Tag Archives: Darwin Quintero

Loons win and lose all in one night

Bridget McDowell - Minnesota United FC/mlsfemale
Official Minnesota United FC Reporter

By Bridget McDowell // @BCMcDowell

Saturday, July 14: 3-2 Win

Just days after a 2-1 ‘friendly’ loss to Costa Rican club Saprissa, Minnesota United FC took the field again on yet another hot evening in Minneapolis. Fans who have seen more than their fair share of temperature fluctuations over the years flocked to TCF Bank Stadium in the hopes of being cooled off by a solid Loons performance… But hopefully not a cold one. They wanted to sing Wonderwall again after facing the team that gave them their first chance to sing last season: Real Salt Lake.

The first half was a mixed bag for Minnesota. The back three, especially Brent Kallman, made some big clearances and the attacking trio of Chris Ramirez, Darwin Quintero and Miguel Ibarra provided plenty of sparks. Unfortunately, no one could get into position in the final third to finish the job. The Loons’ best chances came from Ibarra’s speedy runs and Quintero’s newly unlocked long-range shots. Too bad they were up against Nick Rimando this week. Oh, wait…

Too bad Rimando was up against Darwin Quintero this week.

Minute 52: Quintero finds space, turns with the ball on a tight angle near the right post, opts to cross it in front of Rimando where the inside of Ibson’s right boot is waiting. Goal.

Minute 62: Quintero receives a beautiful ball from Calvo and turns to fire it from long range between the heads of two defenders and over Rimando. Yes, over. Another long chip from the Scientist finds the upper left corner. Goal.

Minute 68: Ibarra, on the run, one on one with Rimando. Rimando goes to the ground. Ibarra passes him and slots the ball into the net. Goal.

There is a reason I highlight the timing…

Jeff Rueter, of The Athletic, led the press box into the Twilight Zone.

Then, it nearly all came crashing down when Plata scored for RSL in the 77th minute (a set piece, go figure) and 85th minute. A nearly sterling defensive performance broke down, allowing two goals inside of ten minutes.

And just as three points were nearly tossed away, so were most of the words I had written before heading downstairs to coach Heath’s presser and then on to the locker room.

After Heath stormed away mid-interview with on-field reporter Jamie Watson; after he sent the players’ kids out of the locker room and gave his team a dressing down which could be heard through the concrete walls (“Nothing I can really repeat,” said defender Michael Boxall); after he settled down just enough to sit in front of the media, Heath was asked to describe the takeaway: “Three points. Did our best to throw it away. Tried to throw away 75 minutes of good work by people deciding that they know best. They’ll do what they want rather than doing what we know is right.”

What does he want from his players moving forward? ” For them to understand that they don’t know everything. And do what’s asked of them. And they’ll be okay. There are too many people in and around this football club that have an opinion on it.”

Neither Boxall nor Miguel Ibarra (who was once again one of the strongest Loons this night) could shine any light on that last statement from their coach. But both spoke of the mental lapses and lack of focus in the dying minutes of both this match and the win against Toronto FC last week. Ibarra added, “I think we’re fine. I mean, we as a team talked about it right after [Heath talked]. He’s right, we gotta do better at closing out games, but we got three points which is the most important thing.”

A win is a win is a… Well, sure, couldn’t it always be better?

Featured image: @MNUFC

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Loons make some MLS history

Bridget McDowell - Minnesota United FC/mlsfemale
Official Minnesota United FC Reporter

By Bridget McDowell // @BCMcDowell

July 4, 2018

The Loons returned home Wednesday night for an Independence Day cross-conference matchup against the reigning champs Toronto FC. Both sides came in looking to break a three-game losing streak and, for once, Minnesota United FC was not the cure-all drug for another team’s woes.

There were some changes in Minnesota’s lineup with defender Francisco Calvo returning from World Cup duty and midfielder Miguel Ibarra back from a red card suspension. Their roles were shifted somewhat in a 3-5-2 lineup, with Calvo sitting in a three-man backline alongside Brent Kallman and Michael Boxall, while Ibarra was shifted into a wingback position on the right side of a five-man midfield. A pyramid of Canadians awaited them.

But the base of that pyramid crumbled quickly. For the first time in a long while, Minnesota took ownership of an early lead, rather than give it away. Just eight minutes in, Darwin Quintero broke down Toronto’s five-man defense, setting up a shot that would split two frantic defenders and float into the upper-left corner. One-nil in under ten minutes, in favor of Minnesota. A Christmas miracle in July, courtesy of The Scientist.

Just five minutes later, Calvo saw Ibarra ready to make a run and sent him the ball. Batman sped down the center of the pitch, just one man in red on his flank, Irwin coming far off his line in hopes of intercepting him. He did not. Ibarra knocked the ball right past the keeper to put Minnesota up 2-0.

