva, Eddie Johnson, Fabián Espíndola

Fantasy Pick: Eddie Johnson ($10.0m / selected by 6.0 percent of teams) – Could miss some time due to national team duty, but D.C. expect goals from him and he's more than capable of delivering. Plus, United open the season with five home games in the first eight rounds – Players to watch: Bill Hamid, Fabián Espíndola, Christian Fernández

HOUSTON DYNAMO (4-4-2)

Projected Starting XI (Round 1): Tally Hall, Kofi Sarkodie, David Horst, Jermaine Taylor, Corey Ashe, Tony Cascio, Ricardo Clark, Boniek García, Brad Davis, Giles Barnes, Will Bruin

Fantasy Pick: David Horst ($5.5m / selected by 3.8 percent of teams) – It's not crystal clear whether Horst or Brunner will get the start alongside Taylor at center back, but if it is Horst, he'll be one of the cheapest options at his position in MLS. The Dynamo have two winnable matches at home to start so this is definitely a situation worth keeping your eye on – Players to watch: Tony Cascio, Omar Cummings, Ricardo Clark

MONTREAL IMPACT (4-2-3-1)

Projected Starting XI (Round 1): Troy PerkinsHassoun Camara, Wandrille Lefèvre, Matteo Ferrari, Eric Miller, Collen Warner, Hernán Bernardello, Justin Mapp, Felipe Martins, Sanna Nyassi, Andrew Wenger

Fantasy Pick: Eric Miller ($4.5m / selected by 5.0 percent of teams) – Camara will likely start the season at right back, but if Jeb Brovsky and potential signing Heath Pearce aren't ready to go by opening day, this rookie could be expedited into the lineup right off the bat. Montreal conceded the third-most goals in the Eastern Conference in 2013, so Miller shouldn't be viewed as a weekly fantasy starter. However, he could be a low-cost option worthy of occupying a spot on your bench – Players to watch: Marco Di Vaio, Santiago González, Wandrille Lefèvre

NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION (4-1-4-1)

Projected Starting XI (Round 1): Bobby Shuttleworth, Andrew Farrell, A.J. Soares, José Gonçalves, Chris Tierney, Scott Caldwell, Patrick Mullins, Kelyn Rowe, Lee Nguyen, Diego Fagundez, Teal Bunbury

Fantasy Pick: Diego Fagundez ($8.0m / selected by 28.0 percent of teams) – Had 13 goals and seven assists last season and all signs point to him doing just as good – if not better – in 2014. The departure of Juan Agudelo hurts a little, but with a core of dynamic talent surrounding him, there's a good chance he'll be in the Golden Boot race at some point throughout the season – Players to watch: Lee Nguyen, Kelyn Rowe, Teal Bunbury

NEW YORK RED BULLS (4-4-2)

Projected Starting XI (Round 1): Luis Robles, Kosuke Kimura, Ibrahim Sekagya, Armando, Bobby Convey, Lloyd Sam, Dax McCarty, Eric Alexander, Jonny Steele, Péguy Luyindula, Bradley Wright-Phillips

Fantasy Pick: Lloyd Sam ($6.5m / selected by 2.5 percent of teams) - Had five goals in roughly 900 minutes last season and could be looking at a full-time gig in 2014. With Thierry Henry, Tim Cahill and others pushing for him to contribute solid numbers offensively, Sam could be in for a breakout year – Players to watch - Thierry Henry, Jámison Olave, Péguy Luyindula

PHILADELPHIA UNION (4-3-3)

Projected Starting XI (Round 1): Zac MacMath, Raymon Gaddis, Amobi Okugo, Austin Berry, Fábinho, Brian Carroll, Maurice Edu, Vincent Nogueira, Sébastien Le Toux, Jack McInerney, Cristian Maidana

Fantasy Pick: Fábinho ($6.5m / selected by 1.5 percent of teams) – Dangerous left back who has a knack for getting down the field and contributing in the attack. Clean sheets could be hard to come by at first, but this is an offensive-minded player with the potential to earn bonus points in crosses, key passes and big chances created. Plus a goal or assist every now and then too – Players to watch: Conor Casey, Sheanon Williams, Sébastien Le Toux

SPORTING KC (4-3-3)

Projected Starting XI (Round 1): Eric Kronberg, Chance Myers, Aurélien Collin, Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic, Paulo Nagamura, Oriol Rosell, Benny Feilhaber, Graham Zusi, Claudio Bieler, C.J. Sapong

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Fantasy Pick: Aurélien Collin ($10.0m / selected by 18.1 percent of teams) – The No. 1 defender and the No. 1 overall player in all of MLS Fantasy, Collin should begin 2014 right where he left off. The defensive bonus points should remain the same and with Zusi providiing stellar service on set pieces he could just as well match his goal production from 2013 – Players to watch: Eric Kronberg, Graham Zusi, Claudio Bieler

TORONTO FC (4-4-2)

Projected Starting XI (Round 2): Júlio César, Bradley Orr, Steven Caldwell, Doneil Henry, Justin Morrow, Jackson, Michael Bradley, Jonathan Osorio, Álvaro Rey, Jermain Defoe, Gilberto

Fantasy Pick: Jackson ($7.5m / selected by 0.5 percent of teams)  – Owned by less than 1 percent of fantasy owners, this speedy attacker could provide some serious upside if Toronto's offense gets going early on. However, their attack isn't what worries me – Players to watch: Álvaro Rey, Michael Bradley, Jermain Defoe

FANTASY PRIMER

  • Fantasy 101: Your introductory course to becoming a top-tier MLS Fantasy Manager
  • Top Leagues: The best leagues to join in 2014, plus share your own with others
  • 2014 MLS Schedule: Breaking down the entire 2014 regular season with one image