Moose is loose again for Whitecaps - The Vancouver Sun

John Atkinson Often. Well, they did until a groin injury forced Whitecaps midfielder Justin Moose to the club's injury list nine USL First Division games ago. But the chant, which sounds like a bizarrely affectionate mass of boos, may return tonight after the former DC United player muscled his way back onto the substitutes bench for tonight's game against the Atlanta Silverbacks at Swangard Stadium. The Whitecaps feared Moose, 24, might require surgery and have to sit out the rest of the season, missing out on the push for the playoffs. But the speedy right-sided midfielder's osteitis pubis (an inflammation in the pelvic area causing chronic groin pain) has been helped by a cocktail of rest, ice and abdominal muscle exercises in recent weeks and Moose will be part of the 18 to face the Silverbacks. "I have an irregularly shaped pubic bone, jagged instead of smooth, which I think is a repercussion of surgery I had last July on a sports hernia," Moose explained. "As a result [when the OP is at full-strength], every time I twist and turn or stretch for the ball, it causes pain." His groin "has responded well to treatment [Resistance work] and now seems a good time to come back," Moose said. Moose noted that head coach Teitur Thordarson and team physiotherapists wanted to make sure he didn't rush back too quickly. "It is a chronic injury that can flare up again at any time. But hopefully I can stay on top of the treatment and won't have to go under the knife again." After missing the sharp end of DC United's season last year due to the hernia operation, Moose is doubly determined to avoid a repeat in 2008. And hear that chant again. "It feels good [to hear my name] and know they are not booing me hopefully! But it certainly gives me little more motivation to go out there and perform." Thordarson said having the technically gifted Moose available again was a huge bonus. "We feared Justin's injury was so bad he would require surgery, so I'm very happy to have him back in the group," he enthused, adding that Moose's ability to come off the bench and deliver a 20-minute spell of pure quality was second-to-none. Another player in the second-to-none category is talismanic skipper Jeff Clarke. Clarke, 30, has missed the last two games with a hamstring injury, but will also be on the bench tonight and is more than likely to enter the fray against the Silverbacks. Having helped lead the Whitecaps to playoff glory two years ago, when the team won its first USL First Division Championship over the Rochester Raging Rhinos, Clarke is eager to get back on the pitch and steel his side for further success. The club lies second in the USL First Division (12-6-6) with six games to go, but would go above Puerto Rico with a victory over Atlanta tonight. They then head off to the Caribbean, where they will face the Islanders twice in the space of six days. "[In 2006] we were pretty consistent and caught fire at the right time," Clarke reflected. "Some guys also really stepped up at key moments." And that's what the playoffs are all about; key players, key moments and putting your chances away. CAP NOTES: Whitecaps supporters are asked to bring their gently-worn boots and soccer equipment as donations before tonight's match, as part of the Umbro One World Night of Giving. For more information visit: © The Vancouver Sun 2008