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Re-Enforced Toronto FC Starting Lineup Has A Lot of Connections

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There will likely be a lot of new in Toronto FC's starting lineup this year, but that "new" isn't necessarily as unfamiliar as it has been in the past.

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

When Toronto FC kick off the 2016 MLS season in March there is a good chance they will have at least four new faces in the starting lineup. There is no surprise in this, as it has become an annual tradition for a club that has seen more turnover than a downtown Toronto bakery.

This year, however, there has been significantly less of it, and even the small amount of turnover hasn't made the starting lineup as unrecognizable as it usually is to start the season. For once the core has remained, and the club is looking to build on last season without completely tearing down what it built.

Even those new faces appear to have been brought in with chemistry in mind, as Toronto FC's offseason acquisitions have all sorts of connections to their current squad. That should make things a lot easier during what promises to be another difficult adjustment period, played out during an extended road trip to start the season.

To begin with, all of Toronto FC's new acquisitions have long and successful Major League Soccer resumes, making it evident that they know the league and its many obscurities. In the past Toronto have started their season with a large number of players brought over from Europe, many of whom took time to adjust to the league.

The first move they made this offseason was the acquisition of fullback Steven Beitashour to fill the right back position that had caused the club so many problems in 2015. One of the first things that was pointed out when Toronto FC signed Beitashour was that he and Justin Morrow were teammates with the San Jose Earthquakes.

While a fullback "pairing" in a sense isn't as crucial as a centre back pairing, it is still important that they have strong chemistry. For one, knowing each other's tendencies is helpful when keeping players offside, as well as making sure that the club has a balanced attack and defense. In this sense the familiarity between Toronto's fullbacks is important.

Even more important, perhaps, was the Drew Moor signing which might be the biggest of the offseason for Toronto FC. While Beitashour filled the biggest positional need for Toronto, Moor fills the most important role that Toronto needed on the backline: a leader.

His experience in organizing and leading an effective backline in Major League Soccer is something that the club has been missing since Steven Caldwell retired due to injury very early last season. It is no real surprise, then, that Toronto's defending was chaotic for most of 2015.

Moor's connection to Toronto FC is recent: the acquisition of goalkeeper Clint Irwin. Having played together for the last three seasons in Colorado, Irwin and Moor have a good relationship that will represent the backbone of the club's defensive efforts. Already knowing each other's tendencies will make the mission to build backline chemistry that much easier.

Then there is Will Johnson, who just happens to be very good friends with Michael Bradley. This is the second straight year that Toronto FC has brought in someone that Bradley is close with, after last year's Jozy Altidore acquisition. Despite some injuries and absences, that move was largely a successful endeavour with Altidore scoring 13 goals in 25 games.

Toronto will be hoping that Johnson can return to his 2013 form, when he was one of the best midfielders in MLS. They will also hope that chemistry dating back to 2008, when Bradley and Johnson both played for Heerenveen in the Netherlands, will represent the core of the club's midfield.

Outside of the starting lineup the bench and depth of this team was established last season, with many of the players having been with the club for multiple years. Players like Collen Warner, Marky Delgado and Josh Williams will give the club good depth off the bench which is already familiar with the club and its system.

So while 2016 may seem like another changing of the guard for Toronto FC, those new guards have all sorts of connections to the club. Whether or not that chemistry plays out on the field, the thought behind it is a step in the right direction from management.