Anthony Fontana

Adama Diomande's hat trick sinks Union in 1st meeting with expansion LAFC

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Adama Diomande's hat trick sinks Union in 1st meeting with expansion LAFC

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LOS ANGELES — Adama Diomande spoiled the Union’s first trip to Banc of California Stadium with Los Angeles FC’s first hat trick in franchise history.

In front of 22,000 fans at the recently opened soccer stadium in the Exposition Park neighborhood of L.A. on Saturday, Diomande lifted expansion LAFC to a 4-1 win over the Union.

The result ended a modest two-game winning streak for the Union, who fell to 1-6-1 on the road this year. LAFC, on pace to be the best MLS expansion team ever, remained unbeaten at home with a 4-0-3 record and a 9-4-3 overall mark.

• The Union had no answer for Diomande, who now has a whopping seven goals in the past four games. The 28-year-old Norwegian twisted Mark McKenzie into a pretzel before firing a shot past Andre Blake to the far post to open the scoring in the 25th minute.

• Diomande’s second goal came in the 43rd minute when he tapped it in following a very nice string of passes with Benny Feilhaber and Mark Anthony-Kaye notching the assists. He completed the hat trick in the 55th minute when a cross from Latif Blessing cross got loose and he collided with Blake in the process.

• Latif Blessing tacked on the team's fourth goal deep into stoppage time with the outcome already decided.

• It was mostly a rough night for the Homegrown center back pairing of Auston Trusty and Mark McKenzie. Union head coach Jim Curtin has said before he can’t recreate these kinds of long trips and daunting environments for the teenagers, so games like these should be expected.

• The Union had two golden scoring chances in the first half. In the 11th minute, C.J. Sapong misplayed a ball from Alejandro Bedoya and couldn’t get off a wide-open shot before Marcus Epps skied the rebound. In the 28th minute, Bedoya had a header saved off the goal line by Joao Moutinho and Auston Trusty was high on the follow.

• David Accam, who’s been glued to the bench for most of June, entered the game in the 62nd minute but couldn’t provide much of a spark, save for a run in stoppage time. He and Sapong, who were expected to be the team’s top two scorers this year, have combined for only two goals through the first 17 games.

• Anthony Fontana, the Union’s teenage midfielder, made only his second league appearance since March.

• LAFC, the league’s highest-scoring team, nearly had another goal but Lee Nguyen was called offside after hitting home a rebound after Blessing hit the post late in the match.

• LAFC remained one of only five teams who are unbeaten at home this year. 

Youthful Union crush Kickers in U.S. Open Cup debut

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Youthful Union crush Kickers in U.S. Open Cup debut

CHESTER, Pa. — Behind a youthful roster that featured Anthony Fontana, Marcis Epps, Matt Real and Derrick Jones, the Union easily topped USL’s Richmond Kickers on Tuesday, 5-0, at Talen Energy Stadium in the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup.

The win advances the Union to the Round of 16, which takes place on June 20, or earlier depending on a flex schedule. They will find out their competition and whether they will host the next game following a regional draw on Thursday. 

• The Kickers entered Tuesday’s sparsely populated match sitting 14th in the USL’s Eastern Conference at 3-6-1. They defeated Reading United in PKs, then took down Penn FC, 3-2, in late May to advance to Talen Energy Stadium. That’s where their road ended.

• It took less than five minutes for the Union to claim the lead, when center back Jack Elliott easily fired home a redirection of a cross from Haris Medunjanin. Although it came easy for the big man, it wasn’t a typical sight, as Elliott scored only once last season.

• David Accam, who has had a nightmarish season in MLS, set his club up for success in the 27th minute, feeding a lead pass to Cory Burke. In a race for the ball, Burke was clipped by goalkeeper Trevor Spangenberg for the penalty kick. 

• Making his way to the spot, Accam lined up and powered it in for his first goal of 2018 and first with the Union. He celebrated in relief as the hosts took the 2-0 advantage.

• Fontana made it 3-0, when he snagged a Kickers’ turnover and moved into the box. Looking to shoot the entire time, he ripped a shot through Spangenberg. That’s two 2018 starts and two goals for the local product. He also graduates high school on Friday.

• The youth brigade continued for the Union when Epps followed Fontana with a pretty goal of his own. Moving down the right side of the box, he dropped his defender before cutting left and giving his club the 4-0 lead at half.

• The Union’s in-house web stream for the game failed to launch, which is probably a fortunate thing for the Kickers, who were dismantled. Four goals is the most the Union have ever scored in a half in the Open Cup.

• Moving into the second half, Jones made a nice goal-line feed to Jay Simpson, who entered at the half for Burke, for the Union’s fifth. It was a doghouse goal for the Union, as both players have been lost in the Union’s sea of depth in 2018.

• In the 62nd minute, 18-year-old Michee Ngalina made his Union debut, subbing in for Epps. The Bethlehem Steel winger was acquired in April. His highlight? He missed a wide-open header, chipping it wide. 

• John McCarthy grabbed the clean sheet for the Union. He’s been the go-to Union goalkeeper in the Open Cup the last couple years and has played well. He made one save.

The kids are finally all right for Union in season-opening win

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The kids are finally all right for Union in season-opening win

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CHESTER, Pa. — For years, the Union have yelled from the rooftops about their youth-first mentality and plan to win through player development.

On Saturday night, that plan finally came to fruition.

"It's a big step for us," Union manager Jim Curtin said. "The fact that some homegrowns weren't just on the field but left huge impacts on the game, it's special."

Anthony Fontana, 18, Auston Trusty, 19, and Derrick Jones, 21, all put their stamp on the Union's 2-0 season-opening win over the Revolution.

Fontana, hailing from Newark, Delaware, and who played 66 minutes at attacking midfield, opened up his MLS account in the 43rd minute when he gathered a tipped ball from C.J. Sapong and placed a confident shot past Matt Turner. 

“It’s always been a dream of mine to play here at this club,” Fontana said. “To be able to actually help the team today feels good.”

His teammates also couldn’t be happier. That includes Union and former U.S. Men’s National Team captain Alejandro Bedoya, who took Fontana under his wing throughout the preseason.

“I’m so happy for him,” Bedoya said. “He’s a good player so I hope he takes a good step this season. Not a bad way to start his debut, to score a goal. It’s just the beginning for him, he’s got a bright future.”

For Trusty, it was all about the clean sheet. Pairing with Jack Elliott on the left side of the Union defensive line, Trusty had the unenviable job of shutting down the Revs’ most potent option, Juan Agudelo. 

“It means a lot, but it’s also the challenge,” Trusty said. “The coach put me up to it and our organization put me up to it and they believe I can do it. I just set out to fulfill my role, do my task and keep the clean sheet and just play my role on the team.”

At one point in the first half, Agudelo beat Trusty and moved in on a breakaway, only for the rookie to catch up and steal the ball back.

“He made a couple key tackles in the box, won a lot of aerial duels in the box, did a lot of the things that don’t show up in the stat sheet for center backs,” Curtin said. “But the thing that makes me most proud is there was a zero at the end of the day. That’s what is most important. That means Auston did the job.” 

And while the win was a productive introduction for the Union’s crop of talented prospects, it was also an unforgettable experience for the local kids.

“It’s amazing,” Trusty said. “Imagine growing up in the Philadelphia area, being a little kid and coming to see these guys play, to be on the same field. I remember buying a ticket and coming to see these guys play and always dreamed of playing for the Union. For it to actually happen is amazing. It’s very humbling. I’m just happy to be a part of it.”