Brenden Aaronson’s exit from the Philadelphia Union left a major hole in the club’s attacking front, but head coach Jim Curtin already has one option thriving to take the No. 10 role in 2021.
Anthony Fontana delivered many top moments for the team last season, helping the Eastern Conference side lift a first-ever trophy in club history. The now fourth-year midfielder delivered a career-best six goals last season in 18 combined league appearances, coming off the bench in 13 of those matches.
Fontana, 21, has continued to develop into a consistent professional for the Union and will certainly get his shot at more minutes starting this April.
“Anthony certainly, like I said before, we’re going to give the keys to,” Curtin said in a conference call with media. “He’s done a good job so far in the preseason.”
“Still working on some things, but overall happy with where he is. And yes, right now he’s in that position for the No. 10. Obviously like I said, though, Jamiro [Monteiro], it can look like two 10’s at times. We’re working with him to get him on the ball as much as possible as well because he’s such a special player.”
Fontana was eased into the start of his Union career from 2018-19, totaling two goals and one assist in 13 appearances. Since then, he’s broke onto the scene by scoring some top goals for the club last season, including a game-winner against the New England Revolution.
After being mainly used off the bench during his three previous seasons, Fontana will need to be ready for starting opportunities in 2021. Fontana and Monteiro will both be in the running to pull the strings in the Union’s 4-4-2 diamond formation as the club tries to return to the playoffs and also impress in its first-ever appearance in the Concacaf Champions League this April.
“We’re still working with him on when is it right to just stay where you’re open, because he has a tendency to run all over and kind of search for the ball and get touches on it,” Curtin said.
“Our stressing to him now is, I’d rather him touch the ball two or three times a half in a really, really dangerous position that sets up a goal where he’s dangerous than have him come back just to lay balls back to our center backs and get touches that way. He’s done a good job.”
Fontana appeared in the Union’s first friendly this preseason, a 1-0 loss to Orlando City and will have a few more weeks to prepare for a CCL Round of 16 two-legged series with Costa Rican powerhouse Deportivo Saprissa. The Union will travel to San Juan for a first leg match on April 7th before returning to Subaru Park on April 14th to close out the series.
The defending Supporters’ Shield winners open its regular season schedule on April 18th at 2020 MLS Cup winners, Columbus Crew, a major opportunity for Fontana to kick off his domestic season in style.