A pair of second half goals led the Philadelphia Union to their first marquee win of the season over an opponent in the top tier of the Eastern Conference on Saturday night at Talen Energy Stadium.
Entering the game with three losses and a pair of scoreless draws against teams above them in the standings (New York Red Bulls, Columbus Crew and Atlanta United), the Union moved within six points of fourth place Columbus with a win powered by second half goals from Cory Burke and Ilsinho.
Andre Blake was forced to make a diving save just 90 seconds in on a shot by Maximiliano Moralez off a counter sprung by David Villa. But the play would end up being the hardest of the three saves Blake had to make on the night to preserve his seventh clean sheet of the season (two shy of his career high nine from last season).
Sean Johnson made a big stop to keep the game scoreless just after halftime when he was able to push David Accam’s attempt just past the far post and out for a corner kick.
The breakthrough did come for the home team from a a familiar source in the 57th minute when Cory Burke scored his sixth of the season. After failing to score in his last start, he’s now scored in five of his six starts in MLS.
Ilsinho doubled the lead nearly 20 minutes later with an individual piece of brilliance, dancing through the box past a trio of NYCFC defenders before beating Johnson.
The goal was the Brazilian’s fifth of the season in his first game action since mid-July.
Though he made a simple pass and watched Ilsinho do the rest on his goal, Bořek Dočkal was credited with his second assist of the night on the play to bring his team-leading season total to 12. Only New York Red Bulls midfielder Alejandro Romero Gamarra has more assists than the Czech international, who is on loan from the Chinese Super League.
Playing with the two-goal lead, the Union benefited from an injury that put them up a man in the final six minutes plus of the game. Deep into stoppage time, Ronald Mataritta saw red for a nasty challenge on Ilsinho, which reduced the pigeons to nine men in the final seconds of the match.
“The players deserve all the credit, head coach Jim Curtin said after the match. “Their ability to counter press as soon as we lost the ball and then immediately recover an win it back, in particular in the second half, I think really wore down New York City FC, (which) is a great team. You still have some doubt in your mind with the talent they have on the field that someone could just pull a play off and punish us, but credit to the guys who did not give up a lot after giving up a chance or two in the first half. A complete team effort and we have some momentum now.”
Up next for the Union, they’ll look to complete a three-game sweep against New England Revolution at home next Saturday night.