CHESTER, Pa. - Facing an irregular and frustrating man-to-man defensive setup, the Union were struggling to break down the Chicago Fire on Wednesday.
That's until Ilsinho put the team on his back.
One minute before the halftime whistle, the Brazilian claimed possession at the top right of the box. Staring down two Fire defenders, Ilsinho pulled the ball right then yanked it left to split the duo and move inside unimpeded.
"I can't coach it," Union manager Jim Curtin. "You can't teach it. Certain guys are special in that regard. You know he's going to snake the ball, and he has an ability to just get defenders' bodyweight on the wrong foot and make them look foolish."
With confidence, Ilsinho sent a right-footed rocket shot past Patrick McLain for the 1-0 Union advantage. It changed the match for the hosts, who eventually won, 3-1, at Talen Energy Stadium (see observations).
"I was looking for some situation like that all first half," said Ilsinho, who has three goals on the season and two in his last three matches. "I'm looking for that ball for the entire 45 minutes and I had one chance in the final minute. I'm so glad to score."
To make the veteran's highlight even more impressive, the defenders in his way were Bastian Schweinsteiger and Brandon Vincent - two of the better players on the field for either team. The elastico made the two look like rookies.
"If I said I was surprised, I'd be lying," Union goalkeeper Andre Blake said. "That's something he does every day in training. Right now, he's very confident and helping us in a lot of ways. Hopefully he can keep it going."
Union midfielder Borek Dockal would take advantage of the Fire's forced change in tactics, assisting Cory Burke's second of the season. Dockal would then find the net on a penalty kick with five minutes remaining.
"They needed to change how they played," Dockal said. "In the second half, there was more space to combine the ball. They played something I haven't seen in maybe 10 years. They played man-to-man defensively, the whole first half. It was a surprise.
"That's why the goal in the last minute of the first half was so important."