Union Rout D.C. United Behind Ilsinho
CHESTER, Pa. (973espn.com) – A pair of goals by Brazilian midfielder Ilsinho helped the Philadelphia Union halt a bit of a midseason slump by routing Eastern Conference rival D.C. United, 3-0, at Talen Energy Stadium on Saturday night.
The Union (8-6-5, 29 points), now in second place in the East, halted a two-game skid and improved to 7-1-2 on the Delaware Riverfront this season, thanks in large part to a pair of first half penalty kicks.
The 23 points Philadelphia has recorded at home in 2016 are an MLS best and Jim Curtis's club is now an imposing 7-0-0 against Eastern competition at Talen Energy Stadium, outscoring their opponents 18-6 in those matches.
“I think the group picked a good time for our best performance of the year," Curtin said. "It’s a very good DC united team. Organized, tough to breakdown, and our guys did a good job on the night, creating chances."
The Union got all they needed in the 20th minute after D.C. United's Kofi Opare was hit with a yellow card for dragging Chris Pontius down in the box. Curtin went with Roland Alberg for the penalty kick and the Dutch striker allowed DC GK Bill Hamid to commit before easily slipping it past him for the 1-0 advantage. It was Alberg's sixth marker of the season, matching Pontius for the team lead.
The Union nearly doubled the advantage in the 35th minute when Ilsinho played in a great ball from the right and Pontius almost back heeled it in past Hamid.
The near miss only lasted for a few moments as Ilsinho was taken down in the box in the 36th minute and then put in the second PK of the night for Philadelphia in the 37th. This time Hamid guessed right but Ilsinho darted it past his outstretched arm for his first goal of the season and the 2-0 edge.
The rout was on after intermission during the 47th minute when an Alberg free kick found the head of C.J. Sapong, who bandied it back to a trailing Ilsinho, who then blasted in past Hamid for his second goal in 10 minutes of game time and a 3-0 Union advantage.
"You can see when Ilsinho gets ahead of steam running at a defender, the word is traveling in the league that he is a guy that can beat you one-versus-one and make it kind of look like you’re on an And 1 basketball mixtape kind of thing where your ankles get broken," Curin said. "He’s a handful. Again, great for him to get on the score sheet, which is good. But the defensive running that he’s started to do, the fitness is coming."
If United (5-7-6, 21 points) had any hopes of the miracle comeback, that ended in the 65th minute when Opare was sent off after his second yellow card and D.C. was forced to play a man down for the rest of the night.
Philadelphia, which bounced back from a 1-0 setback in Houston last weekend, also beat D.C. United, 1-0, back on May 20 when Richie Marquez scored a game-winner in stoppage time.
The two clubs will play one more time this season at RFK Stadium on Aug. 6.
Union GK Andre Blake, who was named an MLS All-Star earlier in the night along with rookie defender Keegan Rosenberry, recorded his fourth shutout of the season after stopping all three shots he faced.
“Very important to get the shutout today and to get three points," Blake said. "Could not have done it the other 10 guys and the guys that came into the game, so shout out to the entire team. Making the All-Star Team is definitely a great achievement for me, but more importantly it’s not just to make the All-Star Team for me, it’s about going there and performing so I’ll stay quiet for now and I’ll keep working on it and hopefully I can go to the game and be successful.”
Philadelphia finished with 15 shots on the night, including seven on target versus just six for D.C., half of which reached Blake.
The Union also had a huge possession advantage (59.5 percent to 40.5) and connected on more passes (84.0 percent to 75.9).
-John McMullen covers the Philadelphia Union for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen.