The 19-year-old Homegrown midfielder from Newark, DE clinched a victory for Philadelphia Union last Saturday with an insurance goal in the 65th minute. Fontana, sitting behind veteran midfielders Marco Fabian and Alejandro Bedoya in the depth-chart, spoke with PSN about making the most of his playing time and what’s he been able to do to earn those minutes.
“There’s so much experience and knowledge with this group of coaches,” said Anthony Fontana when asked about conversations with coaches and Sporting Director Ernst Tanner. “Anytime I can have a conversation with them it always helps. It’s very influential.”
That was the overarching theme of the conversation yesterday with Fontana, as he discussed his recent run of positive play. At 19 years old, Fontana expressed the unique and often times forgotten skill needed to improve at a young age: the ability to take criticism and build on it.
“Anytime anyone talks to me, whether it’s a coach, older teammates, younger teammates – I always listen,” said Fontana. “I think you can learn from anyone. I feel like I’ve done that.”
And he has. The time and effort Fontana has invested in himself is finally starting to pay off with consistent appearances in the matchday 18 while making the most of his limited playing time as a second-half substitute.
Fontana is also one of the more positive players in the locker room and has been since he officially signed back in July of 2017. He is a YSC Academy graduate and played for local clubs teams Penn Fusion, West Chester, and Kirkwood SC in his younger days. Long story short, Fontana recognizes the rare opportunity he earned for himself: a shot to play pro soccer for his hometown club.
And despite some early hiccups in his development and being behind the likes of Bedoya for the past few seasons, Fontana hasn’t lost his edge or drive to better himself.
“It’s consistency and trying to keep progressing and getting better every day,” said Fontana. “I think that’s what is helping and the extra work that I’ve put in. All these things, they add up to be big.”
Big indeed. Fontana’s 65th-minute goal sent Union fans into a frenzy Saturday night as the second goal all but killed a weak Chicago Fire team.
For now, Fontana simply will take things day by day. He can probably enjoy some peace of mind knowing he has caught the eyes of not only Head Coach Jim Curtin but also the eyes of Tanner and Union fans alike. They know what Fontana can bring to the team: a never say die work rate with a smile to boot.
It’s not often you hear of young athletes welcoming criticism. But for Fontana, he’s learned that listening is truly the key to success.
Curtin mentioned multiple chats between Tanner and Fontana have propelled Fontana’s game forward. “Some of them were critical and a lot of them were about some tactical things that he would like to see from my game,” said Fontana of those chats. “I’m all ears. I just want to be the best player I can be.”
“Anytime I get criticism, good or bad, I listen to it and I just try to put that into my game,” said Fontana. “Those are the things that I’m working on and look to keep improving on.”
Those tactical adjustments would mainly revolve around playing direct when in the midfield. Tanner mentioned several times on previous occasions that he prefers to play aggressively with the ball, meaning midfielders need to make runs into the box to create pressure on opposing backlines. Fontana executed that to perfection Saturday night when he lingered forward into the box and caught Chicago defenders ball watching before he slammed home the goal.
For now, Fontana and the rest of the Union locker room will focus on the road ahead. Only 11 matches remain before the playoffs roll around, with six of those away from home. Now is the time to buckle down.
“We want to stay number one until the very end – until the last day of the season,” said Fontana. “We want to put ourselves in the best spot possible. The whole group knows what we have to do and we’re all working our butts off day in and day out just to stay there.”
Union youngster Anthony Fontana on what’s fueled his recent success