Countdown: 15

Countdown to 2018 Home Opener: Homegrowns

When the Union start their 2018 regular season campaign in March, they will have five homegrown players on their roster.

After just recently completing the signings for defenders Matt Real and Mark McKenzie in January, the duo will join three other Homegrown Players on the 2018 roster.

Prior to joining the Union, Matt Real had a tremendous season with Bethlehem Steel FC in 2017. Real started 17 games last season, where he tallied one goal and one assist.

Real starred for the Union Academy as well, as he appeared in 46 matches between the U-16 and U-18 Academy teams.

Now that Real has gone through the Union system with the club’s Academy and USL affiliate, Real looks to complete the “Path to the Pros” when he steps onto the pitch this season as a member of the First Team.

Defender Mark McKenzie had a slightly different path to the Union than Real, but still had success along the way.

The 18-year-old recently finished his freshman season as a center back for Wake Forest University. He appeared in 16 matches and helped the Demon Deacons to a remarkable 19-2-2 record and a run in the NCAA Tournament.

Prior to Wake Forest, McKenzie appeared in 26 matches for the Union U-18 squad as well as appearing in eight matches for Steel FC as an amateur.

Midfielder Derrick Jones proved to be the example for the club. Jones not only started the season opener against the Vancouver Whitecaps last season, but he is the first player to complete the “Path to the Pros” as well.

The Ghana native truly climbed the ranks of the Union system, as Jones is the first player to play for the Union Academy, Bethlehem Steel FC, and Philadelphia Union.

The young midfielder appeared in 12 matches for the Union last season, while starting eight of them. Jones was able to tally five shots and one shot on goal in 702 minutes last season.

Defender Auston Trusty has raised quite a few eyebrows in preseason training. Last week, Trusty was the only Union player to play all 90 minutes in a highly contested scrimmage with Chicago Fire.

In 2017, Trusty appeared and started in 25 games for Bethlehem Steel FC where he totaled 2,250 minutes played. The 19-year-old defender also played in Steel FC’s first-ever playoff match last season.

After starting for the Union in a friendly against Swansea, Trusty looks to get some regular season minutes this season with the First Team.

Trusty isn’t the only turning heads at preseason this year, as midfielder Anthony Fontana has been solid so far in preseason camp.

Fontana made eight appearances in 2016 with Steel FC, before signing a Homegrown contract with the Union in the summer of 2017.

For the 2017 season, Fontana appeared in 11 matches for Steel FC which included seven starts.

The youngster also earned playing time in the summer friendly against English side Swansea City A.F.C.

Fontana has impressed so much in preseason so far, Head coach Jim Curtin let the 18-year-old wear the captain’s armband in the third session of a scrimmage against New York Red Bulls this past month.

2018 can be the year for all these youngsters, as the youth movement truly has begun in Philadelphia.

You can catch the young guns and the rest of the Union take on New England Revolution in the team's Home Opener, presented by Oliver Heating and Cooling on March 3. Tickets for the match can be found here.

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