PORTLAND, Ore. - The long-awaited debut of Darwin Quintero wasn’t enough to get the Loons back on track Saturday night.
Minnesota United fell 3-2 to the Portland Timbers, their third straight loss, even as Quintero scored a goal and showed signs of a budding on-field partnership with striker Christian Ramirez.
The Timbers put Minnesota on the back foot early, scoring two emphatic goals in the first half of their season home opener. Quintero pulled one back in the second half, but his goal — along with an own-goal gifted by the Timbers — came too little, too late.
Ramirez said at halftime that his connection with Quintero was a work in progress that will only get better as the pair get more time together. Quintero arrived in Minnesota almost three weeks ago after a transfer from Mexican powerhouse club, Club América.
“We’ve been a couple inches off on a couple passes,” Ramirez said. “That will come with time.”
Quintero, who played primarily as a winger in Mexico, tucked in behind Ramirez centrally. That pushed usual playmaker Miguel Ibarra out wide in place of Sam Nicholson, who was out with a flu. Tyrone Mears was again out due to a calf strain, being replaced by Marc Burch.
Quintero is the Loons’ first-ever Designated Player — a high-priced star who earns more than the salary cap normally allows — and the club will be hoping he can boost an attack that hasn’t been effective enough in the team’s short MLS history. Reports put his salary at $1.5 million, making him the Loons’ highest-paid player.
The cold and rainy conditions made for a slick, fast game that suited the Timbers, who were eager to get their first win of the season in their home season debut. The Timbers came into Saturday’s match with three losses in their first five games of the season, all on the road.
Portland’s Alvas Powell started off the scoring with a stunning individual effort in the 20th minute. From the midfield, he dribbled up the field, weaved his way through the Loons defense and fired a rocket of a shot past goalkeeper Matthew Lampson.
It took just three minutes for the Timbers to double their lead as Diego Valeri scored with a one-time flick on a cross.
It looked like Ibarra pulled a goal back one minute later, but after a video review, he was ruled offside.
The Loons got their goal eventually, however. In the 64th minute, Quintero spun around a defender, tapped the ball wide to beat another defender and fired a low shot that goalkeeper Jake Gleeson couldn’t get a hand on.
Fanendo Adi dashed the Loons’ hopes of a comeback in the 75th minute, however. Cristian Paredes fired a shot toward goal that Adi dived and deflected with his head, catching Lampson stepping the wrong way.
The Loons added another for the final 3-2 score on an own-goal from Timbers defender Bill Tuiloma.
The Loons continue their Pacific Northwest swing when they head to Seattle on April 22.