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Darwin Quintero's leaving Minnesota United FC

Darwin Quintero was Minnesota's brightest offensive talent these last two years.

Darwin Quintero was Minnesota's brightest offensive talent these last two years. Aaron Lavinsky, Star Tribune

Darwin Quintero led Minnesota United FC in goals scored in each of the past two seasons. 

The thing is: They haven't scored a lot of goals. 

In 2018, the petite Colombian paced the Loons with 11 goals. (A more impressive haul was his 15 assists, tied for fifth-most in Major League Soccer.) This year, Quintero, 32, needed just 10 goals to lead the team. 

Quintero announced Monday that he and the team are parting ways, as United declined to pick up an option to extend Quintero's contract for $2 million.

Though the team's offensive numbers didn't improve much year-to-year, its outcomes did. United conceded 45 goals this season, fifth-lowest in the MLS, and players took home both individual awards for defensive play: Ike Opara won Defender of the Year and Vito Mannone for Goalkeeper of the Year.

Minnesota United made the U.S. Open Cup Final and the MLS Playoffs, both firsts for the young franchise. Both times, when the Loons took the field, something was missing: Quintero.

"The Scientist" was kept on the bench for the first 75 minutes of Minnesota's 2-1 loss to Atlanta United in the Open Cup Final—"nothing personal," coach Adrian Heath said after the game, though that's exactly how Quintero took it—and was held out of the first hour of United's 2-1 loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy in the MLS Cup due to illness.

Quintero's absences in both of United's biggest games of the year will linger for some. Others can think of him as the team's first truly exciting talent and, as captured in a highlight package Quintero shared a week ago, one capable of moments of brilliance. If only those had come on different days.