VANCOUVER - Robert Earnshaw didn't take long to ingratiate himself with Vancouver Whitecaps fans.
The veteran forward scored minutes after making his Whitecaps debut as a substitute in the 87th minute Saturday to lift Vancouver to a 2-1 Cascadia Cup victory over the rival Portland Timbers.
Earnshaw, who signed with Whitecaps FC on Wednesday, took a pass from captain Pedro Morales before chipping it over Timbers goalie Adam Kwarasey in the 90th minute to send the sold-out BC Place crowd into a frenzy.
"Listen, the length of time I've been playing football, and that feeling, when the ball hits the net," said Earnshaw, "my God it's the best. It's the best."
Midfielder Nicolas Mezquida scored early in the first half for the Whitecaps (3-1-0), who opened their defence of the Cascadia Cup by beating Portland at home for the first time in six tries.
Fanendo Adi scored for the Timbers (0-1-3), who are still searching for their first MLS victory this season.
Earnshaw's soccer resume is extensive, having scored 216 goals in over 500 matches at the club level in England, Scotland, Israel, Canada and U.S.
Whitecaps manager Carl Robinson says these kind of unflinching heroics are exactly why he brought Earnshaw to Vancouver.
"I've known him for a number of years, and I brought him here because he can score goals," said Robinson. "I said he'll get one chance (in the game)... and when he gets a chance, he usually takes it."
Despite the three points against a tough rival like Portland, Robinson wasn't all that pleased with his club's play. For long stretches the Timbers dominated Vancouver while firing shot after shot at goalkeeper David Ousted.
"I thought we were average at best, but we stole the victory in the end," said Robinson. "Ousted won us the game today. Without David we would have lost the game — probably deservedly maybe. They were the better team for long stretches. But we'll take the points."
Octavio Rivero, who had accounted for all of Vancouver's goals this season going into the game, displayed some dazzling footwork at the top of the penalty box only to be brought down for a Portland penalty. Mezquida bended the ensuing free kick beautifully and eluded Kwarasey to put Vancouver ahead 1-0 in the 15th minute.
Portland pressured hard in the second as Diego Chara fed midfielder Darlington Nagbe in the box at 56 minutes. Nagbe almost levelled the score for the Timbers, but Ousted threw himself on the ball to stop the threat.
Ousted was continually put to the test in the second half. He made a spectacular diving save against Nagbe's cross in the 69th.
"Pleased with the three points, not pleased with the way we got them," said Ousted. "There's a lot of work to be done.
"I'm happy with my performance today. I gave the guys a chance to win and that's why I'm in there. I'm delighted to see Earnie get that goal. It just shows what a good football player he is and a great addition to our team."
Portland finally beat Ousted in the 80th when a broken Vancouver defence allowed Nagbe to find Adi with a cross for the equalizer. Adi came close to scoring in the 89th, but missed on a glorious chance right in front of Ousted.
"I didn't think it was fair based on how well we played, but again you have to credit Vancouver, they've been getting results and finding a way to win games," said Timbers head coach Caleb Porter. "You have to credit them for finding a way to get three points."
Notes: Among the players unavailable for Vancouver on Saturday were striker/midfielder Kekuta Manneh (suspension), striker Darren Mattocks (international duty), midfielder Mauro Rosales (injured), and defender Diego Rodriguez (suspended). ... Attendance was 22,500.