By Marc Weber
VANCOUVER — The Moose is feeling loose, but the Whitecaps have pains in the back.
Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder Justin Moose returns to the 18-man roster Friday night as the Cleveland City Stars visit Swangard Stadium to end the regular season.
The Caps can still finish sixth or seventh with their playoff opener next Thursday.
Moose, a small but tenacious winger, was a fan favourite last season, his first with the club. He started 21 of 30 games, scoring twice and setting up five goals.
This season couldn’t have gone much worse for the 25-year-old Statesville, N.C., native. He’s been out of the lineup since injuring his right foot against Portland way back on May 30. Two months into an unsuccessful rehabilitation, he saw a foot specialist and was told to go on crutches for another month.
“It’s unfortunate that it’s the final game of the regular season, but on the bright side it’s an important time of year and the team is making a push for the championship,” Moose said. “Hopefully I’m going to be part of it.”
Moose played 55 minutes in an intrasquad game with the residency team on Wednesday and should see some time Friday on the right wing. Head coach Teitur Thordarson is without midfielder Nizar Khalfan (ankle) who started there last game. Captain Martin Nash (hamstring) will miss his fifth straight game and there’s trouble at centre back, again.
Shaun Pejic and Chris Pozniak — brought in at the transfer deadline to fill the gap left by the release of Wesley Charles and departure of Jeff Parke — are both out with groin injuries.
Second-year Mason Trafford and rookie Michael Onwatuegwu will start against Cleveland City.
Moose figures he still has plenty to contribute to the squad.
“I can come on and bring energy,” he said. “And I’ve played in playoff games before and a lot of our guys haven’t, so hopefully I can bring leadership, too. I feel that’s what this team needs — a little bit of a spark.”
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