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Minnesota United’s Quintero a leader in taking soccer losses hard, too

September 21, 2018

When Darwin Quintero comes back to Minnesota after a road game most of which are losses for Minnesota United his wife, Valentina, 4-year-old daughter, Martina, and 7-year-old son, Darwin Jr., await his return.

But when it comes to at least one member of the family, its not quite the welcome home Quintero eagerly anticipates.

The one thing that really bothers him, we have an away game, he comes back home, and the first thing his son says is, You guys lost the game,andthinsp; winger Miguel Ibarra said of his teammate. He talked to me [about that]. He doesnt like that. He wants to make his son proud.

Quintero, the Colombia native who turned 31 this past Wednesday, moved his family more than 2,000 miles north from where he was playing in Mexico to become the Loons first designated player back in March.

He plans all of his goal celebrations with his son, and has Darwin Jr emblazoned on the back of his jersey in his sons honor. His son is also often seen escorting his dad to the home locker room pregame, and Quinteros Instagram page is stocked with tributes to his family.

Quintero has proved hes worth every bit of his $1.65 million salary, becoming the first United player to score double-digit goals and assists, at 10 each, through 21 MLS games. Hes also developed into a leader among teammates, from young players to established veterans.

Ive said it since I got here, they presented me [with a project] in which I was going to be the leader, Quintero said in Spanish through a translator. Theyve made me feel important.

Fellow Colombian Angelo Rodriguez, who became the Loons second designated player in July, said in Spanish through a translator that Quintero is spontaneous, cheerful, fun and always laughing. But on the field, that jovial spirit morphs into something a lot more intense.

When it comes to soccer, he takes things seriously, Ibarra said. He always wants to win. He hates losing. Its his No. 1 pet peeve that he doesnt like to lose.

Ibarra said he has become accustomed to midnight texts from Quintero while the playmaker is rewatching the previous nights game. He messages his teammate about what he thinks went wrong on some plays, what Ibarra could do better.

Ibarra, who has also played in Mexico, said it was impossible to go out after a loss in that country because everyone knew the players and would accost them. And even for more positive reasons, the attention was still incessant, as Quintero said he could hardly walk down the street in Mexico without requests for pictures and autographs.

While he takes losses hard in Minnesota, hes at least able to live a more laid-back, normal life with his family.

Quintero currently holds two club single-season records for his assists and 61 shots. He will look to better those Saturday night when the Loons return home to TCF Bank Stadium to play the Portland Timbers, the same club Quintero scored his first MLS goal against on April 14.

His play stood out most noticeably in July, when he tied for the second-most goals and assists in a calendar month in MLS history. He had six goals and six assists in five games, including the clubs first MLS hat trick.

When the Loons lost Quintero to a calf strain for two games in August, the Loons dropped back-to-back games 2-0. In his first game back from that injury, Quintero ended up with the captains armband for the first time because Francisco Calvo, the usual captain, was suspended.

Hes somebody that everybody looks up to, coach Adrian Heath said. Hes now integrated within the group, has got a lot of respect within the group. And I think certain people, and I think hes one of them, actually thrive on that extra little bit of responsibility.

Heath has often said Quintero has been one of the best players in MLS this season.

Even without his on-field contributions, Quintero has become an indispensable leader. Hes mentored young striker Abu Danladi through persistent hamstring injuries and helped Rodriguez acclimate to American life. Ibarra said Quintero has become one of his closest friends on the team after giving Ibarra a big confidence boost upon their first meeting, telling the winger he had seen him play and thought highly of him while also offering to teach Ibarra whatever he knows.

That trust from the club is something Quintero craved, according to Ibarra. Quinteros former team Club America pushed Quintero to the side after signing other big players and knocked his confidence down by not giving Quintero a lot of credit, Ibarra said. But with the Loons, Ibarra said Quintero knows hes the man.

Im happy. I feel good about how everyone has treated me here, Quintero said. Im living a great moment.

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