Magical Ilsinho leads Philadelphia Union comeback over New York Red Bulls

CHESTER, Pa. — If you blinked Saturday night at Talen Energy Stadium, you may have missed one of the biggest sequences of the Philadelphia Union’s season. 

Minutes after subbing in with his team down 2-0, 33-year-old Brazilian Ilsinho set up a goal and scored one of his own to erase a two-goal lead for the New York Red Bulls in less than a minute.

Following stunning his equalizer, on which he weaved through defenders from the right flank, he added the game-winner in the 72nd minute when he rreached the rebound of Luis Robles' penalty save.

“Tonight was a special night. Even in my best dreams I can’t think about that against Red Bull, our derby,” Ilsinho said after the match. “The three points was the best thing.” 

The win puts the Union four points clear at the top of the Eastern Conference table ahead of the Montreal Impact and D.C. United going into the international break for the Gold Cup. 

The two goals Ilsinho created to tie the game were the second quickest pair of goals in team history, but they followed a familiar pattern: an attack that adds extra ruthlessness when Ilsinho comes off the bench.

Of the Union’s 31 goals this season, 14 have come in the 61st minute or later. 

“Ilsinho is at a level that very few can get to, ever, in their lives,” Union head coach Jim Curtin said. “He changes the game; it was a night where he would not be denied. I'm sure the first question will be, I have to be the dumbest coach in America that I don't start him every game, I understand that's probably what's next.”

Ilsinho now has four goals and five assists in 551 minutes coming off the bench in all but four of his 14 appearances this season. 

“We talked at halftime what it could look like in the second half, we talked about them bringing on Ilsinho, the task that would be,” Red Bulls head coach Chris Armas said. “He makes a few really good plays that we wish we could have those back, because we think collectively we could handle it better. Philly made a really good push, they pushed hard. Our guys, I’m proud of the way they stuck together, that’s for sure."

Ilsinho came close to what would have been his first hat trick on a rocketed shot Robles was able to stop in the 87th minute. 

“The skillset that Ilsinho has is just unbelievable,” captain Alejandro Bedoya said. “He makes defenders go back and then as soon as they commit or something they can’t; he’s just too quick with his hips or something.”