Robert Earnshaw has not seen as much playing time with the Vancouver Whitecaps as he would have hoped this season but he has certainly showcased his finishing skills on the rare occasions he has been called upon.
The 34-year-old striker came on as an 89th-minute substitute in Sunday night’s regular-season finale against the Houston Dynamo at BC Place and soon made his impact felt by scoring a header from Mauro Rosales’ cross to seal his side a 3-0 win.
The victory means the Whitecaps finish in second-place in the Western Conference after enjoying their best-ever regular campaign since entering MLS in 2011 and seal a playoff bye directly to the conference semifinals, where they will face either the LA Galaxy or the Seattle Sounders across two legs.
How much Earnshaw features during the post-season remains to be seen but, having reminded head coach Carl Robinson of this value against the Dynamo, there could well be a small role for him to play in his former Wales teammate’s plans.
Sunday’s goal was not the first time the ex-Cardiff City and Nottingham Forest forward has produced off the bench since joining Vancouver in March either, as he marked his debut with a stoppage-time winner against the Portland Timbers within three minutes of coming on.
The former Toronto FC and Chicago Fire man has since had to settle for just eight more substitute appearances for a total of 40 minutes in his third MLS spell but, in the meantime, he has proven a valuable mentor in the dressing room to fellow attackers Darren Mattocks, Octavio Rivero, Kekuta Manneh, Nicolas Mezquida, Cristian Techera, Erik Hurtado and Caleb Clarke.
He even earned the first piece of club silverware in his 17-year career in August when the Whitecaps beat the Montreal Impact 4-2 on aggregate to win the Canadian Championship title and, with Robinson’s men now entering the playoffs in solid form, he may even have an MLS Cup winner's medal to add to his collection come December.