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SECAUCUS, N.J. (AP) _ The MetroStars activated defender-midfielder Marcelo Balboa from the injured reserve list and called up goalkeeper Jeff Cassar from the A-League for their regular-season finale.

A six-time All-Star and a three-time World Cup veteran, Balboa has missed the season with a bone bruise on his right knee.

``It's been a long 11 months since my last (MLS) game, and I'm excited that I'm finally healthy enough that the coaches think I might be able to contribute in some way,'' Balboa said.

Cassar will back up Paul Grafer. Starting goalkeeper Tim Howard is unavailable for the game, the result of a red card received Saturday against DC United.

Cassar was 1-3-1 with Atlanta of the A-League. The Livonia, Mich., native has played in the MLS with the Miami Fusion and Dallas Burn.

The MetroStars are in a three-way tie for sixth place in the MLS Cup playoff race, with five teams vying for the final three spots in the eight-team playoffs.

The MetroStars (35 points) need only a tie on Saturday to clinch their third straight playoff berth, and could know even before game time against New England (35 points) whether they have qualified or not. DC United (32 points) plays Thursday night against Dallas, and Kansas City (35 points) plays at Colorado on Friday night.

The MetroStars own the head-to-head, season series tiebreaker edges over both Kansas City (1-0-1) and New England (3-0-0).