Earnshaw plays hero in first game, Whitecaps FC win third straight

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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 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 shot-stopped foiled Adi from close range in the 89th minute with a sprawling left-palm save.

Then, Earnshaw played the role of hero, chipping Timbers goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey just minutes after stepping onto the pitch and 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 Rodriguezand Kekuta Manneh, who were both unavailable due to suspension.

Also of note, Canadian left back Sam Adekugbe made his career-high third straight start after making a quick recovery from bruised ribs.

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 Rivero drew 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, Pedro Morales played a perfect left-footed throughball to Earnshaw, who calmly slotted it in before celebrating with his patented somersault. 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. Limited tickets are still available at whitecapsfc.com/tickets.

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Farhan Devji Farhan Devji is the club reporter and editor of Vancouver Whitecaps FC. His work has previously appeared in the Edmonton Journal, Ottawa Citizen, Vancouver Sun and other major Canadian daily newspapers. The Nanaimo native holds a journalism degree from Carleton University, where he was the editor-in-chief of the independent student newspaper The Charlatan.
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