Vancouver Whitecaps set to host San Jose Earthquakes on Sunday
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VANCOUVER - The Vancouver Whitecaps could have a big piece of their puzzle back this weekend.
Captain and talismanic midfielder Pedro Morales looks set to return to the lineup in some capacity against the San Jose Earthquakes on Sunday, either starting or coming off the bench, after sitting out the last six weeks with a calf problem.
"I've waited a long time for my injury (to heal)," said Morales. "I have confidence in my body now."
The Whitecaps (10-8-3) were 2-2-1 without the 30-year-old Chilean designated player, whose raking passes can stretch defences and create holes up front for Vancouver's other attacking players to exploit.
"He's our captain, he's one of our top players, and having him fit and healthy is very important for us as we reach this last stage of the season," said Whitecaps head coach Carl Robinson. "We have missed him. We've managed to get by ... he's certainly a big player for us and it will be nice to have him back.
"It will give us options, which we will need in the coming weeks."
Vancouver should also have central defenders Kendall Waston and Pa-Modou Kah available for the game against San Jose (7-8-4), but with Jordan Harvey suspended, another player will have to step into one of the fullback roles along with Steven Beitashour.
Kah sat out the last two games with a calf injury of his own, while Waston was a late addition to Costa Rica's Gold Cup squad and missed last weekend's 1-1 road draw with the Portland Timbers.
"Whenever you get experienced players back it helps," said Robinson. "Having that little bit of quality Kendall and Kah and Pedro (provide) certainly does help because we've missed them."
Vancouver is winless over its last three overall and is a mediocre 4-4-1 at home so far in 2015. The game against San Jose starts a stretch of nine matches over the next 35 days for the Whitecaps as they compete in Major League Soccer, the Amway Canadian Championship final and the CONCACAF Champions League group stage.
The club currently occupies an MLS playoff spot among the top six teams atop a crowded Western Conference, while San Jose is on the outside looking in. The Earthquakes are just 3-6-2 on the road in 2015 and have lost three straight in the league, including last week's 5-2 road defeat at the hands of the Los Angeles Galaxy, but downed the Whitecaps 1-0 in California back in April.
"The deservedly beat us. They were the better team when we played down in their stadium," said Robinson. "They're tough. We know the way they set up — very physical team — but they have got good players as well, very pacey in wide areas. We're going to have to be fully prepared."
Notes: With the transfer window open until Aug. 6, Robinson said the Whitecaps are working to bring in an impact player who fits with their model. ... Aside from Harvey, Vancouver will also be without midfielder Cristian Techera on Sunday after the pint-sized winger was suspended for his actions at the end of the Portland game.
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