Injecting healthy Moosetique into a lineup with flash, flair - The Vancouver Sun

If crafty midfielder stays healthy, Caps will boost their star factor BY BRUCE CONSTANTINEAU Two appearances in two league games played so far bodes well for feisty Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder Justin Moose. The sometimes-bearded nifty fan favourite, who regularly elicits chants of "Mooooose!" from the Caps faithful at Swangard Stadium, experienced a season from injury hell last year by appearing in just six of 30 regular-season matches. He overcame a serious osteitis pubis injury -that affected his groin and abdominal muscles - only to suffer a foot injury that lasted nearly three months. "That was devastating for me," Moose said after training Thursday. "But the important thing is I'm healthy now." That's welcome news for Whitecaps head coach Teitur Thordarson, who feels the team has yet to see the best from the talented 26-year-old North Carolina native, now in his third season with Vancouver. "What Justin brought to us the first season was great, even if he wasn't totally healthy," he said. "We've been missing that so I hope he can live up to what we expect and show us his great qualities." Thordarson likes Moose's speed and versatility, as he is probably best suited to playing the right flank but can also be very effective at left or centre midfield. "He is very good one-on-one, he can get by people and he makes good crosses," he said. Moose -a 5-foot-7, 145-pound Wake Forest University psychology graduate -played a pivotal role in helping the Caps win the 2008 USL-1 championship, scoring in a quarter-final match and delivering a cross that led to the winning goal in the title game against Puerto Rico. He said he likes to keep the ball and challenge opposing players when the time is right. "I feel like I can be a little crafty and create some chances for the team to score," he said. Moose joined the Whitecaps two years ago following a two-year stint with D.C. United in Major League Soccer. Whitecaps director of soccer operations Tom Soehn was head coach during Moose's second year with the club when he made seven appearances for the first team. "He really gave me a shot during my second year before I was plagued by some injuries," Moose said. He was D.C. United's first-round pick in the 2006 MLS SuperDraft and feels confident he can play at the MLS level again -hopefully with Vancouver in 2011. "It's up to me to stay healthy and perform so I'm trying to stay focused on that," Moose said. "I like Vancouver a lot and I'd really like to be a part of it [next year]." When away from the soccer pitch, Moose loves to play the guitar, banjo or mandolin. His mother, Jeanie, was a music major and he often plays guitar and sings with brother Andrew -the lead guitarist and vocalist for a rock/blues band called Galveston. Moose will try to make beautiful music of the soccer variety Saturday when the Caps take on first-year squad AC St. Louis in USSF D-2 play at Swangard Stadium. Vancouver has a win and a draw in early-season play while AC St. Louis has come out of the gate with losses to Carolina and Austin. Thordarson said he's pleased with his team's defensive play so far -with clean sheets in its 2-0 win over Minnesota and 0-0 draw with Miami -- but feels it can improve on the attacking side of the game. Strikers Marlon James and Marcus Haber are likely starters against St. Louis, although James was nursing a stiff hamstring Thursday. Newcomer Mouloud Akloul is expected to make his Caps debut at centre back. St. Louis player/assistant coach Steve Ralston -a 35-year-old former U.S. international midfielder who holds the MLS record of 135 lifetime assists -- will not play as he is recovering from anterior cruciate ligament surgery. SIDE KICKS: AC St. Louis head coach Claude Anelka is the older brother of Chelsea and France international striker Nicolas Anelka. He hasn't managed a team since an unsuccessful eight-game stint with Scottish first division side Raith Rovers in 2004 ... Caps striker Dever Orgill (calf injury) is unlikely to play Saturday while defender/midfielder Blake Wagner (foot), defender Takashi Hirano (knee) and midfielder Jonny Steele (knee) are definitely out of the lineup ... the Whitecaps women's team announced the signings Thursday of midfielders Monica Lam-Feist, Chelsea Stewart and Ranee Premji. bconstantineau@vancouversun.com © Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun