Anthony Fontana, the 20-year old Philadelphia Union Homegrown midfielder from Newark, DE, spoke with PhillySportsNetwork.com last Friday after the club’s first full week of preseason camp. Yesterday, Head Coach Jim Curtin mentioned Fontana may be a large piece of the team’s overall puzzle in 2020. Fontana senses that and aims to earn a starting spot, hoping to make the most of every moment this season.
Whenever you see Anthony Fontana off-the-pitch, the first thing you notice is usually a big smile coupled with an outgoing personality. He continually remains an optimistic and positive player within Philadelphia Union’s locker room. That much hasn’t changed.
But now, in what will be his third season as a Union player, Fontana seems deadset on making his mark with the club on-the-pitch in what he hopes will be his chance to earn a starting spot.
“I want to keep progressing in my development and I want to win a starting spot,” said Fontana last Friday. “I am going to do everything in my power and with every opportunity that I get to do that. I’m just going to keep talking to all the coaches and see where their heads are at to learn what I can do to help the team and to be ready from day one.”
The 20-year old spoke like a veteran. He has a clear mind and a clear list of goals to accomplish in 2020. He prepped more than usual for pre-season camp as well, so he wouldn’t miss a beat when team training began in Wilmington, DE at the 76ers Fieldhouse last week.
“Personally, I did a lot of work in the off-season. I worked a lot on my weaknesses and sharpened my strengths both with and without the ball,” said Fontana. “I watched a lot of video, working on the little things. I touched on everything this off-season.”
Some of the weaknesses that Fontana managed to pinpoint in his own game would be his weak-foot abilities and his positional play. “I feel like my weak-foot is good but there’s a lot of space for improvement. Turning with the ball I can do better with that,” said Fontana. “I talked with Ernst [Tanner] and he wanted me to work on a few things positionally. So I watched a lot of video.”
The film Fontana studies is a key factor in his personal development. He compares it to a student who takes a test the first time and maybe struggles with the material that first go-round. But then, with extra studying, that test result almost always improves. Film study has turned out to be a big boon in his development.
“Sometimes when you just watch the video by yourself, all you really see is the mistakes and you don’t really see what the coaches want,” said Fontana. “But then when you sit down with them they say ‘oh you should’ve done this, you should’ve done that.’ That’s when a lot of progress is really made. Just doing that will help any player.”
And that progress Fontana has continually made is not going unnoticed. In his third full season with the club, Fontana now seems poised to step into a much larger role. One that Head Coach Jim Curtin spoke about at length yesterday during a conference call with the media.
“He’s still young and he’s going to have some highs and lows, but this is an important season for him,” said Curtin when asked if he thinks Fontana is up for the task of being a player the coaching staff can rely on more this season. “He’s at that stage in his development where he’s not a rookie anymore. Yes, he’s still extremely young but at the same time, he’s shown that he can cover ground.”
Ground coverage and overall fitness aside, Fontana carries with him in his back-pocket some below-the-radar offensive skills that Curtin has most definitely been keeping a close eye on.
“Goal scoring midfielders are really, really hard to find and in MLS in particular,” said Curtin. “[Fontana] has a knack for that, that’s why I do like him at the 10, just because he’s closer to the goal. But he’s going to have to learn and continue to work and improve on the defensive side of the ball so he can fill in at the 8 as well.”
For Fontana, he seems to understand his role within the club. He’s a guy that will earn minutes but at what capacity remains to be seen. That determination rests largely in his own hands. And so far, Fontana has been firing on all cylinders, doing what he can in the present moment to make Curtin and the rest of the technical staff’s future matchday roster decisions as difficult as possible.
He’s also very comfortable within the locker room and as a key player within the organization, which aids in his development as well. He’s never caused any problems or lashed out regarding a lack of playing time. He’s always kept his head down, remained humble, and worked.
“At the end of the day, you have to improve and you have to be the best player you can be,” said Fontana of the Union’s professional, yet positive learning environment. “I feel like I’ve handled that really well in the sense that I’m not showing up and just laughing and joking around. Even though the environment – it’s good, there are jokes – but when it’s time to work, you work.”
Curtin was quick to heap praise on the young midfielder, possibly placing some early expectations on what could be a promising player.
“He’s a guy who is pushing to be in our starting lineup,” said Curtin. “I say that not to put pressure on him but I say that because I believe in him and that’s what the next step is for Anthony is grabbing a hold of minutes and putting together solid performances that make the coaching staff unable to take him off the field. I think that’s where he’s at.”
As for what role Fontana sees himself in this upcoming season, the youngster remained humble in his answer. “Honestly, I think that’s something if you asked me a few months from now I’d have a better answer for you.”
So for now, Fontana will hope to stay healthy and hungry while continuing to push his game to the next level as the 2020 campaign creeps closer and closer.
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Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Graduate of Pennsylvania State University ’16. Interests include sports and history. Follow on twitter for Philly sports news – @MMcClain_PSN
Philadelphia Union writer.