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Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder Andy Rose speaks to the media during training camp in Vancouver on Jan. 21, 2019.

The Canadian Press

After weeks on the sidelines, Andy Rose is “itching” to get back on the field with his Vancouver Whitecaps teammates.

The 29-year-old midfielder took a ball to the face in a contest with the Houston Dynamo on March 16, resulting in a concussion and a fracture to the bone around his eye.

Sitting out has been tough but, he said it’s also been an opportunity to watch the Whitecaps (1-5-2) from a unique angle.

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While the club has only won a single game so far this season, Rose likes what he’s seen recently.

“For me, the margins have been so small,” he said after returning to full training with the team this week.

“This season has been strange in [Major League Soccer]. There’s been a lot of blowouts, a lot of 4-1s, 5-1s. We haven’t been on the receiving end of any of that. I don’t think any team has found it easy to break us down.”

Staying locked-in for the entire game will be key when Vancouver plays host to the Philadelphia Union (4-3-1) on Saturday, goalkeeper Maxime Crépeau said.

Last week, a tired Whitecaps crew gave up a goal in the 88th minute and ended up dropping a 1-0 road decision to Orlando City SC.

“The last few minutes of the game are always difficult, but mentally we need to be sharp and to make sure we keep the ball, that we’re not giving away easy moments,” Crépeau said. “Just be a little bit smarter, a little bit calmer on the ball, even if there’s a lot of mental fatigue.”

The squad also needs to continue being compact defensively and start using its speed to find offensive opportunities, he added.

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Offence has been a struggle for the Whitecaps this season. Across the first eight games of the year, the team has scored just six goals, the fewest in the Western Conference.

The team’s midfielders need to get the strikers better balls, and the strikers need to capitalize on their chances, Jon Erice said.

“It’s work for all the team. If we don’t give them good balls, then it’s very difficult to score goals,” the midfielder said.

Whitecaps coach Marc Dos Santos said he needs more connection between his forwards and some sort of offensive spark.

“Sometimes it’s just one guy. And that’s how close I think we are,” he said. “If this team would have three or four more goals, we would probably have four or five more points right now.”

Whether Rose will be available this weekend to help provide some strength in the midfield remains to be seen, Dos Santos said.

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“If you look at the images and what happened, he looks good now but not the day after,” the coach said. “How he recovered, it was great, but it’s always a blow to the head. It’s always dangerous, always risky. We have to be very careful with that.”

Rose knows that his teammates have been playing well and said he’ll have to work as hard as he can to prove that he deserves to get back in the lineup.

For now, though, he’s happy to be back at training instead of riding a stationary bike or doing other fitness work.

“It’s nice to be back out there,” he said. “It’s been a frustrating four or five weeks or so. Maybe longer. It certainly feels longer.”

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