One that got away: Can we just be happy for exciting young striker Julian Carranza?

Former Inter Miami striker Julian Carranza fights for a ball against Sporting Kansas City. Carranza is becoming a star for the Philadelphia Union.
Former Inter Miami striker Julian Carranza fights for a ball against Sporting Kansas City. Carranza is becoming a star for the Philadelphia Union. / Mitchell Leff-USA TODAY Sports

It's futile to wonder what might have been; people go crazy that way.

Still, given Inter Miami's offensive struggles, it's hard not to fantasize about striker Julian Carranza wearing the Pink and Black.

Carranza's brace against Liga MX side Atlas on Wednesday propelled the Philadelphia Union into the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals. The 22-year-old Argentinian scored 15 goals and added 7 assists in 35 appearances in all competitions for the Union last year; he already has four goals and an assist in 10 total matches in 2023.

And he started his MLS career with La Rosanegra.

The Herons signed Carranza in July 2019 -- before they officially existed as an MLS franchise -- and loaned him back to Banfield until January 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic delayed his professional debut until July in the MLS is Back Tournament; he scored twice against Orlando City Aug. 22.

After an uneventful 2021, the Herons announced they would loan Carranza to the Union for 2022; Philadelphia paid Inter Miami $500,000 of general allocation money in July to make the loan permanent. Now, not even a year later, he's one of the league's brightest young stars.

There are supporters pointing at the Carranza trade as a symbol of everything "wrong" with the Chris Henderson/Phil Neville administration. That's a shortsighted and unfair assessment.

Context is everything. Think about Inter Miami in July 2022. The Herons -- who tore down and rebuilt their roster in the wake of MLS financial sanctions for the previous regime's creative salary accounting, were beginning to find their identity as a gritty collection of castoffs and unknowns. They had a young Ecuadorian striker, Leo Campana, having a breakout season and a storied veteran, Gonzalo Higuain, rediscovering his work ethic and competitive fire. And, despite their roster sanctions, the Men in Pink -- their braintrust, at least -- were scheming to bring the great Lionel Messi to South Florida.

Half-a-mil for an exciting but unproven young striker seemed like a good deal.

Fast forward to April 2023. Campana's been sidelined all but one match with an injury, Higuain retired, and his replacement, former MVP Josef Martinez, has -- um -- underperformed. The attack struggles to create and/or finish chances and lacks a true playmaker. And Julian Carranza is busy becoming Julian Carranza.

Fans, many fans, like to think they could play better, or coach better, or manage better than the men and women actually paid to do those jobs, ESPECIALLY when a team struggles. But given the team's form and its challenges a year ago, can we realistically blame Henderson for trading Carranza?

No. Would I like to have Carranza leading Miami's attack right now? Sure! What Herons' fan wouldn't? But it is what it is. Carranza's star is on the rise, let's be happy for the guy. And Inter Miami still is battling inconsistency, injuries, financial sanctions and the desperate pursuit of an aging legend.

We're still Inter Miami. God love the Pink.