Four Philadelphia Union homegrown’s Anthony Fontana, Mark McKenzie, Matt Real and Auston Trusty took part in the MLS Homegrown game. Fontana and Trusty started the match; McKenzie and Real came off the bench in the second half.
The MLS All-Star week is a little different from other Major League Sports All-Star weeks. It’s sandwiched into four days at the beginning of a week, and the players and coaches involved go right back to league play on the weekend. The night before the All-Star game, MLS gives a chance for their best homegrown players to shine in a game against Mexican side Tigres UANL U20’s.
Fontana and Trusty Start:
A little rain won't stop this one.
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) July 31, 2018
Fontana and Trusty got the start in the game, and showed well. It was a rather pedestrian night from Trusty, but that was because the homegrown’s were on the front foot for most of the first half. The linchpin for the homegrown attack was Anthony Fontana. Fontana starting at the 10 role was able to find a lot of space between Tigres midfield and back line.
Fontana’s work rate was lauded as the reason the homegrown’s were able to exploit that space. His movement made the central midfielders spread out and allowed space for the homegrown’s front three to have space to move forward. This resulted in a lot of free kick opportunities for the homegrown’s. They capitalized on one of them right before the stroke of halftime to take the 1-0 lead.
45 minutes was all that was given to Fontana and Trusty. Real and McKenzie came off the bench for the second half.
Real and McKenzie come off the bench:
— David Malandra Jr (@David_Malandra) August 1, 2018
Matt Real and Auston Trusty came on in the second half, and while Tigres found a goal late on to tie the match, both young defenders represented the Union well. Matt Real was the least tested of the two defenders, while Mark McKenzie had his hands full. With almost a full team change at halftime, the homegrown’s lacked the possession and ability to keep the ball away from Tigres’ midfielders. McKenzie put out many fires, including an impressive goal line clearance shown above.
The young Union center back received a lot of praise for his ability to defend one on one in tough moments. His ability to stop attacks, and move the ball upfield was on display in the second half. He was able to find the forward lines well. His distribution skills showed well, even though that has gotten him in trouble sometimes this season. He impressed and showed why he has been a consistent starter for most of the season.
The game ended 1-1 with all four of the Union’s homegrown’s playing part in the result!
Are these four homegrown’s Earnie Stewart’s Union legacy:
Earnie Stewart’s final act as @PhilaUnion sporting director: Handshakes and well-wishes for the four Union academy products in the Homegrown Game whose growth he has overseen. pic.twitter.com/rrCi9LktIE
— Jonathan Tannenwald (@thegoalkeeper) August 1, 2018
The Philadelphia Union were well represented in this Homegrown game. Philadelphia had the most players represented in the game with four. Anthony Fontana, Mark McKenzie, Matt Real and Auston Trusty all featured in the game, and met with Earnie Stewart after the game. On Stewart’s last day as sporting director, he watched as the Union homegrown’s played a vital role in the outcome of the 2018 MLS Homegrown game. He spoke with them directly after the match. Could these players be his lasting legacy with the Union?
These four players were molded by Stewart’s vision of developing players from the Union Academy, to Steel FC and then to the first team. All four of these players, as well as Derrick Jones, made that journey in Stewart’s two-and-a-half year tenure. While most of the player acquisitions were flops, Earnie “got it right” with this group of homegrown’s and the process of finding identifying players in-house that could make this jump at an early age.
Looking at how the Vancouver Whitecaps just sold Alphonso Davies for $13 miliion to Bayern Munich, it’s clear that a well-developed homegrown player can benefit both on the field and financially. Maybe the Union will see something like this in the future with one of these players, or a play who has yet to rise all the way up.
Homegrown and Proud:
— PhilaUnion (@PhilaUnion) August 1, 2018
However the Union progress after Stewart’s departure, it is clear that the foundation he set is one where homegrown players will thrive. There should be many more MLS Homegrown games where the Union are well represented in the coming years.
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Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports