The Union have signed Anthony Fontana as the club's sixth Homegrown player.
"There's not a better feeling than this," Fontana said. "There's been a lot of hard work to get this done and I couldn't be happier right now."
Currently with the Union's farm club, Bethlehem Steel, the promising 17-year-old box-to-box midfielder from Newark, Del., will officially join the senior team on Jan. 1, 2018, saving the club a roster spot for the duration of 2017.
Until then, Fontana has a plan.
"It's just about going in everyday, improving and getting better at every little thing," he said. "Keep improving the strong points in my game and improve every day, hopefully going into next year a way better player. We'll go from there."
So, why announce this now, in the middle of the Union's MLS season? Union sporting director Earnie Stewart didn't want Fontana to slip away.
"When you have good players you have to lock them down," he said. "We live in a country where academy players can leave for zero dollars to other clubs. For us, it's important to lock down those players as soon possible."
Union manager Jim Curtin, who has known of Fontana since the player was eight years old, has been impressed with his poise, which was put on display Saturday in a friendly against Swansea. The youngster was brought in for Derrick Jones with 15 minutes to play and he put on a show, flashing confidence on the ball.
"Fearlessness is the one thing that jumps out," Curtin said. "Where Earnie and I get excited is when we see young players that aren't scared to go into preseason games against top MLS players, to go into this past weekend against Premier League plays and not be nervous. He has talent. He's a very good player with a bright future."
The highlight of Fontana's game started when he gained the right side of the box before pulling the ball from right-to-left, fooling the Premier League defender and rocketing off a left-footed shot that just missed frame.
"I'm a box-to-box midfielder that is comfortable in any situation, whether defending or attacking," Fontana said. "I can score goals."
Fontana will join Auston Trusty and Jones as a Homegrown Player on the Union roster. He opened eyes over the last two seasons with Steel, making 13 appearances, and his elevated play earned him an invitation to Union preseason camp in Florida, where he made two appearances in the 2017 Suncoast Invitational tournament.
It was there that Stewart saw an advanced aspect of Fontana's game.
"Decision making is a great part of his game and that is one of the thing you look for with academy players, how they encounter situations and what kind of solutions they find," Stewart said. "He's an exciting prospect and we are very pleased that we signed him."