For the second straight game at Talen Energy Stadium, Ilsinho played in front of several friends and family members visiting from Brazil. And for the second straight game, the crafty midfielder delivered a game to remember, recording a goal and two assists in Saturday’s 3-1 win over FC Dallas.
“When my family’s around me, I feel confidence,” said Ilsinho, who had a goal and in assist in a 3-0 win over Columbus Crew SC on July 26. “I feel close to my home.”
Even when his family doesn’t show up, Ilsinho has tried to bring a little bit of that Brazilian flair to Philly, showcasing dazzling playmaking abilities and a knack for beating defenders off the dribble. But he’s rarely been able to string consistent performances together — until now.
Getting the start at the No. 10 over Roland Albergon Saturday, Ilsinho torched a stingy Dallas defense with what was likely the best game of his two-year Union tenure.
“His talent is undeniable,” Union head coach Jim Curtin said. “When you see him train day in and day out, the things he can do with the ball, players are scared to get close to him. You’ve seen it in flashes in the games, but the challenge is always for every player to play at your top level for 90 minutes. And when he plays at his top level for 90 minutes, you guys see the results.”
Curtin, who has implored Ilsinho to shoot more, was pleased to see the Brazilian score his fourth goal of the season with a 22nd-minute rocket from outside the box. But it was his play five minutes earlier that best encapsulated his unique skillset as his spinning backheel pass completed a beautiful give-and-go with Haris Medunjanin that led to the first of two C.J. Sapong’s two goals.
“Every day on the practice field, we try something different,” said Ilsinho, who began that sequence with a couple of nifty open-field dribbling moves. “Some days, it’s good. Some days, it’s terrible. But we have to try.”
For Sapong, who also teamed up well with Ilsinho to get his second goal, seeing his teammate try the kind of things that he did made soccer a whole lot of fun — which hasn’t always been the case this season.
“Not only is it just easier all around, but it’s fun as well,” Sapong said. “The little kid kind of comes out of you on the field. That’s always a beautiful thing. We just have to keep it moving forward.”
For Ilsinho, moving forward after a good game has always been the challenge. But now that he’s enjoyed two straight impressive starts, he hopes that will change as crunch time of the 2017 campaign approaches.
“One thing comes with another thing — maybe when we play well, we get confidence,” Ilsinho said. “And when we have confidence, everything is easy.”