Robert Earnshaw’s 90th-minute winner propels Whitecaps FC to 2-1 win against Portland Timbers

VANCOUVER: These ‘Caps sure have a flair for the dramatic this season.

Robert Earnshaw scored a 90th-minute winner in his Vancouver Whitecaps FC (3W-1L-0D) debut to lead the Blue and White to a 2-1 victory over Portland Timbers (0W-1L-3D) Saturday night at BC Place.

After Nicolas Mezquida scored his first of the season in the 15th minute, Portland’s Fanendo Adi brought the game level late in the second half. But as they’ve now done in each of the past three matches, Whitecaps FC once again scored a late-winning goal.

And once again, it came moments after a massive David Ousted save. The Danish goalkeeper, who was named Budweiser Man of the Match, foiled Adi from close range in the 89th minute with a sprawling left-palm save. Then, Earnshaw played the role of hero just minutes after stepping onto the pitch.

After receiving a perfect throughball from Pedro Morales, the former Welsh international chipped Timbers goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey and celebrated with his patented somersault, sending the sold-out BC Place crowd into elation.

Not a bad debut for Earnshaw, who just signed earlier this week.

After dropping their season opener, the ‘Caps have now won three straight matches for a total of nine points in the month of March – a club record in MLS.

Whitecaps FC head coach Carl Robinson was forced into making a pair of changes to his starting lineup after last weekend’s win over Orlando City SC. Pa-Modou Kah and Erik Hurtado replaced Diego Rodriguez and Kekuta Manneh, who were both unavailable due to suspension.

Also of note, Canadian left back Sam Adekugbe made his career-high third straight start.

It must have been a Cascadia derby because Saturday’s match got off to a physical start – no surprise considering the history between these two teams. But aside from a long-range George Fochive strike in the fourth minute, which a full-stretched Ousted parried away, there wasn’t much doing in terms of quality chances at either end.

Portland looked the livelier side and had the better chances early, but the ‘Caps struck first. After Octavio Riverodrew a foul, Mezquida curled in a perfect free kick from just over 20 yards to put Whitecaps FC ahead in the 15th minute.

Although Portland controlled over 60 per cent of possession in the first half, Vancouver looked organized defensively and took a 1-0 lead into the break.

It was a similar story early in the second half. The visiting Timbers continued to control possession, but weren’t able to create much in the final third.

That changed later in the half though as they began pushing numbers forward. In the 70th minute, Darlington Nagbe forced Ousted into making a diving save off a blast from outside the area. And a few minutes later, they came close again when Dairon Asprilla connected on a side-footed volley from the centre of the box, but Kendall Waston made a goal-line block to keep the ‘Caps ahead.

Finally, the Timbers broke through in the 82nd minute with Adi’s third goal of the season. The Nigerian striker banged it in from close range after a Rodney Wallace cross from the left.

Adi nearly put the Timbers ahead in the 89th minute after getting played in behind, but Ousted made a brilliant stop that proved to be a game-saver.

Less than a minute later, Morales played a perfect left-footed throughball to Earnshaw, who calmly slotted it in to seal the victory. Morales now has assists in back-to-back matches.

Next up for Whitecaps FC is the defending MLS Cup champion LA Galaxy on Saturday, April 4 at BC Place.

Budweiser Man of the Match: David Ousted
Referee: Allen Chapman
Attendance: 22,500

Scoring Summary
15′ – VAN – Nicolás Mezquida
82′ – POR – Fanendo Adi
90′ – VAN – Robert Earnshaw (Pedro Morales)

Match Stats
Shots: Vancouver 13 – Portland 15
Shots on Goal: Vancouver 3 – Portland 5
Saves: Vancouver 4 – Portland 1
Fouls: Vancouver 15 – Portland 13
Offsides: Vancouver 1 – Portland 2
Corners: Vancouver 0 – Portland 7

12′ – VAN – Gershon Koffie
30′ – POR – Alvas Powell
58′ – VAN – Steven Beitashour
87′ – VAN – Kendall Waston

Vancouver Whitecaps FC
1.David Ousted; 33.Steven Beitashour, 4.Kendall Waston, 44.Pa-Modou Kah, 3.Sam Adekugbe; 15.Matías Laba, 28.Gershon Koffie (20.Deybi Flores 72′); 19.Erik Hurtado (88.Robert Earnshaw 87′), 77.Pedro Morales, 9.Nicolás Mezquida (38.Kianz Froese 58′), 29.Octavio Rivero

Substitutes not used
70.Paolo Tornaghi, 2.Jordan Harvey, 26.Tim Parker, 27.Ethen Sampson

Portland Timbers
12.Adam Kwarasey; 2.Alvas Powell, 7.Nat Borchers, 24.Liam Ridgewell, 19.Jorge Villafana; 6.Darlington Nagbe, 26.George Fochive (10.Gaston Fernandez 75′), 21.Diego Chara, 22.Rodney Wallace; 37.Maximiliano Urruti (11.Dairon Asprilla 65′), 9.Fanendo Adi

Substitutes not used
33.Andre Weber, 15.Jeanderson, 20.Taylor Peay, 23.Norberto Paparatto, 27.Nick Besler