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A DP Among Us

What does the Quintero move say about MNUFC?

America v Saprissa - CONCACAF Champions League Photo by Manuel Velasquez/Getty Images

According to multiple reports, Minnesota United is getting its first designated player. People are kind of excited.

Maybe the fact that grown men and women stormed the airport on a Wednesday night just to get a peek at Darwin Quintero in street clothes shouldn’t be all that surprising. After all, while the front office has done their best to downplay the importance of signing a Designated Player up to now, the delay has only served to amplify the mystique of what it could mean to have one of our very own. Most Loons fans bore the inaugural DP-less season with the stoicism of ones accustomed to harsh winters and the Vikings’ futility in the playoffs, but when Manny Lagos told the Pioneer Press in January that there was still no definite timeline for signing the team’s first DP, you could almost hear the collective “oof” that was the fan base being punched in the gut.

Now that the first DP is finally here, ironically, it’s tempting to argue that the Loons might have rushed into it. After preaching patience for the last year, Minnesota United selected a DP who is 30 years old and profiles as a winger. He also profiles as a bit of a troublemaker, given that he has fallen out of favor with Club America brass for, among other things, trying to kick a ball at a reporter’s head during training. For all the club’s talk of waiting to ensure they sign “the right player,” it looks an awful lot like they signed a “a player.”

Before we get too critical of the team’s inability to sign “the right player,” however, let’s remember that Manny Lagos flew to Colombia with a briefcase full of money in an earnest attempt to land Nicolas Benedetti of Deportivo Cali before the season began. Benedetti – a young and gifted number 10 in every sense of the word – fit the team’s needs to a tee, but Cali management seemed intent on simultaneously encouraging and discouraging Minnesota’s interest before ultimately turning down what was by all accounts a highly respectable offer.

To me, the Benedetti saga underscores the fact that desire and money alone aren’t always enough. Players are not items in a store; they are sentient beings endowed with a complex network of loyalties, affiliations, and biases that can interfere with their willingness and ability to sign with a given club. Players also are generally employed by someone else, and Benedetti’s manager proclaimed, among other things, that he would prefer to sell his playmaker to a more prestigious European side.

America v Saprissa - CONCACAF Champions League Photo by Manuel Velasquez/Getty Images

Quintero is not the midfield maestro that the fan base so desperately craves, but he’s a gifted player, and his network of affiliations and loyalties did not interfere with a move to Minnesota. Club America and MNUFC representatives were able to hammer out a deal relatively quickly as far as splashy international signings go. What this deal says about Minnesota United is that while Manny Lagos and the front office may remain committed to a gradual roster development approach, they also appreciate the urgency of the moment. Minnesota failed to land any true difference makers during the offseason, and Kevin Molino’s season-ending injury against Orlando upgraded the team’s need for quality offensive talent to code yellow if not red.

In addition to being available, Quintero also happens to be undeniably talented. He has scored 88 goals since 2009 in Liga MX, and has been capped 14 times by the Colombian National team. My research into Quintero – and by research I mean Youtube highlight videos and a shortened CCL rerun I caught on Univision – attests to his offensive skill set. He is clever about finding space in the offensive third, explosive, and capable of scoring goals in a lot of different ways. Sure, I would probably rather the Loons sign the one of those other Club America guys who kept dropping dimes for him to run onto and smash into the net, but those guys aren’t being shopped around by their manager. You get what you get, and you don’t throw a fit.

While it’s true that Quintero profiles as a winger, I’m guessing he will be asked to play a withdrawn striker role in Minnesota. The most important thing that he brings regardless of where he lines up is a wicked turn of pace with or without the ball, and a finishing knack honed over nine years in Mexico’s top flight. While he is not a traditional playmaker, he is sure to draw a lot of attention – which should open up space for other players – and he has the ability to draw defenders and slip a clever pass at just the right moment.

So what are we to make of this signing? Fans religiously devoted to the long, slow roster build preached by Minnesota’s front office might have good reason to be irked by this move. Perhaps the club should have stood its ground, even in the wake of Molino’s devastating injury, and waited unflinchingly for a more ideal candidate to come along. Fans who have been thirsting for a difference maker – someone, anyone to make this team better – well, this just may be their chance to celebrate. Darwin Quintero is by no means the ideal DP for Minnesota United, but he was available, he is talented, and he will make the Loons a lot more dangerous on the offensive side of the ball.