Darwin Quintero ran along the sideline with his right hand held high, his last three fingers in the air in honor of his hat trick in a 4-3 victory Wednesday against Toronto FC. Teammate Alexi Gomez tackled him to the ground with a hug before Christian Ramirez placed a baseball cap backward atop Quintero’s head, which Quintero then took off and casually flung aside.
But that last act apparently took Minnesota United’s demonstration a bit too far, as the referee deemed it excessive celebration.
“Fans were throwing hats, so I just grabbed one and put it on him,” Ramirez said, adding he tried to take the blame and the card himself. “Thought it was the right thing to do at the time. Didn’t know it was deserving of the yellow. I’m just glad it wasn’t his second yellow of the game.”
But even that party-pooper moment couldn’t disrupt the Loons’ jovial mood, as they ended a scoring drought and losing skid more than a month long in front of an announced crowd of 20,559 at TCF Bank Stadium. Quintero, United’s designated player, led the way with the club’s first hat trick in the MLS era. The Loons improved to 6-10-1 in the Western conference. Toronto, last year’s MLS Cup champion, fell to 4-10-3.
Praise for Quintero’s goals ranged from “ridiculous” to “fantastic” to “sublime.” Ramirez said just being a part of it was crazy, and he expected all three goals to be up for the league’s goal of the week honors. Coach Adrian Heath called it as good of a hat trick as he had seen in his 40 years in the sport. Quintero said this was his fourth hat trick and certainly his best.
The team’s highest-paid player and playmaker officially ended the slump in the eighth minute with a terrific strike from the outside of his foot. He dribbled the ball toward the box and lifted a curving ball right into the top corner. Five minutes later, Miguel Ibarra, playing as a wingback, doubled the tally, putting away center back Francisco Calvo’s long pass.
The Loons, though, lapsed just before halftime in the 42nd minute. Midfielder Ibson took a touch in the box instead of clearing the ball and ended up setting up Toronto defender Justin Morrow for an easy slide-in goal.
But the Loons’ reclaimed their two-goal lead in the 52nd minute with Quintero’s second, chipping the ball over the defense and Toronto keeper Clint Irwin, who was off his line. Five minutes later, Quintero notched his third, again sending the ball into the opposite top corner over the keeper.
Toronto managed another goal in the 70th minute from its star player, forward Sebastian Giovinco. And with about a minute left in stoppage time, forward Jordan Hamilton scored a header off Michael Bradley’s corner kick. But it was too late for the comeback.
Quintero said his son picks out all his goal celebrations, but he didn’t have three planned for Wednesday. So just his first dancing celebration was for his son. The others were for his wife, whose birthday was Wednesday.
“I told her I was going to score a hat trick and that I was going to get her the ball,” Quintero said in Spanish through a translator. The game ball, which he carried around with him on the field after the final whistle, sat in his locker, inscribed with the date and a message that partially read “for my wife.”