Darwin Quintero Shines in First Season with Minnesota

It’s never easy being the first to do anything, but that never stopped Darwin Quintero from making it look that way. The attacker from Colombia faced lots of pressure as the first Designated Player in MNUFC history but he was able to thrive in the spotlight with his new club. His double-digit totals for goals and assists made him the driving force of the Loons’ attack during the 2018 season.

Quintero joined the club on March 31 and made his first appearance for the team on April 14 against the Portland Timbers, using a bye week to get acclimated to his new surroundings. He wasted little time showing the club and the league his skill, scoring in his first appearance by torching a trio of Timbers defenders and tucking his shot inside the far post.

He began his tenure as a Loon with a three-game point streak, scoring two goals and assisting another as the team began to find its form at home early in the season. Quintero slowly began to settle into his new league and took some time to get to know his teammates as he took over the role of playmaker. With more appearances, his confidence grew, as evidenced by his increased shot totals as the season progressed. Though he had a fairly quiet May and June, with just one goal and one assist, that period laid the groundwork for a breakout in July.

Though the Fourth of July is mainly known for fireworks in the sky, Quintero decided to put on an explosive display of his own on the turf at TCF Bank Stadium. Just eight minutes in, he latched on to Toronto forward Sebastian Giovinco’s mishit back pass and carried the ball toward the visitor’s penalty area. Rather than lay off a pass to a teammate sprinting toward the near post, Quintero elected to split the final two defenders with an outside-of-the-boot shot that snapped back into the top corner of the net to get the Loons on the board.

His attempts would only get more audacious as the game went on. In the second half, he chipped the Toronto goalkeeper not once, but twice into the top corner on either side of the net to score the first hat trick in MLS for MNUFC.

Quintero went on a tear during the summer. His July was one of the best single months ever for a player in the history of the league, with Quintero scoring six goals and getting six assists in six appearances. From July 14 to August 11, he went on a six-game point streak with four goals and seven assists as the Loons shot up the standings. Quintero cemented himself among the league’s top players, and his signature chip shots haunted keepers around the league.

Even though he was set back as an attacking midfielder, he still led the team in most offensive stat categories. With the forward pressing the line against the opponent’s centerbacks, Quintero was able to drop into the open space between them and the midfielders. Taking advantage of the extra room, he could fire from distance or run at defenders and create chances for his teammates in open space.

Quintero’s season was certainly one for the history books as he shattered records throughout the campaign. He not only made great individual efforts, but helped the players around him improve as well. He thrived despite having the massive pressure of being the club’s first Designated Player weighing on him. As the team prepares for 2019, Quintero will undoubtedly be the centerpiece of MNUFC as the squad looks to have a historic first year in Allianz Field.

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