CHESTER, PA– The Philadelphia Union produced a perfect response to losing first place in the Eastern Conference on Saturday at Talen Energy Stadium as they downed D.C. United 3-0.
Jim Curtin’s men produced their best performance of the season in the eyes of the manager, who has raised the club’s standards exponentially since the arrival of sporting director Earnie Stewart.
“I think the group picked a good time for our best performance of the year,” Curtin said.
“If you see the work these guys do each and every day, there was no doubt in my mind they would respond,” Curtin said. “When we lose, Open Cup included, we bounce back and put on a good performance. That’s a sign of a good team.”
The dominant victory was led by Brazilian midfielder Ilsinho, who netted his first two goals in a Union shirt on Saturday. One strike came from the penalty spot in the 37th minute and the other came on a thunderbolt into the left side of the net in the 48th minute.
“He’s worked hard all year,” midfielder Chris Pontius said of Ilsinho. “He’s put himself in good spots. He’s created a lot of goals for us, and now it’s nice to see him get two himself.”
The buzz has been growing around the Brazilian midfielder in recent weeks due to his skills on the ball, but he’s starting to complete his game on the pitch as he receives more playing time.
“Word is traveling in the league that he’s a guy that can beat you 1v1 and make it look like you’re on an AND 1 basketball mixtape kind of thing where you’re ankles get broken,” Curtin said. “He’s a handful. Great for him to get on the score sheet, but the defensive running that he’s starting to do, the fitness is coming. When we get him isolated on the ball, you can see defenders drop and that creates space for the next guy. We have multiple players that teams now have to worry about.”
In addition to controlling the match from the start and producing a trio of strikes, the Union also held their first clean sheet since May 20 against D.C. United.
“It’s very important to get the shutout today and to get three points,” goalkeeper Andre Blake said. “I could not have done it without the other 10 guys and the guys who came into the game.”
The Union also benefited from the return of starting forward C.J. Sapong, who tortured the D.C. back line with his physical presence all night. Sapong earned the free kick that led to Ilsinho’s second tally in the 48th minute
“I was just trying to get back to my natural ways, try to go at the defense and try to impose myself on the game,” Sapong said.
“(C.J.) manhandled us tonight,” D.C. head coach Ben Olsen said.
As much as the Union would like to celebrate their win, they have a new task at hand as the Eastern Conference playoff battle heats up.
“It’s a good DC team that we beat,” Curtin said. “Obviously in conference you want to win games. I can’t stress enough being good in this building. If you include the Open Cup we’re 10-1-2. There’s a belief in the guys and the fans that we’re going to win here and that’s powerful. Now the next biggest game is Red Bull (on July 17).”