Toronto managed to take one back before halftime, after a mistake in what coach Adrian Heath would later call a “busy box.” Ibson failed to clear a ball from Kallman, instead passing right in front of Justin Morrow, who connected easily on a slide. 2-1 Minnesota.

From the start of the second half, it was obvious that Toronto’s halftime chat centered around containing Quintero. The five defenders certainly had his number, but they misdialed a few times…

52nd minute: Quintero finds a gap, steps into the box and shoots. Goal. 3-1.

58th minute: Quintero is triple-teamed, but the three defenders pay no attention to each other’s movements and lose him again. Quintero makes a run, shoots. Goal. 4-1.

That goal marked Quintero’s first hat trick as a Loon (the fourth in his career) and the first for MNUFC since joining the MLS. Quintero cited an observation of Irwin’s behavior as the key to those three goals: “I noticed from the beginning that he took two steps forward to anticipate plays. In some games it works, in others, it doesn’t. Today all of them went in.”

Study the evolution here:

He celebrated in the corner, with fans who tossed him their caps, and his teammates who piled on top of him. Christian Ramirez put a cap on the DP’s head which earned him a yellow.

“I thought it was the right thing to do at the time; didn’t know it was deserving of a yellow,” Ramirez said with a chuckle in the locker room. “I asked him to give me the yellow instead, but…”

Toronto’s Sebastian Giovinco, quiet all evening, a shadow of his former self, notched a goal in the 70th minute that seemed a message to all present, “Hey, I’m not retired yet.” Bobby Shuttleworth could do nothing other than watch it float by him and into the net.

We have to give Heath credit for maintaining the formation, not simply parking the bus. His first two subs were offensive-minded: Mason Toye for Ramirez, Collin Martin for Schuller. Martin earned a standing ovation and the loudest (non-goal) cheers of the night as he made his first appearance since coming out last Friday.

It wasn’t until the 86th minute that United parked the bus, with Quintero pulled in favor of a defender, Eric Miller. But they left the windows open.

Toronto pulled off one more goal in stoppage time, in the final minute of play. 4-3.

But the whistle blew. A streak was snapped. Minnesota came out on top for the first time since May.

Cue Wonderwall.

Before the goosebumps subside, before the last notes of Wonderwall can fade from the supporters’ consciousness, the Loons will play a match with bigger consequences. On Saturday, United face Houston Dynamo, a club well ahead of them in the playoff race and they will have to do it without Calvo (yellow card accumulation) and with a depleted squad on tired legs.

At least we will always have Wednesday.

Featured image: @MNUFC

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Lucky Loons defuse disaster

Bridget McDowell - Minnesota United FC/mlsfemale
Official Minnesota United FC Reporter

By Bridget McDowell // @BCMcDowell

Saturday, April 28: 2-1 Win

Anyone following Minnesota United’s trajectory over the last month may have felt skeptical going into Saturday night’s match against Houston Dynamo. On the heels of a four-match losing streak culminating with a season-ending injury to midfielder Ethan Finlay, could the Loons defuse a Dynamo squad hungry for a winning streak after a 5-1 result against Toronto FC?

Keeping tabs on the Supporters and their flag-waving for the full 90 minutes was more entertaining than much of the early action on the field. There was tense excitement, with many fearful of the club setting a new record for losses, but thrilled to be welcoming them home.

Bridget McDowell - MNUFC/mlsfemale
Supporter section as seen from press box. Image: Bridget McDowell

Within ten minutes, their worst fear was confirmed.

 

Another defensive lapse. Another early goal. Please, Loons. Not again.

They fought hard to avoid a deeper deficit. Chris Ramirez nearly solved their final-third conundrum with a long-range shot on goal in the 25th minute. Had Joe Willis recovered just a half-step slower, Superman would have notched a golazo. Unfortunately, that was the high point of his game. Ramirez, just five minutes later, with a hamstring injury which will keep him off the pitch for the foreseeable future.

United’s attack showed some urgency then. Just before halftime, Darwin Quintero earned a penalty kick which he buried effortlessly in the upper right corner. It was the DP’s first goal on home turf. And the supporters gave it a warm, exuberant welcome.

After halftime, the rollercoaster continued. Good chances were followed by turnovers which could have proved costly if it weren’t for some patented MNUFC luck. In the 66th minute, keeper Bobby Shuttleworth miraculously saves Manotas’ header, eliciting from the crowd a sigh of relief, mixed with disbelief, that could likely be heard by passengers on the train platform across the street from the stadium.

More disbelief followed minutes later. No one was shocked when the Loons missed any chance of scoring on a set piece (the club’s record on set pieces is a tradition from well back in their NASL tenure). The surprise came when winger Miguel Ibarra collected the ball and crossed it into the box where it met the heel of… Ibson?

 

When coach Adrian Heath was asked during the post-match presser what he thought Ibson was doing in that position, his first reaction was to grin and shake his head. Ibarra responded similarly when he met with the media in the locker room.

