Alejandro Bedoya’s reaction said it all.
Exhausted after another hard fought 90-minute battle with New England, the Union captain had a bewildered look on his face as he shook his head and put his hands on his head over what he had just witnessed: Anthony Fontana win the game on a rocketed shot off a poor clearance to win the game 2-1 in the 95th minute.
“I couldn’t be prouder of him for taking his opportunities tonight,” Bedoya said with Fontana sitting to his left for the post-game press conference. Bedoya expressed confusion when the first question was directed at him instead of the “star of the game.”
For good reason.
Fontana got the scoring started in the 73rd minute with his first goal since last July when a ball in the box fell to him and he chipped Matt Turner. Brenden Aaronson had started the play with a strong run in the box and squared Kacper Przybylko in front of goal but the ball was knocked away right to an open Fontana and he certainly made the most of it.
“The first finish that he has is a next level type of finish to have the awareness there,” head coach Jim Curtin said. “If you look at it Matt Turner gets on it really fast and makes a good play to almost give him no angle to shoot, and to elevate the ball and stay composed at that moment was clinical, but we see that from Anthony in training every week.”
After jumping onto Matt Real’s back when he scored his first MLS goal against the Red Bulls on Sunday, Real returned the favor for the celebration. Both were subs on the night when Curtin’s bench was thin from injury with five players out with injury.
“We see a lot how much work we’ve put in and once it pays off it’s always such a relief,” Fontana said.
That work for Fontana, who had logged just 74 regular season minutes before Saturday night’s game, included practicing the very shot he won the game on.
“I practice that shot a lot,” he said.
Homegrown goalkeeper Matt Freese confirmed publicly that Fontana has indeed practiced that exact shot, a lot.
Little bit of info - Fontana has stayed after practice every single day since we returned from Orlando working on this EXACT shot from this exact angle. So glad those extra reps came to fruition in such a huge moment. Congrats brother! You deserve it, great team win! @MLS https://t.co/48m3OYFBPo— Matt Freese (@Matty_Ice49) September 13, 2020
Fontana taking a star turn is something that feels like it’s been a long time coming. He scored in his MLS debut in 2018 against New England, but has struggled to find consistent first team minutes ever since. His goals were his fourth and fifth career goals in all competitions.
“He had a point in his career again where he could go one of two ways, he could have been upset with not playing and getting minutes and kind of maybe not worked as hard in training but he did the opposite,” Curtin said of the 20-year-old Newark, Del. native. “He worked harder in training, worked harder in the weight room, and that work pays off.”
With Ilsinho and Sergio Santos both unavailable because of injury, Fontana replaced Andrew Wooten up top but then shifted more centrally with Brenden Aaronson and Jack de Vries on the wings in a 4-2-3-1 in stoppage time.
“We put Anthony at the 10 with the idea being that Brenden could do the running out wide on the right, and Anthony could be on the ball centrally where he’s very goal dangerous,” Curtin said. “Once de Vries came in and we went to a 4-2-3-1 it changed things a little bit but I can’t take credit for when a guy hits the ball in the upper corner from 20 plus yards out. That’s all Anthony.”