After Minnesota United had no players in the Major League Soccer All-Star Game in its inaugural season, the Loons sent two representatives to Wednesday’s game against Italian club Juventus in Atlanta.
All-Star coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino selected United team captain and center back Francisco Calvo initially before adding designated player Darwin Quintero when two players dropped out of the match. Calvo started and played 32 minutes in the 1-1 draw that turned into a 5-3 penalty kick loss for MLS. Quintero played the last 28 minutes.
But being considered among the best in the league won’t go to the players’ heads.
“They don’t need a lot of confidence boosters, these two,” United coach Adrian Heath said. “I think that’s one of their strengths is they’re supremely confident people. Darwin probably thinks he’s the best player in MLS, and he might be right. But that’s why he feels that, because he’s one of them guys.”
Quintero told reporters at the Tuesday training session ahead of the All-Star Game that he was enjoying himself again playing with United because the team makes him feel like a star.
“You’re always looking for that, no?” Quintero said, according to the league website. “That you enjoy it, that you feel that you’re that important guy. You sometimes lose that over time with a team.”
Calvo said it was nice to be among fellow players who were on the same high level as Quintero and him. And it was another honor in a stellar year for him; the 26-year-old is not only starring on his club team and participating in the All-Star Game, but he also played in the World Cup this year for Costa Rica.
“At the beginning of the season, it was not the best beginning of the season for me, but now I feel with a lot of confidence,” Calvo said. “I think it’s one of the best years, but that’s one of the main reasons that I’m here because I’m being, all my career, consistent. … I never be one year down, one year up. I’ve been consistent.
“Since I came here, Adrian gave me the whole confidence, and that means a lot for me. And I just want to repay him, giving my best performance every day I step on the field.”
With his six goals and six assists in five games during the month of July, including a hat trick and three two-assist games, Quintero tied for the second-most goals and assists in a calendar month in MLS history.
Heath said that production didn’t surprise him, saying Quintero has always been “incredibly clever” about finding space to receive the ball and then turning and heading toward the goal, usually leaving opponents in his wake.
On-loan midfielder Maximiano, who has six games with one start this season, will be out a “couple of weeks” with a slight right knee strain, the same knee in which he tore the ACL a year ago. But Heath said the injury isn’t a redo of that major one. “He’s got a little bit of swelling, and the club seems to think a little bit of rest might help it all settle down,” Heath said. “So we’re hoping in a couple of weeks, it’ll be fine.”