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Among the qualities Minnesota United coach Adrian Heath seeks in players is what he calls "a good teammate," which can mean any number of things.

For starting left back Chase Gasper, it can mean he's among the first to defend his team's and teammates' honor when, say, Real Salt Lake goalkeeper David Ochoa challenges it in a postgame scuffle.

More often, it means this: El habla Espanol.

Gasper learned a second language when he took a mandatory fifth-grade Spanish class back home in Virginia. He didn't forget it all the next year when he played on a tournament team comprised mostly of Latino players.

All these years later, he's using it to connect with strictly Spanish-speaking teammates. From Darwin Quintero and Angelo Rodriguez in his 2019 rookie season to Thomas Chacon and Luis Amarilla last season. Now it's primarily Argentines Emanuel Reynoso and Ramon "Wanchope" Abila, as well as others who are bilingual.

That includes Ohio born-and-raised Wil Trapp, who "speaks phenomenal Spanish," Gasper says with admiration.

Or, just for fun, his English-only speaking teammates.

"It helps bridge the gap," Gasper said. "A lot of these guys are from different countries and when they come here, they don't speak English. It's a different culture, a different everything.

"I put myself in their shoes. If the roles were reversed and I went to Central or South America where they don't speak English, I'd really appreciate it somebody made the effort to try to speak English to me.

"I just see it as a great learning process. You learn a new language and you help out your teammates and get closer to them. It's a win-win all the way around."

He credits Duolingo, a mobile-phone language app, for his improvement and a sense of humor for the many mistakes he still makes.

"I'm learning a lot, absorbing a lot," said Gasper, whose team — the only one in MLS without a point after an 0-3 start — plays at Colorado on Saturday. "If there is a time to do it, now is the time in my life."

He's considering taking formal classes to "really step up my game," he said, and become more fluent.

His Spanish-speaking teammate have noticed.

"We respect it a lot, we love it," said Loons forward Juan Agudelo, who was born in Colombia, raised in New Jersey and speaks both English and Spanish fluently. "We laugh every time he talks to us in Spanish, and we encourage him. We don't even want to talk to him in English because we want him to learn."

"Chase's Spanish is really good," Reynoso said in Spanish through a team translator, "good enough where I'm able to communicate with him on and off the field. He practices with me, too, and is learning. But he's doing good."

Gasper, 25, speaks Spanish off the field for fun and personal growth. He'll speak with Spanish-speaking teammates on the field for practical purposes, offering instructions in their own language so they don't need to translate his words in their heads on the run.

Sometimes he speaks in Spanish even when he doesn't intend to do so.

"Sometimes you're saying something to Reynoso or Wanchope and immediately you have to give direction to Wil Trapp and it just comes out in Spanish," he said.

Gasper learned Spanish basics in grade school from words recited out of a textbook. Now he learns it daily in the locker room and on the field, for better or worse.

"You've got to speak to people and immerse yourself," he said. "Just reading out of a textbook, I don't think that's the way to learn a language. Talking to Spanish-speaking people, they'll correct you as it goes. You learn through trial and error that way."

If it's more error than trial, then so be it.

"There's a lot of people who are just shy and embarrassed when they say things wrong," Agudelo said. "He flies with it. The only way you're going to learn is if you keep practicing."

Shy and embarrassed Gasper is not. As least when it comes to speaking to his teammates, often unabashedly for their bemusement.

"I don't understand that," Gasper said. "I understand there's that embarrassment factor and you're going to mess up. But that's true about everything in life, so I don't understand why people are hesitant to learn a new language. Obviously, you're going to mess up. Who cares if you do? Everyone has a laugh and a smile. It's a good bonding moment.

"No one's going to make fun of your messing up. All anyone appreciates is the effort. If someone makes fun of you for trying to speak another language, that says a lot more about them."

There's no sport more global than soccer, and Minnesota United's players speak at least six native languages. Soon three will speak French. Two speak Finnish, others speak Slovak or Danish, and a couple even speak Canadian.

Gasper calls French "too complicated" and Finnish or Slovak far too foreign.

"I'm taking one language at a time, Spanish is enough for me right now," he said. "When I hear Robin [Lod] talking to Jukka [Raitala] in Finnish, or Jan speaking to someone in Slovakia, it's shocking how different those languages are. A lot of the roots in Spanish words are French and pick up a word here or there.

"Those other languages, not at all."