Ethan Finlay feeling rejuvenated in Minnesota: "It's gotta be the air"

MINNEAPOLIS – With another goal in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with the Philadelphia Union, Ethan Finlay now has scored twice and added two assists in his first three games with Minnesota United FC.

After registering just one goal and one assist in 19 games this season with Columbus Crew SC before being traded to the Loons, how can he explain such a sudden turnaround?

“It’s gotta be the air, right?” Finlay said with a laugh. “It’s crisper here. I think this whole thing was kind of a change of scenery, get you out of your comfort zone, ya know? Get a spark.

“I won’t take away and act like it’s a one-man show because tonight was me just cleaning up [Francisco] Calvo’s pretty mess that he made for us. Sometimes you just need a little luck.”

Finlay added that it was unfortunate the Loons didn’t get “three points out of it” — an opinion shared by many in Minnesota. But few would say “luck” had anything to do with Finlay’s rejuvenation.

“He’s come in and his confidence is sky-high at the moment,” Minnesota head coach Adrian Heath said. “He’s a good player, which is what we expect. If we have Ethan for a full season, he’ll get double figures for both [goals and assists]. That’s what we expect from attacking players.”

Heath was less praiseworthy of some other aspects of Saturday’s game.

For some, the club’s historic first road win over the Chicago Fire two weeks ago may have seemed like a potential turning point for the expansion side. Instead, Minnesota struggled to keep the good vibes going, particularly in the opening 15 minutes vs. Philly.

“Well, we started terrible, couldn’t have started any worse than we did,” Heath said. “The first 15 minutes were a comedy of errors. I thought we grew into the game after that. After 25 minutes, I thought we were the dominant team. We started to get some proper possession.”

Minnesota was able to equalize after a Zidane-esque spin from left back Calvo set up the goal from Finlay, who continued to be a sparkplug for his hometown side. And even though the Loons didn't win, Saturday’s game still marked a home debut to remember for the Duluth-born midfielder.

“What a great environment,” Finlay said. “I think when I played here with Columbus, you kinda try to shut it out — just act like there’s 11 of us on the field versus 11 of them. But tonight was great. From the pregame to the music to the countdown, I loved it. It might’ve been one of the longest countdowns in sports history, but I enjoyed it. I thought I was on the set of Top Gun 2.

“It was pretty special and that’s why I came here. There’s something special here. To have 20,000-plus here this evening and packing the lower bowl. I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like years down the road.”