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Is Ilsinho the number 10 the Union have been looking for?

The Brazilian play maker has cemented his position in midfield

MLS: Philadelphia Union at D.C. United Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Jim Curtin believes in the 4-2-3-1 formation so much that he is unwilling to deviate from the lineup, even when the team is having trouble like it did earlier in the season. While the team seemed to lack a creative edge when Alejandro Bedoya took up the number 10 position earlier in the season, Curtin adjusted by moving Bedoya back to the number 8 and inserted Roland Alberg in the starting lineup and sat promising young player Derrick Jones on the bench.

Alberg came in provided a certain spark for a couple of matches, but the team still did not produce results. The LA Galaxy nil-nil draw on the road was an improvement to the 3-3 implosion against the Montreal Impact from the previous week, and the team seemed headed for a certain draw against the New York Red Bulls until Alberg came off injured in the 63rd minute. The team exploded for quick three goals to put the Red Bulls away while Bedoya slotted up at the number 10 again.

The team had one of its best victories in the history of the Union, with a 4-0 drubbing against D.C. United the next week. The critical player in that match was Ilsinho, who started at the number 10 position for the first time this season for the Union.

While usually used as a winger, Ilsinho has been a revelation as the key cog in the Union’s midfield. The number 10 is the most important attacking player in a 4-2-3-1 formation, and it requires a special player for the team to play up to its attacking potential. Alberg, while a good squad player, is not the answer at the number 10. The win against D.C. and the following victories against the Houston Dynamo (2-0) and the Colorado Rapids (2-1) have further provided evidence that Ilsinho is the answer forthe problem that the Union had earlier in the season.

Isinho has provided good link play in front of the twin pivots of Bedoya and Haris Medunjanin. His ability as a creative player in the number 10 has also arrived at the same time that Medunjanin has committed himself to playing defense. While the two things may not have anything to do with each other, it is an interesting correlation.

The only concern about using Ilsinho as a number 10 is the physical commitment that it requires. He is not getting any younger, and the 31 year old Brazilian has spent 12 seasons playing professionally with Palmeiras, Sao Paulo, and Internacional in Brazil as well as with Shakhtar Donetsk in Ukraine. Fatigue was an issue for Ilsinho against the Rapids, and as the season wears on, Curtin may want to rotate his lineup a bit more, but for now, success and goal scoring goes through Ilsinho at the number 10.