Philadelphia Union II

Steel profile: Anthony Fontana

Photo courtesy of Bethlehem Steel

Anthony Fontana seems to be the leading current candidate to be next home grown player to sign a contract with the Philadelphia Union.

The Union’s Friday’s signing of Jake McGuire means the roster is full right now.  But Fontana, the YSC Academy junior and attacking center midfielder, trained with the Philadelphia Union in 2017’s preseason. He is the first Academy player to do so from start to finish.

He will practice in Chester but with whom remains a question.  It may be with the Steel or the Union .

Fontana in 2016

Fontana debuted with the Steel last season as a high school sophomore after signing “a zero dollar contract.” It allows him to play with full-time professionals while preserving his NCAA amateur eligibility, and is approved by the NCAA, U. S. Soccer, and FIFA.

With Bethlehem last season, Fontana played 271 minutes, starting three times and appearing as a substitute three other times.

The 16 year-old debut substitute acquitted himself so well enough at FC Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium that he earned the next game’s start, away to Toronto FC II. He became the substitute of choice behind starter James Chambers throughout August until Maurice Edu’s arrival on rehab forced changes.

Fontana started over Chambers away to Louisville and, according to Steel head coach Brendan Burke, more than held his own at the number 10 position against one of the league’s best teams. The Steel came out to play, not bunker, and Fontana was important in that scheme.

The season’s top Fontana vignette came in his start at Toronto. Good technical control allowed him to earn a free kick just outside the Reds’ penalty box, which Ryan Richter took advantage to bring the Steel back into the game.

His 2017 preseason

photo courtesy of YSC Sports

Fontana first appeared this preseason in the last half hour of the closed scrimmage against Chicago as the attacking center mid in front of Adam Najem. He and Najem did the same in the Suncoast Invitational exhibition games against Tampa Bay and Montreal, for about fifteen minutes each match.

More recently, he started in center midfield for the Steel in their preseason scrimmage against Temple playing 60 minutes. Najem started in front of him in the number 10 role, and the two were interchanging positions after the opening quarter of an hour. They did not have to devote a lot of energy defending.

He will probably play 75 minutes in one of this week’s two Thursday scrimmages, at 11:00 am versus Harrisburg or at 2:00 pm against Notre Dame. If he does, that will be the longest appearance of his career.

And in the final preseason scrimmages, Burke will need to find him ninety minutes so he is available to be in the starting eleven against Rochester on April 1st.

Player characteristics

The first thing you notice about Fontana on the pitch is that he is fearless.

In his debut, he wasn’t nervous while playing in front of 20,000 spectators at FC Cincinnati or 8,000 in Kentucky. The Chicago Fire reserves did not subdue him, nor did Tampa Bay’s or Montreal’s. Temple had trouble keeping up with him.

His play is relentless, constant and non-stop. He makes deep, intelligent offensive runs and always looks for the green space behind the opposition’s back line.

Technically, his skill set is suited for his position. His first instincts are to outwork his opponent and use his athleticism to his benefit. He can beat defenders one-on-one, but becoming better at that should be a future goal.

He needs in-game experience reading the tactical schemes of the opposition and their in-game adjustments. Since there are tactically sophisticated coaches in USL, he will get that this season with the Steel.

Future prospects

An important indication of how the organization assesses him may come from the status of Steel trialist central midfielder Duane Muckett, a good player to keep were the Steel’s roster not as budget-constrained as we all presume it to be.

But if Muckett were to make the Steel, he would compete with Fontana and Najem for playing time in the midfield’s central channel.  And that might suggest Fontana needs more time.  Of course the organization has it as it has until August 1 of 2018 to decide whether to sign him before college.


  1. el Pachyderm says:

    This is the kind of player that makes my head spin…. and provides hope for me among the many carats in the pipeline- there are more than a few diamonds.
    Really important as some people rail and rail about academy and what has it produced and yada yada in nation- yada yada yada… it is yet to produced its first official Homegrown Product through the entire pipeline. We are getting closer and closer to that reality and once that begins to turn over year after year and churn churn and churn… the cream will be there– I’m pretty certain.
    Matthew Real is the closest thing to that as of yet- kids like Anthony Fontana and Matthew Real… phew…. I’m excited for the prospects. BRING ON SOLIDARITY AND TRAINING COMPENSATION so we can sell sell sell…
    PORK BELLIES baby.

    • Bring on higher MLS salaries and status so we don’t have to sell sell sell, but keep and build a great team!

      • el Pachyderm says:

        indeed. 100%. A bit of both.
        Salaries need to increase enormously… specially with nearly half a billion buy in.

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      Orange futures 🙂

    • John O'Donnell Jr says:

      Jones came through the entire system, he was the first. Did you miss that?

      • el Pachyderm says:

        No, John. I didn’t miss that.
        ..Derrick Jones came to America from another country then played with Junior Lone Star before being spotted and brought into the academy.
        For the record I’ve had discussions with Academy coaches who recognize the growth of the players but also realize the academy is not yet producing “fully realized” (Coach’s words, not mine) academy players. Those players who joined as young kids are still only about 16 or so. I chose my words carefully….. as Matthew Real is among the youngest and first to have come up through as a preteen.
        So while an academy product, yes, in short— he did not actually come through the entire system. Details Details.

      • I thought Trusty came up through the entire Academy process from Union Juniors?

      • Thanks, mcb, I had been going to mention him.

  2. I do not know when Fontana joined the academy, el P.
    Relevant to your concern, I did notice during the Academy open house last November that the Residency program did not necessarily begin in the earliest grade, an appropriate policy, say I the quarter-century veteran of a boarding school as well as an alumnus thereof.
    As you understand better than I, with your greater experience with youth soccer, the Academy is a four year high school, but covers 8th grade through some post-graduate circumstances because academia and soccer organize themselves around different calendar years, Sept-JUn and Jan-Dec respectively.
    Your point about Derrick Jones is a good one, my impression from talking with Academy adult personnel is that he did post-graduate secondary school work while he was attending classes there.
    I would state again that it seems to my eyes that exposure to the culture and values of the place is every bit as educationally important as the conventional academic content of the course work, and I say that as a purveyor of the aforesaid academic content for over three decades in various venues.

    • el Pachyderm says:

      My original comment was meant congratulatory to the Union Academy. I fear maybe I did not word it correctly to be taken as such.
      I think Union Juniors is only about 5 years old or so… they had Union Futures and this Union Youth League which will envelop The Futures and the Juniors – which is about to launch.
      My point was meant more along the lines of, the franchise is yet to produce first team professionals who came into the fold as pre adolescents because the history is not there yet. This is going to change very soon. Matthew Real being about 17 is one of youngest to sign a professional contract but he is still at most a Steel player along with Anthony Fontana. these young boys playing against men on Steel and training with the first team is huge. HUGE. I am excited about those young men and what they may offer in the next couple years as the next class comes up and the next and the next and the next.
      The Union (football) Academy is highly regarded among US Soccer and MLS yet many comments I’ve read, as Osager highlighted last week, are derogatory about Union Academy….oh they’ve only produced one player…. yada yada yada. Silly comments really.
      All in due time… It is coming.

  3. ;_) Tough to come through the full system when the system has just had an earlier stage added onto it!;-)
    Definitive evaluations of things that are being created are quite difficult.
    Consider Napoleon’s attempts at definitive evaluations of ancient Egypt prior to Champollion cracking the Rosetta Stone and Carter finding Tut’s tomb (okay, okay, Tutankhamon). Or atomic theory prior to subatomic particles.

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