CHESTER, Pa. — Ilsinho has delivered plenty of incredible moments in his Philadelphia Union career, but his two-goal, one-assist performance off the bench against the New York Red Bulls on Saturday will go down as his most memorable.
In a span of 12 minutes, the Brazilian super-sub brought the Union back from a two-goal deficit to beat the Red Bulls 3-2 at Talen Energy Stadium.
“Tonight was special,” Ilsinho said. “Even in my best dreams, I can’t think about something that, especially against Red Bull in our derby. Down 2-0 to them and then I scored two goals and an assist and almost scored a third one. I’m so happy, but every time we have to take a risk and we were down 2-0, we just try. Things happen. I’m so proud of everybody.”
Seven minutes after he entered, Ilsinho make his first impact by playing a beautiful pass from the right wing to Jamiro Monteiro, who slotted the ball past Luis Robles with his first touch.
But that was only the start of the magic that turned Talen Energy Stadium into a cauldron of a raucous noise.
In the 62nd minute, Ilsinho carved his way through a pair of defenders and finished his shot into the bottom-left corner of the net past Robles.
“Ilsinho’s good at soccer, goes without saying” Union head coach Jim Curtin said. “The team overall continues to amaze me. When you get into half at 2-0, it could be a, ‘Here we go again’ moment where a team can bunker in and just kind of hang on and we can get frustrated, or we can push in the way we did.”
“I thought that the game, credit to Red Bull, it was at the intensity level of a playoff game,” Curtin said. “They play at an intensity level to be quite frank we haven’t played against this year, but our guys went toe-to-toe. I thought it was an exciting game for the fans obviously, but two really, really good teams that got after each other in a good way.”
The 33-year-old handed the home side the advantage in the 72nd minute on a rebound off a saved penalty off the boot of Monteiro.
Union captain Alejandro Bedoya drew the penalty when his cross from the right side of the box deflected off the hand of Sean Nealis.
Robles correctly guessed the direction of Monteiro’s penalty kick, but the rebound fell right to the boot of Ilsinho, who skillfully positioned his shot into the left corner for the second time.
“Against Dallas, I told Coery (Burke) to go to the rebound and I go too and he scored on the rebound,” Ilsinho said.
“Today I said to Sergio (Santos) to get on the rebound on that side and I go to this side. We hope he scores, but if the keeper saves it, we have to be there. I got lucky again.”
Before the Ilsinho-inspired comeback, the Union (9-4-4, 31 points) looked miserable in attack.
The Red Bulls (7-6-3, 24 points) pounced on two occasions in the first half to put the Union in a seemingly unsurmountable deficit at halftime.
Kaku opened the scoring in the 29th minute by placing a shot past a diving Andre Blake from the center of the penalty area off a nice first-touch assist by Kyle Duncan.
Three minutes before halftime, Brian White took advantage of miscommunication between Blake and Jack Elliott to chip a shot into the back of the net.
Jun 8, 2019; Philadelphia, PA, USA; New York Red Bulls midfielder Alejandro Romero Gamarra (10) is congratulated after scoring during the first half against the Philadelphia Union at Talen Energy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Elliott tried to shield White off the ball, but he expected Blake to rush out and collect, which he didn’t attempt to do until it was too late.
Fortunately for the Union, they were saved by the heroics of Ilsinho, who moved his way up to a tie for fifth on the team’s all-time scoring chart with his sixth performance with a goal and an assist.
The victory kept the Union on top of the Eastern Conference going into the Concacaf Gold Cup break, and they are the only team in the East over 30 points at this point in the season.
“We’re just all overjoyed and obviously we’re all confident now,” Union captain Alejandro Bedoya said. “We’re all super relieved that we were able to end the first half of this season on a high, but Wednesday we have an Open Cup game already so we just have to continue the way we’re playing.”