Real, McKenzie, Fontana U-20s

The United States Under-20 National Team bulldozed their competition in the group stage of qualifying for the 2019 U-20 World Cup, and Philadelphia Union players were at the heart of it all.
After slipping past Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, and Trinidad & Tobago without much resistance, the Americans had to deal with Suriname and St. Vincent and the Grenadines to ensure they topped the group stage of qualification. With Anthony Fontana, Mark McKenzie, and captain Matthew Real leading the way, the US did the business.
Fontana took center stage against St. Vincent. After a scoreless first half, the US scored in the first minute of the second frame through Juan Pablo Torres, and then Fontana spent the next 40 minutes flashing his quality. He set up Ulysses Llanez in the 59th minute through a set play in which he one-timed a pass behind the St. Vincent wall. Next, in the 66th, he stepped up to Isaac Angking’s pass and fired it home from the top of the box. Fontana was well-positioned in the 81st minute to pump home a rebound after St. Vincent goalie Jellando John dropped a cross. The hat trick was completed in the 86th when a handball in the box offered Fontana a chance from the spot. Although the initial shot was blocked, the Union midfielder tucked home the rebound.
Against Suriname, Mark McKenzie returned to the lineup and took the captain’s armband. Matt Real sat out both the St. Vincent and the Grenadines match and the Suriname showdown since the Americans already had established their dominance in the group and the Union defender was on a yellow card, so a second could have seen him suspended.
With both Real and Fontana on the bench, McKenzie took the scoring load onto his shoulders. After Alex Mendez curled in a delightful opener from a dead ball, he picked out McKenzie off a short corner. The center back rose and powered home the second US goal from the center of the box in the 26th minute.
The Americans added five more goals, with Mendez and Ayo Akinola nabbing two apiece. They finished the group stage with 39 goals scored and only two conceded; the other five members of their group scored 55 goals combined.
Next up, the United States proceeds to the qualification stage of the tournament. As the winner of Group A, the Americans will face Group E winners Costa Rica on November 16 (7:30PM ET on Univision Deportes/CONCACAF GO) and Group C winners Honduras on November 19 (8:00PM ET on Univision Deportes/CONCACAF GO). Head coach Tab Ramos called in two defenders and a striker for the qualification stage and Anthony Fontana was one of the midfielders released as a result of the change in squad depth. Mark McKenzie and Matt Real will remain with the U-20s and look to qualify for the World Cup and secure the CONCACAF championship. The top two teams in each 3-team round robin qualify for the cup, and the top team in each round robin group meet for the championship.