It was a night of No. 10’s at Talen Energy Stadium on Friday night. With Kaka in town to take on Tranquillo Barnetta and the Philadelphia Union, the entire league was watching while two of the top three teams in the Eastern Conference faced off.
But it was Barnetta who won the battle, as he scorched the top right of goal, banging in a free kick from 25 yards out for the game-winning goal in the 90th minute.
ICYMI last night, Tranquillo Barnetta won the game for Philadelphia with this goal https://t.co/BPVXBTmeyB— Total MLS (@TotalMLS) April 9, 2016
“First off, thank you to the fans, they stuck with us up until the 88th minute and pushed our guys on,” said Union head coach Jim Curtin. “Obviously Tranquillo came up with something special, but the team pushed hard in the second half. It wasn’t our best night of soccer, that’s a very good Orlando team, very dangerous, very tough.”
Both Barnetta and Kaka were dealing with injury troubles early on in the season. Both made their 2016 debuts within the past two weeks.
“Right now, I feel really good, after this you know,” Barnetta said with a laugh. “Sure, I still a few more minutes to get back. I do extra running after practice to get back what I missed in the preseason. I think every game helps me to come back.
Although Barnetta was healthy enough to play, he was not 90 minutes fit, meaning he had to come off the bench in the second half.
“The coach told me that the game is box-to-box, we lost a couple of balls, a lot of turnovers, so I tried to tell all the players that we have keep possession, keep the ball,” Barnetta explained. “Then it was a little bit better, and we had a couple of corners and free kicks and that helps. The crowd was great; they came back and pushed us forward. “
Barnetta, only playing 27 minutes, was able to get two shots, one goal, and four corner kicks within that time. This was his first goal of the season, and second for the Union overall.
The resurgence of Barnetta was huge for the Phialdelphia Union, as they were missing Warren Creavalle to a suspension and had Ilsinho out with a hamstring injury.
“Are we fortunate that Higuita and Larin are out? Absolutely. But I would say they’re fortunate Mo Edu and Ilsinho are out,” Curtin said. “So, again, it goes both ways, you know, teams are going to be missing players. That’s why it’s so important and Earnie [Stewart] has established that we need two players at each spot. So, I didn’t bat an eye when the guys I put in tonight to sub in for Ilsinho — Sebastien Le Toux — and Vincent Nogueira comes in for Warren Creavalle. “
In the end, Philadelphia Union walked away with all three points and took first place in the Eastern Conference heading into play on Saturday.