Former Marshfield star Ethan Finlay is now making his mark on the world of professional soccer
By Paul Lecker
MARSHFIELD — Ethan Finlay accomplished a childhood dream of playing Major League Soccer when he was drafted by the Columbus Crew SC back in 2012.
After minimal playing time in his first two seasons, Finlay caught his big break last season. He played in 29 games for the Crew, starting 21, and scored 11 goals as Columbus made the MLS playoffs.
Now, the 2008 Marshfield High School graduate is a key cog for one of the top offenses in MLS.
Finlay leads the MLS with 11 assists and is second on the Crew with six goals as the team is 8-7-6 and in second place in the Eastern Conference. Columbus’ 31 goals this season are the second-most in the league.
After not scoring a point (goal or assist) in his first 34 games with the Crew, Finlay has tallied 17 goals and 18 assists in his past 50 games, which includes starting all 21 matches this season.
“The first two years was difficult,” Finlay said. “Any young player goes through growing pains. We went through a coaching change (prior to the 2014 season), and I was able to fit into the new system.”
While Finlay was kicking around the Marshfield youth leagues and the U.S. Olympic Development Program teams throughout the Midwest prior to his stellar high school career at Marshfield, he said he set a goal of playing in the MLS.
After scoring a school-record 98 goals in four seasons at Marshfield, Finlay played collegiately at Creighton University, where he was a was a two-time National Soccer Coaches Association of America first-team All-America pick and two-time Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year and helped the Bluejays reach the NCAA tournament final four in 2011.
Finlay was drafted 10th by the Crew in the 2012 MLS Draft, and the rest is history.
“I knew it was going to take hard work,” Finlay said, looking back at the time he set such a big goal. “I knew it was going to take tremendous effort to sacrifice to get to that level. My parents (Brent and Julie) sacrificed a lot for me. They really gave me a strong work ethic that has me always wanting more. I still have a lot of goals in front of me.”
Finlay’s biggest goal, he said, is to hoist the MLS Cup.
“Winning the MLS Cup is the reason everyone plays this sport,” he said. “Whether I’m a starter or the 28th guy on the roster, being part of a championship is something I want to be a part of.”
As part of the one of MLS’ most prolific offenses, Finlay, who turns 25 years old on Aug. 6, said he thinks the Crew could be on their way building something special.
“It’s unique that we are all on the same page and the kind of relationship where we read each other so easily,” Finlay said of his teammates. “Kei Kamara is the best scorer in the league. Fourteen goals is just incredible at this point in the season. Federico (Higuain) is one of the best players in the league. We have Justin Meram and Tony Tchani. We have threats all over the front four and one of the best goalkeepers (Steve Clark).”
Columbus hosts Toronto FC in an important Eastern Conference game on Saturday. The Crew is just one point ahead of the New York Red Bulls and three in front of Toronto and the New England Revolution with 13 games remaining. The season ends Oct. 25, with the top six teams in each conference qualifying for the MLS playoffs.
“We have a lethal team,” Finlay said. “We have to shore up our defense, front to back, and I think we’ll be able to do that and be successful.”
Paul Lecker is publisher of MarshfieldAreaSports.com, a contributor to Hub City Times Sports. You can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.