Anthony Fontana Union vs. Richmond Kickers

RE-DOOP: Youth Movement

The Philly Five: Auston Trusty, Mark McKenzie, Anthony Fontana, Derrick Jones, Matt Real. The success of the Union’s youth movement is recognized throughout Major League Soccer as the club’s five homegrown players develop into everyday first team players. Trusty and McKenzie are already there; Jones, the only one of the five not called into the MLS Homegrown Game, promptly responded with a commanding performance in his first start of the season.

But these five homegrown players are just the leading edge of what will soon be a steady flow of young, local talent. Bethlehem Steel currently relies on 17-year old Brenden Aaronson as a playmaker, with Olivier Mbaizo growing in stature each week at right back. Young Ben Ofiemu is pushing for a place in central defense for Steel, and Michee Ngalina has been a revelation off the wing in USL.

Selmir Miscic and Patrick Bohui are rising quickly through the academy ranks, and Paxten Aaronson is not far behind. And this week Tab Ramos called up goalie Kris Shakes and attacker Axel Picazo for the USMNT U-18s trip to the Vaclav Jezek youth tournament in the Czech Republic.

The Union’s dedication to investing in youth development accelerated under former Sporting Director Earnie Stewart and finding minutes for young players within the club is a foundational pillar of new Sporting Director Ernst Tanner’s philosophy. From a growing pre-academy to a strong USL squad that plays the same style of soccer as the first team, the Union have committed to a long-term model of success that can appeal to both fans of exciting soccer — as Ernst Tanner has said, young players want to run and play hard, not sit deep and wait — and top young players who want to join a club with a clear path to the first team.

The league has noticed the success of the Union’s youth program, and Spanish superstar David Villa certainly noticed it when Auston Trusty shut him down at Talen Energy Stadium. But the talent that has made it to the field thus far is just the start of something far bigger. The pipeline of American talent runs through Philly, and the flow is only going to grow stronger in the current years.

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