CHESTER, Pa. -- D.C. United never stood a chance.
From the opening whistle on, Ilsinho and the Union punished their listless rivals, easily claiming the 3-0 victory on Saturday night at Talen Energy Stadium.
“The group picked a good time for our best performance of the year,” Union manager Jim Curtin said.
With the help of 59.5 percent possession and 15-6 shot advantage, the Union moved to 8-6-5 on the season -- one point behind New York City FC in the Eastern Conference standings. The win also broke a two-game MLS winless run for the Union, while United, who have twice lost to the Union this season, falls to 5-7-6.
“We knew we were better than what we’ve been doing the past few games,” Union center back Ken Tribbett said. “Also, it’s a rival, Eastern Conference game, so we really wanted to come out and show our true colors.”
Andre Blake made the three-save shutout for his fourth of the season. United’s Kofi Opare was ejected for yellow-card accumulation in the 65th minute.
“We were just late to show up to this match in every aspect,” United coach Ben Olsen said. “They are a good team. If you don’t bring courage and the little things to a game, you’re going to eat it. Simple.”
Hustle helped the Union claim the lead and never look back.
In the 19th minute, when on a fast break thanks to a breakout pass from Tranquillo Barnetta, Chris Pontius tore into the United box with speed. The former United player made an inside-outside move and was hauled down by Opare, prompting a penalty kick.
“I caught him wrong-footed,” Pontius said. “And it’s a foul in the box. At that point, you’re just trying to put defenders in bad situations and get them back on their heels, and I was able to do that.”
After pleading for the ball, Roland Alberg lined up at the spot. He approached the ball with a stutter-step that pulled Bill Hamid to the left, allowing Alberg to easily place the shot right for 1-0 Union lead.
“He’s smart about how he waits for the goalkeeper,” Curtin said.
In the 35th minute, Pontius nearly stunned United again, when an Ilsinho pass was nearly put in off a Pontius back-heel redirection that was saved away by the fingertips of Hamid. Seconds later, during the same possession, Ilsinho found the ball on the right side of the United box, where he went one-on-one with Marcelo Sarvas.
The matchup didn’t go well for Sarvas, who was forced to turn and body Ilsinho off the ball, getting called for the in-box foul. Ilsinho lined up for the penalty and simply overpowered Hamid to the left side for the 2-0 Union advantage at the half. Ilsinho added a third immediately out of the half, from C.J. Sapong and Alberg.
“It’s a tough place to play,” Olsen said. “They are good, Jimmy is a very good coach and I’m happy this organization is doing well. If you don’t show up for a large portion of the game, they’re a different team and they will punish you.”
The two goals were Ilsinho’s first with the Union.
“You can see when Ilsinho gets a head of steam running at a defender, he’s a guy that can beat you one-on-one, and make you look like you’re in an And1 basketball mixtape," Curtin said. "It’s great for him to get on the scoresheet.”