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Change is the only constant for Toronto FC

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Five matches into the 2011 season and Toronto FC is still looking to find the right chemistry on the pitch.

Perhaps that should not come as a complete surprise, considering the club did trade away its captain and the face of the franchise after just the second match of the season.

The constant changes to the lineup sure haven’t helped the cause in the short-term as management continues to preach patience to the fans and media who want the team to win now. The players can’t be feeling too secure, since coach Aron Winter has been public in his assertion that he is nowhere near finished making changes to his squad. Or, maybe, that has served as a source of motivation.

After the opening weekend loss to Vancouver, the team has surprisingly responded with a win and three straight draws — the latest coming against David Beckham and the L.A. Galaxy on Wednesday night. TFC was overmatched and very lucky as the Galaxy hit the woodwork on three separate occasions. The team did not quit but instead battled and fought hard for an uninspiring point, nearly coming away with a win in the dying seconds.

The result came without their new captain Maicon Santos and new forward Alan Gordon who were both out of the lineup but once again players were able to step up and fill the void — a running theme over the past couple of weeks.

“There’s been a lot of changes throughout the games,” said centre back Adrian Cann. “Players coming in, players going and with new players on the team adapting to the whole system as well as different tendencies players bring to the table. Going forward I think you get accustomed to how they play and how they are as a person on the field and then I think it can only get better.”

Midfielder Julian de Guzman, who made his first start since coming off knee surgery thought his team played well with the sudden change to their lineup.

“With the lineup we had to set at the last minute, the guys reacted very well, very positive, and we showed some bright moments as well in the game,” said de Guzman. “I think the more we continue to play together and understand the system, the more confidence we will have.”

De Guzman is still finding his place in the lineup as well after being a regular starter last season. Winter has eased the midfielder into matches until he becomes fully match fit. The previous two games he played the entire second halves as a substitute but on Wednesday he played the first hour of the game.

“I was happy to start the game, and get my first hour in five months, that’s the way for me to get game-fit, as I’m still in preseason mode,” added de Guzman. “But with more games like this I could see myself being 90 minutes fit close to the end of the month.”

The uncertainty in the lineup has given some of the younger players a chance to see some action as well. Midfielder Oscar Cordon, 18, made his MLS debut against the Galaxy and Joao Plata has seen action in a couple of games as well.

“I thought the guys that filled in, younger guys such as Oscar (Cordon), came in and did a good job, Plata almost had one there,” added Cann.

Cordon was all smiles after the match and could hardly contain his enthusiasm.

“I’m so happy. I’ve been waiting for this opportunity for a while now and thanks to the coaches. Hard work pays off,” said Cordon. “It’s such an accomplishment. My first game in the MLS and I’m really happy. Played against the Galaxy in front of a full stadium, it’s something big.”

Along with the all the lineup changes, the team is also adjusting to Winter’s preferred style of play – total football. The youngster Cordon summed up the new system quite well.

“The coaches have been telling us that, you should all know how to play each other’s position and that is going to help us a lot because if one player is missing, we have a lot of other players that can play the same position,” said Cordon.

This hasn’t been easy for everyone on the roster including one of last year’s standout players, centre back Nana Attakora. Attakora was taken out at the start of the second half last Saturday in San Jose and did not see any action on Wednesday night. When Winter was asked about Attakora’s absence, he responded by saying, “Yes, Nana at the moment is in a difficult situation because he isn’t able to perform as he was in the pre-season, and the other guys who are starting are playing well. But Nana, his time is coming.”

In the meantime, the squad will tackle one issue at a time and the main concern at the moment is that they start the game well, something that did not happen in their last match.

“I hope it’s not going to be a trend, because in the beginning of the game it’s always important that you start the game very well, to concentrate, and be a little bit aggressive,” said Winter. “The way we started was not very well, because most of the time we are making the opponent stronger…we got lucky they didn’t score.”

TFC goes back to the drawing board when it continues its homestand on Saturday against the new-look D.C. United, featuring MLS leading scorer Charlie Davies, at BMO Field with kickoff at 7pm ET.

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