It took Ilsinho seconds to put a stamp on a game in need of a spark late when first touches on the ball after checking in ended in a cross Auston Trusty did well to collect with his left and finish with his right to give the Philadelphia Union a thrilling 3-2 win over Minnesota United on Sunday.
The win snapped a three-game downtrend where the Union mustered just two points from three straight home games against Western Conference opponents and put the blue and gold back on top of the standings in the Eastern Conference.
“To stick with it, to give up a goal, but to still have the character to get the third is the sign of a first-place team,” head coach Jim Curtin said after the match.
Though the Union twice gave up leads, it was their last chance defending that saved them from another demoralizing result in a wide open game that easily could have had even more goals for both teams.
Andre Blake had four saves on the day, including a sequence in the first half where he made two saves and Jack Elliott blocked a third straight attempt, and was quick off his line to cut down a couple key chances in the second half.
As a team, the Union blocked 13 shots and registered 36 clearances. Kai Wagner led the way with five blocks on the day and Ray Gaddis had three, which included a key intervention to stop second half substitute Kevin Molino from bagging a brace.
Molino tied the game at 2 in the 77th minute after a wave of pressure from the Loons that continued after his goal.
United had a flurry of chances to take an early lead, but it was Sergio Santos making up for an earlier miss on service into the box from Kacper Przybylko that set up the opener. Przybylko fed the Brazilian into the box again and Santos took a touch that left Brent Kallman with little choice but to take him down. Jamiro Monteiro snuck his penalty past the outstretched hand of Vito Mannone for his third of the season.
Santos nearly made it 2-0 six minutes later when he tried to start and finish a one-man counter attack dribbling the ball out from inside his own 18 all the way toward the Minnesota goal but his shot went wide of the target. Minnesota then evened the score when Hassani Dotson beat a diving Blake on a volley outside the 18 off a poor clearance from Alejandro Bedoya.
Haris Medunjanin restored the lead for the visitors just before halftime with a bulleted free kick. Santos drew the foul from Ike Opara minutes after he was taken down by Opara and didn’t get a call in another dangerous spot outside the 18.
Playing with a lead, the Union were content sitting back in the second half and this strategy eventually backfired after the introduction of Molino and Abu Danladi to the attack in the 69th minute.
Heading toward what would have been a third draw in four games, it was Trusty deciding to stay up in the box and finishing a play off like a forward — after his free header in the 53rd minute went right at the keeper — that secured all three points.
“I just saw the opportunity, decided to stay up in the box instead of going back and defending, just kind of having that mindset of the whole team of we want to win the game, we didn’t come here to tie,” Trusty said.
The Union return home to face an Eastern Conference foe at home for the first time since shellacking New England 6-1 on May 4 when they host the New York Red Bulls on Saturday before they get 18 days off from league play for the Gold Cup break.
Trusty’s heroics were the difference between a four-point spread and a one-point difference with the fourth place Red Bulls.
“All things considered, third game in a week, first team to win in this stadium I think that the guys were rewarded for their hard work,” Curtin said. “Obviously we didn’t play a perfect game today but we showed a lot of grit.”