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Julian de Guzman #6 of Toronto FC battles for the ball with Josh Wolff #16 of the Kansas City Wizards during a MLS game at BMO Field June 5, 2010 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images) (Abelimages/2010 Getty Images)
Julian de Guzman #6 of Toronto FC battles for the ball with Josh Wolff #16 of the Kansas City Wizards during a MLS game at BMO Field June 5, 2010 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images) (Abelimages/2010 Getty Images)

De Guzman itching to get involved Add to ...

The waiting is the hard part. Having witnessed the off-season makeover of his team, complete with new coach, new manager, new system of play and new acquisitions, Julian de Guzman is just itching to get back on the field.

However, unlike many of the Toronto FC players, still learning exactly how Dutch coach Aron Winter wants them to play in his possession-based 4-3-3 system, de Guzman, recovering from off-season knee surgery, is some way ahead of the game.

"Even growing up in Canada I followed a lot of Dutch football my brother and I," he said, "and then going to Europe I was involved in similar styles of play in Germany and also in Spain and now to come back home and have one of the most effective and attractive styles in my backyard I think it's a dream come true."

While the midfielder is still a couple of weeks away from making his return to competitive action, Winter is clearly relishing the prospect of inserting a player who has played in some of Europe's biggest leagues into his starting lineup.

"He's a good player and in the system we play he will be also important," the rookie coach said. "He's one of the guys who can be the key between the defence, the midfield and up front."

In de Guzman's absence, Winter has been forced to rely on off-season pickup Nathan Sturgis to marshal the middle of the park, and while Sturgis is more than happy to do the leg work, he lacks de Guzman's touch on the ball and ability to bring other players into the game.

Ever since arriving in Toronto in September 2009 as the franchise's first designated player, de Guzman has struggled to make the kind of impact many expected of him as a former player with Deportivo La Coruna in Spain and Hannover in Germany. However, this may have had as much to do with those in charge of the club as the player himself, a player who played nearly half of last season running around with a torn meniscus in his knee.

"I'm dying to be a part of this," he revealed after practice Tuesday. "I've never had a chance to really be a part of such organized, structured football since I got here and once I'm game fit I'm looking forward to actually be a part of this system."

Though de Guzman, like Winter, is advocating patience while the team gets accustomed to the new philosophy, he can also see a light at the end of the tunnel, predicting that in about two months "you'll slowly see a much different team than we had last season."

The Toronto-born midfielder is also enjoying playing for someone who excelled at the highest levels of the game.

"It's great to have his type of experience as a teacher," de Guzman explained. "I looked up to him and watched him growing up in Canada in Europe and now he's my coach so I think it's a bonus for myself and a lot of guys who play in the same position to have this type of experience and someone coming from such a rich culture in football."

The season-opening loss in Vancouver left many to question whether Winter's commitment to Total Football could work under the vagaries of a salary cap in Major League Soccer, meaning the level of talent he's left to work with is far different than he left behind at Ajax.

But de Guzman is in the opposite camp, and despite the wobbles against the Whitecaps and an improved, but far from perfect, outing against Portland last weekend, he feels that the system has as good a chance as any to catch on over here.

"For a lot of people who are just used to seeing what they're seeing in MLS I'm sure they're quick to write it off," he said, "but it's a system that's done well all over the world in a lot of different countries and has brought a lot of titles to the best in the world."

And if it's good enough for Arsenal and Barcelona, then one would think it's good enough for TFC.

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