Anthony Fontana poised for larger role with Philadelphia Union in Phase 2

Anthony Fontana admitted to watching his game-winning goal from Saturday's win over the New England Revolution a few times on repeat in the days after.

But the Philadelphia Union midfielder did not have to watch it too many times because it is an action he has replicated many times in training over the last few months.

“In all seriousness, because there were two I had to split the love. Probably about 5-10 each," Fontana told Fox Sports The Gambler.

"I do think that a lot of is because of the extra reps. When those situations come up in the games, it’s like I’ve been here before. It means a little more now," Fontana said. "Obviously we work on more than just shooting, we work on everything. That’s personally how I think we get it right and that’s why it looks so good when it comes off."

Fontana is one of many Union players that have put in the extra effort during the sessions, and afterward, to improve the minute details of their respective games.

For Fontana, that became most apparent Saturday, when he netted both of the Union's goals, the second of which occurred in the fifth minute of stoppage time.

The 20-year-old Delaware native has only played in 99 minutes for the Union in 2020, but he is on the path to making a bigger difference than in years past. In his first two seasons, Fontana produced two goals and an assist in 217 regular-season minutes.

“The thing you forget about Anthony is he’s still at a young age and that’s with four or five of professional years under his belt, which is incredible for how young he is," Union manager Jim Curtin said Friday. "He’s only going to get better. We know his quality around the goal. That showed through in our last game."

Fontana drew motivation from not playing in the first four games of Phase 1. He appeared in a 14-minute stint against the New York Red Bulls and then participated for 25 minutes in the victory over the Revs.

“Over the past month or two, I’ve just used everything as motivation and worked even harder," Fontana said.

“I don’t really take it personal. I do think I deserve more time, but what player doesn’t? I haven’t really been too angry and too frustrated. I just think that for me personally, instead of being angry and frustrated, I feel like I just took it as motivation to put in a few more reps than everyone else," Fontana said.

"If you play too angry or are too emotional sometimes it doesn’t end too well, but I know some players playing angry sometimes they play even better. It’s all different because there have been some games where I’ve played angry and others where I’ve been angry and it’s been too much in my head," Fontana said.

Since the Union listed five players as questionable on the injury report ahead of Saturday's game, Fontana was more prepared to play in a bigger role, and with that came a relaxed mentality.

“A game like Saturday because I know I’m most likely going to get a better amount of minutes, just mentally I prepared for that and I felt really confident all day. Everything felt like it was going to be smooth and I feel like when I just let things happen and things play out like they should, everything goes well," Fontana said.

Fontana has followed a similar path as Matt Real in the last few games as Homegrown fringe players receiving a large chance to make an impact. Fontana and Real are close friends and have driven themselves to get better throughout their years together in the first team.

“Everyone knows me and Matt are really close friends," Fontana said. "We have been in similar situations in terms of we’re two really good players and are pushing for minutes. Maybe we haven’t always gotten as many minutes as we’ve wanted, but we always keep each other as positive and as focused as possible."

“It’s very easy to throw your arms up and sit back and almost give up. I’ve seen players do that, but for us, whenever the motivation isn’t there, we tell the other to keep going and keep pushing. We help each other in that way," Fontana said.

“After the goals, we keep each other grounded too," Fontana continued. "At the end of the day, the goal that he scored and my goals from this past weekend are only just that. They are in the past. We just want to help each other improve."

It isn't just Real and Fontana that have stayed after training to receive more reps. The entire collection of Homegrown Players have put in extra work recently to get sharper.

“I think with all of our Homegrowns, there’s a certain element of they all pull for each other," Curtin said. "I think that’s demonstrated when Matt Real scores against Red Bull, Anthony is the first one there to celebrate with him. Conversely, when Anthony gets his goal, Matt’s there to celebrate with him.

“They pull for each other," Curtin said. "Even though they are young, they kind of feed off each other’s energy. If Brenden is staying after, Anthony will stay with him and then Jack De Vries will join in and Cole Turner as well. They hold each other accountable. They’ve been doing a lot more after practice, in the weight room, in the film room, all those different things that make you ready for the moment that Anthony got."

Fontana performed so well Saturday that Curtin confirmed the midfielder will play some type of role in Sunday's clash with the Montreal Impact at Red Bull Arena. Jose Martinez is suspended for yellow-card accumulation and Warren Creavalle is working back from an injury that kept him out of the last game.

"He’s improving every day," Curtin said. "He’s certainly an option and I can just say he’ll definitely play a role in the game, whether it’s as a starter or off the bench is to be determined. We’re happy with where Anthony is at and last week was a big step in his development."

“That’s a hard thing to do. To be always ready and always on call so that when your opportunity does come, you grab a hold of it and don’t let it go. Anthony did that," Curtin said.

Photo courtesy of Philadelphia Union.

All Philadelphia Union games can be heard on Fox Sports The Gambler. Pregame coverage begins Sunday at 6:30 p.m. ET.

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