The Union have heavily invested in the youth movement these past couple of years, developing the foundation for the first-team to succeed.
Since July of 2016, the Union have signed three players to homegrown contracts, players who have been developed from the Academy and have become important members of the present and future of the Union first-team.
The first player was Derrick Jones, who signed his homegrown contract in July 2016, becoming the very first player to go from the Union Academy to Bethlehem Steel FC to the Union. Jones was Bethlehem Steel FC's very first contract, which he signed in the beginning of 2016. He spent the 2016 season developing his game with the USL club, where he scored five goals and added three assists in 26 games played.
Jones impressed the Union in 2017 preseason, and he started the season as a holding mid for the Union, becoming the first player to start a game at all three levels in the Union organization. He's appeared in 11 matches for the Union in the 2017 season, starting eight, while starting 10 more matches for Steel FC.
Where Jones really impressed this season though was at the U-20 FIFA World Cup, where he suited up for the U-20 US Men's National Team. Jones was thrust into the starting lineup after an injury, and was a key player for the team. He made four appearances, three of which were starts, and his hold-up play significantly helped the U-20 USMNT advance to the quarterfinals.
His U-20 USMNT teammate Auston Trusty was the Union's second Academy player to sign a homegrown contract with the Union. Trusty didn't see the pitch as much as Jones in the U-20 World Cup, but he made his playing time count, as he scored the first goal in any World Cup as a member of the Union in the US's Round of 16 match.
Trusty has been one of the Union's highest-rated prospect for the past few seasons, and he's lived up to the hype. He started his professional career shortly after Jones, as he signed his homegrown contract in August of 2016. He played the 2016 season with Bethlehem Steel FC, where he appeared in 19 games and logged more than 1700 minutes as a defender.
In 2017, Trusty has started in 21 matches for Steel FC, playing nearly 1900 minutes, with four games to play. He has a 73.4 percent passing rating over the course of the season, including an 86.4 percent passing rating in the defending half. He also has 75 clearances, 17 blocks and 56 interceptions. He also made his first Union appearance when he started at centerback against Swansea City AFC in the team’s international friendly.
The Union's most recent homegrown signing, Anthony Fontana, is the third consecutive player to graduate from the Academy to a contract for the first team. Fontana signed his contract with the Union in July of 2017, coming just two days after his first appearance with the playing, against Swansea. At 17 years old, he's also the Union youngest signing ever.
Fontana made eight appearances for Steel FC as he was a member of the Union Academy, and has made 11 appearances this season at Steel FC, seven of which were starts. He has an 81.3 percent passing accuracy this season with Steel FC and has taken 14 shots, five of which have found its way on net.
These three players present the future of the Union, and the team is starting to see the benefits of the youth movement. Jones and fellow rookie Jack Elliott were named to MLS's 50 best players under 24 years of age, and Trusty and Fontana shouldn't be too far behind. These three players, paired up with youngsters such as Elliott, Keegan Rosenberry, Marcus Epps and more, present the future of the Union.
Grab your sunglasses, because the future looks bright.