Preseason games don’t count for anything in the standings and often are difficult to parse genuine conclusions from but one thing they have been known to do for the Philadelphia Union is help mint new rising stars.
Many of the team’s homegrown players got their start with the first team in preseason exhibition games as unsigned academy players. The latest crop go their first cup of coffee with the first team in a 1-1 draw with FC Cincinnati on Thursday in Clearwater.
Nelson Pierre, Bajung Darboe and Jack Jasinski — all unsigned academy players from Union II — saw minutes in the game.
Minutes they’ve earned, according to head coach Jim Curtin.
“They’ve done great for us in training,” Curtin said. “They’ve fit in and shown that they’re professionals.”
Pierre, a 16-year-old, came in earlier than expected to replace Sergio Santos after he started cramping in the 40th minute. Curtin said it was just a precaution to take Santos out early and that the striker who assisted the opening goal will be fine.
Fifteen-year-old Bajung Darboe joined Pierre up top to start the second half.
Ten minutes into the second half, 18-year-old Jack Jasinski replaced Nathan Harriel at right back and then later slid over to the six when Jose Martinez gave way to Anton Sorenson in the 74th minute.
“Jack Jasinski grows on you each and every day and I think he can play five or six positions; he played two today,” Curtin said of the Princeton-committed player from Charlotte, N.C. “He’ll be a 10-year pro, the kind of guy you don’t have to worry about; he’s going to give you everything, kind of a coach’s dream.”
On Pierre, Curtin said he has “been amazing in training.”
“I think he’s shown really good strides, but also has things he can improve and work on but happy with his performance,” Curtin said of Pierre.
Darboe, who was a highly-touted prospect from Wisconsin when he joined the academy in 2020, continues to impress at a very young age and is perhaps the most likely of the three to sign a pro contract.
“For a 15-year-old kid to step on the field with confidence, to get out of tight spaces, to play a little bit out of position in his comfort zone as well, there’s a reason why top clubs in Europe and in the world are looking at him.”
Union II opened their preseason with a 2-1 win over Florida Premier FC Thursday evening. Anthony Ramirez wore the captain’s armband for the team and homegrown left back Sorenson was in a team photograph posted after the match.