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Julian Carranza’s restart with the Philadelphia Union one of the year’s best stories

Taking a look back at how the Union’s second-leading goal scorer bounced back after an under-the-radar loan move.

Carl Gulbish

One word that Inter Miami fans would use to sum up Julian Carranza’s time with the club? Disappointing.

At least that’s the language that SB Nation writer Saul Garcia used when Brotherly Game first asked him about the Union’s newest attacking acquisition in December 2021.

To Garcia’s credit, he recognized the potential that Carranza had, despite his struggles in Miami.

“He’s got talent, that much is clear. He was moderately successful in Argentina and failed in Miami. I do think with a stable team and coaching staff he can double his numbers,” he said.

Garcia undershot Carranza’s production numbers. In nearly 1,300 minutes played with Inter Miami, the Argentine scored just three goals and registered no assists. In just over 2,200 minutes with the Union in 2022, he scored 14 goals and registered nine assists.

Carranza tripled the number of shots he took in Philadelphia, and increased his shot-to-shots on target rate from 24% to 40%. He was also part of the most prolific attacking trio in Major League Soccer, where he, Mikael Uhre, and Daniel Gazdag combined for 49 goals.

While Carranza was not supposed to be the Union’s most prominent attacking signing of the 2021-’22 offseason, he frequently took the wheel as Uhre took time to get acclimated to playing in the United States.

While Uhre had a slower start to the season and failed to score in his first five games, Carranza recorded three goals in that same space. Carranza’s numbers weren’t the best in MLS, but after a performance against LAFC, the Argentine’s value soon became recognized.

A curling ball to earn a 2-2 draw on the road became the highlight of the match, and a cap to an exciting start to the season for Carranza. His connection with Gazdag was clear, and he was enjoying the soccer he was playing for Philadelphia.

“[Daniel and I] understand each other even more and it’s showing on the field,” he said after that match at Banc of California Stadium.

However, in the back of the Carranza discussion’s in Philadelphia was always a harsh truth: Inter Miami still owned his contract. With how the forward had started to play in Philadelphia, his old club may be less likely to want to sell him without realizing his full potential.

After that LAFC match, Carranza began to take a back seat in the Union’s attack. He failed to score for the next seven matches and only registered one assist in that time.

However, if there’s any way to break a dry spell, it would be Carranza’s hat trick in the Union’s historic 7-0 thrashing of D.C. United.

A few days later, the forward earned a full contract with the Union. Philadelphia paid just $500,000 for the contract of one of the league’s better forwards.

As important as that move was to the Union’s front office, it surely mattered more to Carranza. The forward had not been quiet about his feelings toward the Miami locker room while still on loan, and had spoken highly of the atmosphere in Philadelphia.

Getting the contract worries off of his shoulders seemed to helped Carranza on the pitch, because he started scoring more when it mattered most.

As the Union entered the push for the top of the Eastern Conference, along with the push for a Supporters Shield, Carranza played his best of all season. In the 15 matches that close out the regular season, the forward notched seven goals and five assists.

In the Union’s playoff push, Carranza continued to contribute with a goal and assist in the Union’s revenge match in the Eastern Conference Final against New York City FC.

Carranza was not the Union’s leading goalscorer, nor did he lead the team in assists. However, Philadelphia likely doesn’t have the same season that it had without the Argentine.

While the award went to Carranza’s former teammate, fellow Argentine and noted cigarette connoisseur Gonzalo Higuain, Carranza made a case to be the MLS Comeback Player of the Year. While the young forward was not named a finalist, his name was often mentioned in discussions around the Union fanbase and around the league.

At just 22 years old, it’s hard to see Carranza dropping off anytime soon. If Philadelphia makes another run at a trophy next year, he’ll most certainly be a part of it.