BELIEVE WHAT YOU might, but, according to Peter Nowak, it's not as much of a ring around the rosie as one might think.

In his weekly news conference, the Union boss told reporters that keeping a definitive starting 11 never will be the way he operates, despite arguments that changing things up could damage fluidity and continuity on match days. Nowak told reporters his way has always been and will remain that the best players that week play - no matter how green they might be.

"As we said from the beginning, this is the tree and you have the branches," said Nowak, referring to what he thinks has been an eight-man core that has remained steadfast, specifically along the back line. "It's not like I am just switching guys and messing up the whole idea of how we play, but we look at what pieces we can add that will change the dynamic without destroying the structure of the core."

Nowak says that in doing so, it's been easy to discover among his young group who can hang and who simply can't. However, it's also important to keep players believing in the idea of competition, that they never know when another moment to prove themselves could arise.

"If we didn't play this way, we'd never know that Zach Pfeffer could hang with the big boys, that Cristhian Hernandez could hang with the big boys," Nowak said. "Look at Chandler Hoffman [who made his MLS debut against Vancouver Saturday]. It's important to let these young pieces know that they have talent we believe in, and, if they work hard, they will find the field."

The one constant in Nowak's arsenal has been the defense, with captain Danny Califf, Carlos Valdes and Sheanon Williams, plus what appears to be a return to the left back position by Gabriel Farfan, who has outshined newcomer Porfirio Lopez in the scoreless draw against Vancouver.

"It's important to find the core of the group. Yeah, look at the back line. We know that [those four] are the core of the group," Nowak said. "The rest is to see who can be the guy. That's why we are giving guys a chance to see who can step up. That's why we gave it to Zach Pfeffer last year; that's why we gave to it to Michael Farfan. When you come here, the opportunity is there. It's up to these guys to grab it."

Such an idea is customary in soccer. For example, if you look at big-league teams such as Manchester United, clubs of that caliber constantly rotate forwards and wing midfielders in a similar fashion, even though sometimes the players taking a back seat may lead the team in goals. For example, that's how Man U last year utilized forward Dimitar Berbatov, a proven goal scorer who rarely found the field. However, while such rotation works for the big clubs overseas, it takes time to get used to on these shores, which has many of the Union faithful restless.

"It's a process; it's one you do now to see who is going to stick," Nowak said. "Look, when we do lift an MLS Cup at the end of the day, you want to have 15 to 16 guys look back and say they helped us do that. Not 12 guys. It's not how it works, and it'll never be how I operate."