Projected lineups and top prospects for all nine Western Conference teams | MLS Fantasy Advice

If you caught my breakdown of the Eastern Conference on Wednesday, you already know the drill. Based on what my sources have told me, what I've seen this preseason and how injuries, suspensions and new additions will change how a team lines up, I've come up with projected starting XIs for each Western Conference team on opening day.

I've also included a fantasy pick of my own and a few players that you should keep your eye on as well.

Because of the FIFA fixture date on March 5 and the travel involved, some players (e.g. Darren Mattocks) may not start, but should still be in the gameday 18. For these players, it's still a little murky 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 (Round 2 for those teams on a bye).

CHIVAS USA

Projected Starting XI: 4-4-2 formation

FANTASY PICK: Dan Kennedy ($4.5m / selected by 23.2 percent of teams)  It's rare to find a starting goalkeeper priced at less than $5 million. Then again, this whole team is loaded with potential bargains. With all of Chivas USA's players priced at $8.0m or less, there are several here who could bring you a nice return on your initial investment.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Erick Torres, Mauro Rosales, Thomas McNamara

2014 Preview: Winds of change blowing through StubHub Center

COLORADO RAPIDS

Projected Starting XI: 4-2-3-1 formation

FANTASY PICK: Vicente Sánchez ($7.5m / selected by 0.7 percent of teams)Only played 652 minutes last season, but should be a key focal point in the Rapids attack this year. He takes corner kicks and should be in the mix on set pieces as well. With a full offseason and preseason under his belt, the Uruguayan veteran could be in for a breakout season. Colorado have a tough schedule to start the season, but it looks pretty favorable from Round 5 on.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Edson Buddle, Drew Moor, Clint Irwin

2014 Preview: Can the kids be all right once again?

FC DALLAS

Projected Starting XI: 4-3-3 formation

FANTASY PICK: Fabián Castillo ($7.0m / selected by 2.4 percent of teams) – He's been very good in preseason and looks primed for a breakout campaign. Ranked No. 15 in last year's 24 Under 24 and, at just 21 years old, he has the potential to improve upon that in 2014. Great price for a midfielder whose primary focus is to attack the goal. Solid upside here.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Blas Pérez, Mauro Díaz, Andrés Escobar

2014 Preview: Will Oscar Pareja's return light the spark in Big D?

LA GALAXY

Projected Starting XI: 4-4-2 formation

FANTASY PICK: Robbie Keane ($11.0m / selected by 17.9 percent of teams) – Considered by many the best player in MLS, Keane has a combined 38 goals and 18 assists the past two fantasy seasons. He had surgery on both of his Achilles' tendons in the offseason, but he's responded remarkably well and is in fine form to start the season. LA have provided him with a few new weapons in the midfield and forward, but Keane doesn't need much help. He can pass and shoot with the best of them, and that is why he has to be on your radar in 2014.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Landon Donovan, Gyasi Zardes, Stefan Ishizaki

2014 Preview: Putting all the pieces back into place

PORTLAND TIMBERS

Projected Starting XI: 4-3-3 formation

FANTASY PICK: Diego Valeri ($10.5m / selected by 14.5 percent of teams) – Had 11 goals, 13 assists and 14 clean sheets despite missing 500-plus minutes because of injury. He could potentially lose some production value with the addition of Gastón Fernández, but having too many weapons shouldn't hurt him. MVP-caliber player if he can remain healthy.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Gastón Fernández, Darlington Nagbe, Maximiliano Urruti

2014 Preview: No. 2 with a bullet, and shooting for the top

REAL SALT LAKE

Projected Starting XI: 4-4-2 formation

FANTASY PICK: Joao Plata ($7.0m / selected by 15.1 percent of teams) – Had four goals and nine assists in less than 1,700 minutes last year. With Robbie Findley and Devon Sandoval both sidelined with injuries to open the season, Plata will be a sure starter right out of the gate. And at $7.0m it'll be slim-pickings finding another forward with this much bang for your buck.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Javier Morales, Nick Rimando, Álvaro Saborío

2014 Preview: Once more unto the breech in Utah

SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES

Projected Starting XI: 4-4-2 formation

FANTASY PICK: Shea Salinas ($7.5m / selected by 1.8 percent of teams) – San Jose don't have a favorable schedule to start the season. Add CCL midweek games into the mix and it gets even tougher. However, once the season gets going, the Earthquakes are going to enjoy four double-game weeks. From Round 16-27 they have eight home games and two DGWs. Salinas has turned into one of the better crossers in MLS and he'll likely be taking set pieces and corners as well.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Chris Wondolowski, Cordell Cato, Steven Lenhart

2014 Preview: Cage matches and injury curses for the Goonies

SEATTLE SOUNDERS

Projected Starting XI: 4-4-2 formation

FANTASY PICK: Obafemi Martins ($9.5m / selected by 10.5 percent of teams) – He's injury-free and in strong form at the moment, so all signs point to him getting off to a good start early on. Had eight goals and two assists in 1,500 minutes least season, and Sounders fans can look for him to surpass the 15-goal mark in 2014 as long as he remains healthy. At $9.5m, he's on the higher end when it comes to starting forwards, but it certainly looks like he'll be worth it.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Kenny Cooper, DeAndre Yedlin, Brad Evans

2014 Preview: Pressure's on and the clock is ticking

VANCOUVER WHITECAPS

Projected Starting XI: 4-2-3-1 formation

FANTASY PICK: Jordan Harvey ($7.5m / selected by 0.8 percent of teams) – Scored two goals in the Whitecaps' 5-1 win over Portmore United in preseason and could lead all defenders in goals scored by the end of the season. His price is a little steep for a team that's expected to give up some goals, but with head coach Carl Robinson encouraging his outside backs to get forward, he could be well worth the risk. Vancouver have a very favorable schedule around the time of the World Cup.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Erik Hurtado, Kekuta Manneh, Darren Mattocks

2014 Preview: Still a team in search of a signature moment

FANTASY PRIMER

  • Fantasy 101: Your introductory course to becoming a top-tier MLS Fantasy Manager
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