Chris Pontius looking happy during USOC win - June 29, 2016

CHESTER, Pa. -- Jim Curtin didn’t throw things in the locker room after the Philadelphia Union played arguably their worst half of the year Wednesday night at Talen Energy Stadium, when his side hosted the New York Red Bulls in the US Open Cup Round of 16. He didn’t deliver any rousing half-time speech. He didn’t even come up with any huge tactical adjustments.


Instead, the Union head coach simply told his players that they weren’t “playing like [them]selves.” And he then looked on with pride, as Philadelphia rallied for two second-half goals to earn a 2-1 come-from-behind win over New York, and advance to the Open Cup quarterfinals for the fourth time in five years.


“It has nothing to do with me, the half-time stuff,” Curtin said. “Players win games, coaches lose them and referees ruin them. It’s all credit to my players -- it doesn’t have anything to do with me.”


Two players, in particular, rose to the occasion, as Chris Pontius scored two goals, both of which came off clever Ilsinho passes. On the first, Ilsinho picked up his head and played his teammate through with what Pontius called a “great ball.” On the second, Ilsinho’s cross, just in front of the sliding Aurelien Collin, caught Pontius perfectly in stride. The Philly winger then put it away to keep the Union’s quest of making it to a third straight Open Cup final alive and well.


“We knew the first half wasn’t us,” Pontius said. “The way we came out and dominated in the second half and took over the game, that’s what we’re about. It’s expected of us. I’m glad to see the response from the team.”


Curtin admitted that Ilsinho was one of about nine players in the first half that wasn’t playing like himself. But the Union coach was glad to see the Brazilian playmaker turn it around with an “incredible” second half that helped kick-start an offense missing its only true strikers to injury -- C.J. Sapong and Fabian Herbers.


“He’s a guy that can play a perfect pass off of a full sprint,” Curtin said. “People say, ‘They’re pro athletes; they should be able to do that.’ They can’t. He has a skill. At full speed, he can do things with his feet. He can clip a ball softly to the back post when he’s running 100 miles. He’s a special talent. And Chris did well to get on the end of them in the box."


Indeed, the partnership that Ilsinho, from the right wing, and Pontius, from the left wing, showed on Wednesday was one of the biggest reasons why the Union overcame a dreadful first half to pull out what Curtin would later deem “a big-boy win.”


“You can tell they have a great connection,” defender Richie Marquez said. “And it’s good to see the team fight like that and never quit. It was awesome.”