Magic, is indeed, a real thing. Ilsinho proved it during the Philadelphia Union’s 3-2 comeback against the New York Red Bulls on Saturday night at Talen Energy Stadium.
The Union spent most of the first half figuring things out. They ran into some similar problems such as lax pressure in the back, present in the Red Bulls’ first goal, which came in the 29th minute off a lofted ball that was placed to NYRB’s Kyle Duncan who in turn put a nice ball on the ground that Kaku slotted far post. Wagner, Trusty, and Monteiro all held back and put little pressure on their targets that led to this goal. With more intense pressure this goal could have easily been defended.
NYRB’s second goal came in the 42nd minute when a lofted direct ball was played into Red Bull forward, Brian White, who put the ball over the head of an indecisive Blake who stuttered mid-charge at the attacker. Although the Union ended the half 2-0, there were some promising signs. Santos was very, very involved in the play; Monteiro, Medunjanin, Bedoya, and Aaronson were all very active and were, for the most part, successful in controlling the flow of the ball as the Union ended the half with 60% possession.
The beginning of the second half was much like the first up until the 52nd minute when Curtin made the decision to take off the young Aaronson and bring on veteran Ilsinho. He was immediately involved in the play, as he usually is when coming off the bench, fresh legs and skills that kill he was determined to not let the Red Bulls take three points from Chester so easy.
Eight minutes after coming on, Ilsinho shimmied past Connor Lade and after driving toward the net, put a low ball across the box that Monteiro, with perfect technique, put away to far post. One minute later, in the 61st, Ilsinho made another charge down the right, cut between two Red Bull defender and with an outside of the foot strike and a little help from a deflection, slotted home goal number two for the Union, bringing the game level.
After this boost, the Union’s play very clearly switched. The defense pressed hard and successfully, the midfielder continued to control the ball, and the forwards relentless drove again the ever-fatiguing New York defense. Then, in the 69th minute, the Union were awarded a penalty kick for a handball. Monteiro stepped up to strike but it was saved by Robles, rebounded back into the box and ilsinho stepped up and put the ball into the back of the net to get his brace and put the union ahead of the NYRB, 3-2.
The Union dominated the rest of the match, getting opportunities but nothing else coming to fruition. The important takeaways from this match heading into the Union’s midweek matchup against D.C. United in the fourth round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup are:
1. The Union’s defense needs to press hard from kickoff, no space can be given to the attackers, the fewer shots their opponents take, the fewer scoring opportunities they’ll have.
2. The Union need to capitalize. In the first half, the Union had only gotten off six shots, a single one of them on target, a mere 17%. However, in the second half, they took 11 shots, with six on target, a rate of 55% shots on target. A staggering increase, and evidence as to how they ended up with three goals in the second half. If they can come up with those kinds of numbers in the first half, then they wouldn’t have to worry about coming back from 2-0 deficits any more.
This game was a show of individual prowess and proof that once inspired, the Boys in Blue can’t be held down. An exciting prospect now that they’re heading into the U.S. Open Cup, and then into break where hopefully they can work out the knots and make their play even better.