In the Union’s nearly decade-long history, there has been a lot of heartbreak. With this recent run of form for Philadelphia that sees them in first place in the Eastern Conference, they are starting to wash away some of those bitter memories. Ilsinho’s stellar appearance off the bench for the Union on Saturday was an all-time performance. It was initially hard for me to go back in my memory and pull out many performances that were better.
Naturally, when presented with something like this, I had to do a deep dive and really dig out the best performances by a Philadelphia Union player in an appearance and see where Ilsinho’s ranks.
10. October 5th, 2013 – Kleberson vs Toronto FC
Although he only appeared for 11 minutes, he created probably one of the best moments, if not the best moment, in Philadelphia Union history. At this point in 2013, the Union were clinging onto playoff hopes and desperately needed to beat an inferior Toronto team. With a very fruitless 80 minutes gone, Kleberson our much touted, but rarely appearing superstar entered the field for just the eighth time in 2013. He changed the game and curled in a stoppage-time winner that sent Talen Energy Stadium into a frenzy.
9. June 7th, 2014 – Conor Casey vs Vancouver Whitecaps FC
In a game where Chaco Maidana rolled out three of his 15 assists in 2014, Conor Casey stole the spotlight. In John Hackworth’s last game as Union manager, he watched his team storm back from a 2-0 deficit with a classic Casey performance. He also showed us that he still had a little bit of diversity in his attack by finding the bottom corner in a strike from outside the box to take the 3-2 lead. We’ll forget that they blew the lead and the match ended 3-3. It was five years ago, just get over it already.
8. July 26th, 2017 – CJ Sapong vs Columbus Crew SC
CJ Sapong’s record-setting 2017 campaign that currently holds the Union’s most goals scored in a season by an individual wasn’t necessarily on display in this one. What was on display, however, was the style that got CJ to 16 goals in 2017. Constantly a presence in the box, he was relentless in this match and most effective at being active in the box. CJ disappeared at times in the box throughout his Union career, but in this one he showed his worth that got him a national team call-up at the end of this season. Not to mention an overhead kick assist isn’t too bad.
7. March 30th, 2019 – David Accam vs FC Cincinnati
Some people might point to his two-goal, one-assist performance in the prior game against Columbus, but this gritty performance stands out a bit more to me. Maybe it’s recent memory bias that’s leading me to rank this one in the top 10, but David Accam dragged the Union through the literal swamp in Cincinnati to a big 3 points. On the road, he scored one of the goals of the season and bagged an assist on a slick goal from Marco Fabian. Accam’s performance here is the epitome of a gutsy “put the team on your back” performance. Involved in both goals, on the road, in the rain and against an Eastern Conference opponent.
6. August 24th, 2014 – Sebastien Le Toux vs San Jose Earthquakes
At the height of 2014, the Union were playing some of the best soccer in their history. Their counter-attacking verve got them to the US Open Cup Final for the first time and led them back into the playoff hunt. This 4-2 victory against San Jose was the pinnacle of a classic Union counter-attacking team. Sebastien Le Toux had many virtuoso performances for Philadelphia but this one stands out for his goal and three assists. Le Toux was always critical to the Union’s success when he was on the team; this performance showed why he was invaluable.
5. May 19th, 2018 – Borek Dockal vs Real Salt Lake
It’s hard to imagine a game where the Union score four goals and think, “Wow they should’ve scored seven.” This might be the only game where that’s true. At the center of it was Borek Dockal. This was Dockal’s emergence game as he had been off the scoresheet until this game. He created two goals and scored one himself (a fantastic chip on a counter), but he could’ve easily scored another and gotten two more assists. It was a masterclass performance from the Czech international who would go on to lead MLS in assists (18) in 2018. A real shame he was only here for one season.
4. August 16th, 2015 – Chaco Maidana vs Chicago Fire
Chaco Maidana never really was appreciated for his creative ability as his tenure here was marred by inconsistent performances and a real lack of work rate. When he was on his game, boy oh boy was he on. This game is a sour one with the ending ruining a dominant performance (aside from the Union’s horrendous defense on the first two goals), but Maidana was absolutely on fire with three assists and should’ve had a few goals also. He was terrific and this is one of my favorite performances ever by a Union player.
3. June 8th, 2019 – Ilsinho vs New York Red Bulls
Ilsinho single-handedly dragged the Union out of the depths of a disappointing loss to our rivals (Yes, our rivals. I don’t care what all the “it’s not a rivalry” naysayers think) from New Jersey. Every single time Ilsinho touched the ball in this game you figured the Union were going to score. He was absolutely unreal in attack. The move on his first goal that split Connor Lade and Daniel Royer was classic Ilsinho. It’s the kind of game Ilsinho has that makes you think he can light the league on fire.
2. September 25th, 2015 – Andre Blake vs New England Revolution
When compiling this list, there were only two individual performances that immediately stuck out as better than Ilsinho’s most recent exploits. This Andre Blake game was the second I thought of. Blake put himself on the map after riding the bench all season, as his shot-stopping prowess was on full display. A ten-save outing firmly planted him as the goalkeeper for the foreseeable future on the Union’s lineup sheet. It also created probably the most meme-able gif in Union history.
1. April 10th, 2010 – Sebastien Le Toux vs DC United
Do I even need to speak about this game? The first home game in Union history saw the establishment of Sebastien Le Toux as a Philadelphia Union icon. Virtually unheard-of despite playing for Seattle in the previous season, Le Toux was moved up the field to play forward for the Union and in his second game bagged a hat trick by scoring in every fashion. This game is considered to be the greatest Union game of all time and perhaps will continue to be until the Union win some hardware.