Regardless of how he got to that spot, which VAR thankfully confirmed to be on-side (it was close), Ibson now has two goals this season. Sure, both drew cheers of “Goal!… Ibson?” But this crowd only asks so many questions about home goals. Ibson certainly isn’t asking questions either:

This goal broke the streak. It secured three points. It extended Minnesota’s record to 2-1-0 at home, where the club will play four of its next five games. Was it pretty? No. Was it a little frustrating and perplexing at times? Oh, yes. Yes, it was.

But it was a win and Minnesota’s fans will take a win, however, and whenever they can get it. And they’ll certainly take more moments like this, shared with 21,574 of their closest friends:

Featured image of the team walk out courtesy: Bridget McDowell

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MNUFC Caught Sleeping In Seattle

Bridget McDowell - Minnesota United FC/mlsfemale
Official Minnesota United FC Reporter

By Bridget McDowell // @BCMcDowell

Sunday, April 22: 3-1 Loss

Every team hits a rough patch at some point in the season and then faces a squad that shows them they can be winners again. For the Portland Timbers last weekend, that team was Minnesota United FC. For the Seattle Sounders this Sunday, that team was MN United FC.

The Loons’ losing streak stretched to four with their trip to Seattle on Sunday afternoon. Despite a gritty second half showing that saw striker Christian “Superman” Ramirez come in to snap a six-month-long goal scoring drought, on an assist from Darwin “The Scientist” Quintero

… The Loons fell to the Sounders 3-1.

Because this happened in the first half:

And then this:

Giving up two goals and losing the game were tough pills for fans to swallow. But it was the fact that it was the fourth-straight loss due to such selfsame errors that was most painful.

 And since the Loons face the Houston Dynamo next rather than another MN United FC, something’s got to give. If Minnesota finds itself posting this halftime message for a fifth time on Saturday night, it will be Minnesota, not Houston, that has a problem.

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fmnunitedfc%2Fposts%2F1761828230540225%3A0&width=500

A problem that cannot be fixed by scoring goals.

Featured image courtesy: @MNUFC

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Starting a DP could mean finishing on frame

Bridget McDowell - Minnesota United FC/mlsfemale
Official Minnesota United FC Reporter

By Bridget McDowell // @BCMcDowell

Bye week

Most games involving a red card ejection end in favor of the fully-staffed squad. So when Atlanta United’s Leandro Gonzalez Pirez was sent off in the 38th minute last Saturday, Minnesota United fans were right to feel optimistic. Down one-nil after Calvo’s own-goal, surely they could earn back at least one point against ten men.

They would not. Eleven Loons faced a white wall rooted in front of the goal. They would have been better off with ten men against a full squad of mobile peach-clad men.

Historically, Minnesota plays better with the disadvantage. Their home match against New York Cosmos in 2016, MNUFC’s final season in the NASL, is a prime example.

 

Both teams played high, quickly moving the ball forward to get shots into the box. Both sides had chances early on, only to be beaten on the counterattack just one touch shy of the goal. Minnesota’s Sammy Ndjock made some beautiful saves with his infamously sticky gloves, Ibson was in prime Ib-sanity, and every ball trick was deployed in search of the elusive difference-making goal. Ben Speas even had a chance at a Zlatan-esque goal on a shot from midfield (4:55).

Christian Ramirez, who was severely hampered by Atlanta’s wall after replacing Danladi, had plenty of chances that night against New York. Every attempt was thwarted by a quick and desperate Cosmos defense until the 90th minute when Justin Davis caught Ramirez on the run (6:25), delivering a ball just behind the final defender which Ramirez settled with one touch before sending it under Maurer and across the line for the match winner.

That finish made all the difference.

Darwin Quintero’s finishing could be the difference this season. Minnesota’s first Designated Player, known as ‘El Cientifico del Gol’ – The Scientist of the Goal – the Columbian forward is known for finding his way through tight spaces and beating defenders in the box. Check out these highlights from his 2016 season with Club America.

At 1:50, Quintero is surrounding and shoots past two defenders and a keeper who are struggling to regain their footing after a messy clearance. This skill and composure in traffic would have been a huge asset for MNUFC last weekend versus Atlanta.

As for his work inside the 18, fast forward to 3:05, where four defenders in the box are focused on the attackers and the ball on the right wing. The Scientist sneaks through the center of the group unseen to receive the cross behind them and smashes the ball into the back of the net.

Quintero’s role as a withdrawn striker in those games would have made him a perfect fit in the Loons’ lineup against bunkered Atlanta. Sure, by now the 30-year old’s speed may be somewhat diminished, but he could make a more dependable target in the box for Ethan Finlay or Sam Nicholson than an injured Ramirez or the speedy but tactically-deficient Danladi.

The Scientist’s debut depends on the arrival of his visa paperwork, but rumors point to sometime in April. Whenever that is, Quintero is sure to add more intrigue for fans frustrated by the Loons’ last showing.

Featured image courtesy: @MNUFC

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @BCMcDowell

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