It took fewer than two minutes for Julián Carranza to score his first Union goal.

That was the big news out of Thursday’s preseason opener, a 1-1 tie with FC Cincinnati in Clearwater, Fla.

Carranza started next to Sergio Santos as the Union returned to their preferred 4-4-2 formation to start the year. Kai Wagner started the play that led to the goal with a great pass down the left wing that set Santos free, then Santos squared for Carranza, who was sprinting toward the back post to deliver the finish.

“His work rate has been excellent, his speed to get in behind is very good, but also to have soft feet to get out of a tight space,” manager Jim Curtin said of Carranza. “We want to get him, in this style of play, goals like today — where it’s not that he has to dribble through three or four guys, it’s that his movement in the box is very good, and Sergio gives him a great cross and he gets a tap-in.”

Santos lasted only 38 minutes before leaving with a cramp. While he was hobbling, Cincinnati’s Yuya Kubo tied the score.

Nelson Pierre, a 16-year-old academy player from Harrisburg, replaced Santos.

Not surprisingly, both teams substituted most of their teams for the second half. The Union’s new lineup included another academy prospect, Bajung Darboe, a 15-year-old who’s a big one to watch.

Originally from Madison, Wis., Darboe started his soccer pathway in Minnesota United’s academy. When the Loons shut down their full-time academy teams in the fall of 2020, the Union’s staff recruited Darboe to come here. They were very happy when he said yes. He is in the U.S. national team pool that could be part of next year’s under-17 World Cup.

» READ MORE: Jim Curtin can’t help but be excited about the best Union team he’s had

Another academy player, 18-year-old Jack Jasinski, entered the game in 55th minute. The Charlotte, N.C., native played nine games for the Union’s reserve team in the USL Championship in 2020. Jasinski is going to Princeton next fall, but Curtin expects him to be “a 10-year pro” when he leaves college.

Curtin indicated he won’t try to talk Jasinski out of the opportunity to get an Ivy League education, in part cause Curtin got in to Princeton back in the day but ended up not going there.

“It’s one of my biggest regrets, not taking that opportunity,” Curtin said. “There’s almost an ethical thing with me, and the kid is ready to be a pro, but also it’s such a great education. We’ll find what makes sense for both groups.”

The game’s last substitution saw the debut of an academy product who just turned pro, Anton Sorenson. He replaced José Martínez in the 74th minute, after Martínez had entered the game at halftime.

That Martínez played at all was surprising, as he had just gotten to town the night before after starting two games for Venezuela’s national team in World Cup qualifying. But he was up to get a few minutes of action.

One more name to know is Brandan Craig, who played the second half. He turned pro last year but did not play in any games. He is likely to see the field at some point this year, and has already been scouted by European teams including England’s Liverpool.

» READ MORE: Union sign Anton Sorenson, a promising left back prospect from the team’s youth academy

Who didn’t play

The notable absentees were Jack Elliott, Andre Blake, Cory Burke, Olivier Mbaizo, Mikael Uhre, and Jamiro Monteiro.

Elliott was held out for what Curtin called “a little bit of a groin — I won’t even call it a strain. … I don’t think it’ll be anything that keeps him out moving forward. Hopefully he can train even tomorrow.”

Blake, Burke, and Mbaizo were away on national team duty. The first two were en route back from Jamaica’s national team, which unfortunately lost all three of its World Cup qualifiers in the recent stretch and was eliminated from contention for Qatar.

Blake played every minute of those games, against Mexico, Panama and Costa Rica. He saved penalty kicks in the last two. Burke’s only appearance was in the middle game, when he started and was subbed out at halftime.

Mbaizo is still with Cameroon’s team at the Africa Cup of Nations. He was not on the game-day squad for Thursday’s semifinal against Egypt and watched from the sidelines as the Indomitable Lions lost on penalty kicks.

Cameroon will play Burkina Faso in the third-place game on Saturday (11 a.m., beIN Sports Xtra). Egypt led by Mohamed Salah, will face fellow Liverpool star Sadio Mané's Senegal in the final on Sunday (2 p.m., beIN Sports Xtra).

Uhre and Monteiro are dealing with visa paperwork. Curtin said the Union are “working as hard and as fast as possible” to get Uhre into the United States, while Monteiro is finalizing the process of getting his wife and children here.

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