MINNEAPOLIS -- Darwin Quintero provided the pre-fireworks show on the 4th of July at TCF Bank Stadium, putting in three master class goals and helping to right the ship for a Minnesota United team that had only won once in the previous seven league matches.
Minnesota's first Designated Player notched the team's first-ever hat trick in the MLS era, en route to a 4-3 win over a struggling Toronto FC side. Fresh off the heels of a hat trick for LAFC last weekend, the only MLS team without a hat trick is now the Portland Timbers.
While this wasn’t the first career hat trick for Quintero, it was the “best one I've scored,” the Colombian stated after the match. What made his performance even more special was that it happened on his wife’s birthday. Quintero told reporters he had promised her he would score a hat trick and give her the game ball.
Already the offensive playmaker for Minnesota United FC, he’s now the leading scorer for the 2018 season with six goals, after joining Minnesota at the end of March.
Coach Adrian Heath has been very pleased with what he has seen from the diminutive midfielder.
“He’s supremely confident in his ability to find space, to make passes, to score goals,” Heath said after the match, describing Quintero’s play generally.
“If we can continue to get him enough balls in and around the box, he will either create or score goals.”
That’s exactly what Minnesota did all match against Toronto. In the 8th minute, Quintero opened up the scoring on the night with a beautiful shot from just outside of the box. He hit the ball with the outside of his right foot, splitting two Toronto defenders and curving the ball into the far corner of the goal.
It’s not just Quintero’s play on the pitch that is inspired by his family. The dance Quintero did in celebration after his first goal was picked by his young son.
Quintero’s second and third goals were mirror images of each other and came minutes apart in the second half. On the second goal, he dribbled up the right side and chipped the ball over Toronto goalkeeper Clint Irwin. For the third, he did the same thing, but from the left.
The midfielder revealed after the game that he saw something early from Irwin that he had hoped to exploit.
“I noticed from the beginning that [Irwin] took two steps forward to anticipate plays.” Quintero explained. “In some games it works, in others it doesn’t. Today, all of them went in.”
Toronto head coach Greg Vanney knew his team had made a mistake giving Quintero as much room as they did.
“He's a good player, especially when you give him loads of space to turn and run at you,” the reigning MLS Coach of the Year said. “We gave him far too much space for a player of his quality to have to manipulate the game.”
While it was a banner night for Quintero, he insisted the most important thing remains the three points the team earned.
“The ambition of this team is to qualify for playoffs,” he said to reporters after the match, with the team just two games out of the final spot in the Western Conference.