Player to watch: Anthony Fontana

Photos: Paul Ruderrow & PSP archives

Fontana during Florida preseason 2017

On January 1, 2018 Anthony Fontana will become the most recent Union Homegrown Player produced by its Academy. He signed what has been reported as a “pre-contract” to that effect on July 17, 2017.


He made his professional debut with Bethlehem Steel July 2, 2016 at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati, on a zero dollar contract that maintained his amateur standing. It allowed him to appear eight times for the Steel, two of them starts, while maintaining his ability to play for his academy side. Last February he became the first academy player to spend an entire Florida preseason training with the first team. This past season, he appeared 11 times with the Steel, including seven starts. He made his debut appearance with the Union itself in their exhibition friendly against Swansea of the English Premier League the same day he signed the pre-contract.

What and how

Fontana is a central channel midfielder. He has appeared most as a number 10, but has also played at the number 8.

He plays attacking center mid in what PSP is beginning to think is the Union’s preferred style for the position.

  • He is a two-way player.
  • He is not a ball control maestro; such control remains a future opportunity.
  • He positions himself intelligently to be available for triangle passes, and others.
  • He distributes the ball to the wings, forward, and backward as opportunities dictate
  • He runs off the ball to stretch the defense and open space behind him for others.
  • He shoots when way opens.
Current development status

Using PSP’s new developmental status pathway for Union and Steel players, we estimate Anthony Fontana’s current status below.

Pathway Steps Player
0.    Practice with the Steel
1.     Earn Steel starts
2.     Consistently competently start, both ways
3.     Dominant  USL difference-maker
4.     Promoted: Practice – Union; Games – Steel Anthony Fontana
5.     Earn Union starts
6.     Consistently competently start, both  ways
7.     Dominant MLS difference-maker
8.     Consistent National Team Starter
Future prospects

We expect Fontana to practice with the Union and play his game minutes with the Steel, much in the fashion Adam Najem has done in 2017. At this point we would call him Najem’s understudy.

Having seen the young man once for less than 20 minutes in a friendly senior side exhibition match, it is hard to forecast a longer-term future Union role. Were the Union to bring in a quality number 10 to be a consistently dominating difference-maker for the first team, Fontana and Najem might understudy him together playing games for the Steel in which they played the 8 and the 10 interchangeably.

But that would block Academy players Brenden Aaronson and Michael Pellegrino  from developmental minutes with the Steel, should they claim them next March. At that point, Earnie Stewart, Chris Albright and Jim Curtin would have to choose their priorities.

His offseason

Every practice opportunity Fontana can get with Alejandro Bedoya and Haris Medunjanin this off-season and next preseason, he should exploit. If Ilsinho should happen to be around now, or return next winter, the same goes for him.

Every day in practice his individual development plan should work on his creative, offensive, individual ball skills. Add in his killer-pass instincts and long-distance shooting, also.


  1. I like the status tracker. It would be interesting to see a chart aggregating all the young players, once they’ve been reviewed.

  2. Today’s article about Pulisic’s remarks regarding young players and the MLS is a spot-on MUST read. Damning. I would honestly rather see Najem and Fontana start and play full time next year rather than see more Ilsinho, etc.

    • The idea that young players are going to have their confidence and development “ruined” by playing them too early has been disproven again and again overseas.
      Time to flip the script.

      • Yeah. For the Union, this is especially contradictory. Cheap owner, and youth are typically less expensive. But we keep buying/playing more expensive guys. Running them into the ground, even. What’s this money ball thing I keep hearing about?
        Anyway, I’m not saying we should stop trying to create a good mixture of experience and youth. But I am saying that mixture should exist on the game field too. Not just the practice field.
        If the two players are even remotely competitive, give the younger guy some real game time.

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