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Ilsinho leads Philadelphia Union to victory in rare start

Ilsinho started for just the second time this season and starred in the 2-1 win over Montreal Impact

MLS: FC Cincinnati at Philadelphia Union Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

It was Ilsinho the super starter’s turn to play the hero in the Philadelphia Union’s sixth straight win at home Sunday night at Subaru Park.

With Jose Martinez away on international duty, head coach Jim Curtin opted to start Ilsinho out wide in a 4-2-3-1 with Brenden Aaronson on the opposite wing.

“Last game he gave us some real juice, some real life, he was excellent in training, and with the way Montreal builds out of their six yard box, we thought it would be important to play with a front three to disrupt them,” Curtin said post-game. “Ilsinho gives us that quality that you saw in the goals he set up tonight. His ability to stay calm in pressure situations to make a final pass is what we thought we needed to unlock a pretty good defense.”

Ilsinho recorded two assists for just the second time in his Union career and the first time since August 2017.

The first came in the 38th minute when he played Jamiro Monteiro in with a line-splitting pass that took five Montreal defenders out of the play. Montreal goalkeeper Clément Diop could have done much better on the attempt from Monteiro near post but that didn’t make it any less fun for the 2,800 fans in attendance to celebrate.

“Ilsinho was clever enough instead of staying out wide he came inside and received the pass in a central area,” Curtin said. “So now when that happens Ilsinho’s able to turn and face the backline. A lot of them don’t know whether to step or whether to drop, and then obviously the quality part comes up where he plays it almost in between a step when the defense least expects it and and obviously breaks down the entire backline with one pass.”

Just after halftime, it was Brenden Aaronson splitting the defense off a counter attack from a Montreal corner to play Ilsinho in the box in the 48th minute. The Brazilian could have taken it from there and tried to score himself but instead played the ball across for Sergio Santos to make it 2-0. The goal would later hold up as the game-winner when Montreal pulled one back with Amar Sejdic’s first MLS goal.

With Warren Creavalle picking up a knock and leaving at halftime, Curtin kept Ilsinho on the field a little longer than he’s accustomed to in starts. He ended up logging 72 minutes on the night, which is the most he’s played since the season opener against Toronto FC in 2019 when he started and played 74 minutes. His assists were his 19th and 20th of his Union career giving him 22 goals and 20 assists over 119 appearances.

The start was his second of the 2020 campaign and just the 18th start over the last three seasons. With another game coming up after a quick turnaround on Wednesday night in D.C. and Martinez still out, Curtin will have more decisions about how to keep the Union rolling and within striking distance not only of first place in the Eastern Conference but also a Supporters’ Shield. Toronto is three points clear of the Union in both.

“I have a real belief now that we can beat anybody and control in a lot of ways our own destiny as we look toward getting as many points as possible, and making a run at the Supporters’ Shield and then into the playoffs.”