Anthony Fontana hasn’t played 90 total minutes of soccer in his professional career, never mind one full game.
Yet how is it that the Union’s only win this year was also Fontana’s only start? Does that mean something?
It shouldn’t, given how little evidence there is to work with. That one start was the Union’s season opener, in which Fontana played 65 minutes. He played 13 minutes in the game after that, and just eight in the next one.
But the 18-year-old Newark, Del., native did enough in that limited time to show that he deserved more. And not just because he got one of only three goals the Union (1-2-2, 5 points) have scored all year.
Fontana hasn’t gotten more time, though. He didn’t play at all in the last three games.
“Anthony is a guy who’s done nothing wrong,” Union manager Jim Curtin said. “He’s been excellent in training for us when he’s played minutes, so we’re happy with where Anthony’s at. Obviously Borek [Dockal] has been brought in to play that No. 10 position.”
That last sentence was the true answer. The Union signed Dockal to be The Guy. And because he didn’t join the team until just before the season started, he’s still building chemistry with the players around him.
But that can’t fully excuse the Czech playmaker’s lack of major impact so far. He’s recorded just one assist and 11 shots — three officially on goal — in five games.
According to well-regarded soccer statistics website WhoScored.com, Dockal has 1.8 key passes per game, a measurement of chance creation. That ranks 41st in MLS.
Curtin said this week he thinks Dockal “has done a good job,” but acknowledged that it hasn’t been enough.
“The players around him are still adjusting to his quality and ability to see things that maybe other people don’t,” Curtin said. “Things maybe haven’t clicked yet. … We know that our entire attacking group is one that has a lot of quality, and I’m still confident that they’ll break out.”
For all the limitations of the Union’s roster, Curtin does control who plays. It was his decision to use just two of his three available substitutions in last weekend’s 2-0 loss at FC Dallas. Both his moves brought in attackers, but Fontana wasn’t one of them.
“We didn’t want to make another change,” Curtin said. “Do you do a straight swap, Anthony for Borek? Yeah, it’s a possibility. But we thought Borek was one of the most likely guys to get us a goal in that situation.”
Meanwhile, Fontana waits.
“It’s been frustrating,” he said. “Any time you don’t get the results you want, it’s annoying. Personally, obviously, every player wants to play. But I’m just coming in every day, working hard, and once I get the opportunity, once I get another shot, I’ll try and take it.”
New bus service to Union games
Saturday’s game against D.C. United (3:55 p.m., UniMás) brings the launch of the Union’s shuttle service to Talen Energy Stadium from locations in Center City, University City and the Sports Complex. Round-trip tickets cost $15 and must be purchased online from the Union’s website. Buses will leave two hours before kickoff, and ticket sales will close two hours before that. Click here for more details.
Union vs. D.C. United
Saturday, 3:55 p.m. at Talen Energy Stadium
TV/online streaming: UniMás in Spanish and English. TV coverage begins at 3:30, but the English audio feed won’t start until just before kickoff. Access it via the SAP function on your TV’s remote control. For complete instructions, go to mlssoccer.com/SAP. Online streaming is in English at twitter.com/MLS, and in Spanish at univision.com/sports. Both are free of charge, but Univision’s stream requires authentication through participating TV providers. Comcast is not one of them.
Union’s record: 1-2-2, 5 points (10th in the East); 1-1-2 at home
D.C.’s record: 1-3-2, 5 points (9th in the East on a goal-difference tiebreaker); 0-3-1 on the road
Series history: Union 11 wins, D.C. 10 wins, 4 ties
At Talen Energy Stadium (and Lincoln Financial Field): Union 8 wins, D.C. 3 wins, 0 ties
D.C. players to watch
D Chris Durkin: The Union aren’t the only team with a good young centerback. Durkin, 18, played for the U.S. at last year’s FIFA Under-17 World Cup, and has played in every game for D.C. this year.
GK David Ousted or Steve Clark: Ousted is atop the depth chart, but missed last weekend’s game with a foot injury. Clark pitched a shutout. Who starts? United coach Ben Olsen joked this week that he’d “flip a coin.” Don’t be surprised if it comes up Clark.