Mike da Fonte came to a New York Red Bulls II team exceptionally light on defense and experience, and managed to provide plenty of both for the new New York USL team. He led the team in minutes last year (at 2003), playing 25 of 28 games, starting 23 of them. Though naturally a fullback, da Fonte spent the large part of the season partnered with Konrad Plewa at centerback, as the team lacked any natural central defenders. Though rarely exceptional, there was not a more consistent player on NYRBII last year. His willingness to forgo the glory and sweep up for everyone else allowed a young team to survive, not have its confidence shattered, and find its footing by midyear. It's hard to really gel as a team when over 35 players feature for the team over the course of the year, but da Fonte managed to put in solid performances day in and day out, despite being played out of position and with an ever changing cast of characters in front of him.
He's good but not great in the air, strong in the tackle, and has a slightly more technical style to the centerback position due to his roots as a fullback. I'd be interested to see where he plays for Sacramento. His ability to step up and intercept a pass to stop an attack before it starts was a little lacking, granted that's not how he was asked to play, as he was the largely the covering centerback of the tandem.
On the covering side of the game, his recovery tackles were excellent, and he consistently did well at showing his opponent outside to the fullbacks or holding them off until support of the defensive midfielders arrived. It honestly came as a surprise when the team didn't have his option picked up at the end of the year, though to be fair very few people had their contract picked up.
Is Mike da Fonte going to run the gambit in USL next year and get himself signed by some MLS team, à la David Romney? Probably not. But is Mike da Fonte capable of providing exceptionally solid, consistent performances for Sacramento, either in the center of defense or on the flanks? Certainly. Would I take him back on NYRBII next year as either a starter or bench player? No question.