Grandpa golazo: Fred's game-winning strike for Philadelphia Union nearly four years in the making

CHESTER, Pa. – In the last home game of the Philadelphia Union’s first season, Fred scored a goal against the New York Red Bulls and ran to the corner flag to celebrate.

Four years later, after a circuitous journey that included stops at D.C. United and Melbourne Heart, the Brazilian midfielder got another chance to play the Red Bulls at PPL Park.

And sure enough, he once again scored and ran the corner flag to celebrate, his goal helping lift the Union to a 3-1 win over New York in Wednesday’s clash between Eastern Conference rivals.

“He’s been talking about that goal in 2010 for the longest time,” said defender Sheanon Williams, a teammate of Fred’s during Philly’s expansion season. “It’s nice to give him some new material that he can talk about in practice. Hopefully he’ll forget about 2010 and score some more this year.”

For Fred, the moment was as emotional as it was unlikely. Not only did it mark his first MLS goal since he scored against New York back on Oct. 16, 2010, it also only came because Cristian Maidana had to exit in the 38th minute after pulling his hamstring.

With the Union’s midfield already depleted due to one-game red card suspensions for Amobi Okugo and Michael Lahoud, interim manager Jim Curtin called upon Fred, who had only played 99 minutes to that point after signing with Philly in the offseason.

But the 34-year-old Brazilian, affectionately nicknamed “Grandpa” by his teammates, jumped at the opportunity, putting the Union ahead 2-0 in the 51st minute when he pounced on a Williams cross that was redirected by Conor Casey, and fired one past Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles.

“I got so emotional after the goal and cried a little bit,” Fred said. “It’s like when you play your first game. I’m so happy right now.”

Shortly after scoring, the Sons of Ben chanted the name “Fred” over and over again. That, of course, only added to his emotions – and made it feel like 2010 again when the Brazilian was one of the most reliable performers on the original Union.

“It was a long time that I didn’t play here,” said Fred, whose last appearance at PPL Park came in that 2010 win over the Red Bulls. “So when you see the people screaming your name, I’m so happy. I don’t know what else to say.”

After the game, Curtin praised Fred and admitted that the Maidana injury, while not especially serious, could keep him out of Saturday’s contest against the Chicago Fire at Toyota Park (8:30 pm ET, MLS Live).

That means that “Grandpa” could very well be looking at his second appearance in four days.

“We’re all professionals,” Fred said. “I’m so sorry for Cristian to get injured. I just have to be ready and do my best on the field.”

Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at djzeitlin@gmail.com.