Minnesota United's Finlay shows hints of top form with game-winning brace

ORLANDO, Fla. – If there’s one player on Minnesota United’s squad who demands a lot from himself, it’s Ethan Finlay.

A two-goal performance from Finlay on Saturday night earned the Loons their first three points of the season, as well as their first away win of the year – the latter an achievement they didn’t reach until Aug. 26 in 2017 – amid warm praise for the winger.

“He’s been working so hard,” said Minnesota coach Adrian Heath after his team's 2-1 win over his former club, Orlando City. “He’s been a bit frustrated with the level of his own play. One thing about Ethan Finlay, he gives you everything he’s got every single time he steps on the field. He’s the same in training, so we know what we’re getting out of him, but this will do his confidence no end-no good. I think he’ll be able to build from that now.”

Finlay gave Minnesota the early lead after connecting with a through ball from Kevin Molino and slotting the ball past Joe Bendik for his first goal of the season in the 12th minute, then scored the eventual game-winner in the 79th minute after finishing a pinpoint cross from Miguel Ibarra.

Finlay was even involved in Orlando’s goal, when a Video Review ruled he fouled Richie Laryea in the penalty box, opening the way for Yoshimar Yotun to convert a penalty kick in the 42nd minute to level the game for the Lions.

Minnesota United's Finlay shows hints of top form with game-winning brace - https://league-mp7static.mlsdigital.net/styles/image_landscape/s3/images/Ethan-Finlay,-MNUFC.jpg

Finlay celebrates | USA Today Sports Images

Afterward Finlay brushed off talk of his heroics.

“Tonight, wasn’t about scoring goals, but affecting the game in a positive way,” he said. “I felt I was able to do that – unfortunately involved in all three goals. I’m proud of myself and this group fought back. It’s an important attribute as we go on this season.”

Finlay notched a career-high 12 goals and 13 assists for Columbus Crew SC in 2015, helping that club reach the MLS Cup final. But he hasn’t matched those numbers in the past two seasons combined, enduring a loss of form in Columbus before a trade to Minnesota last summer.

Will 2018 prove a “bounce-back” year for the winger? Finlay said each week’s positive effort will decide that.

“It’s a long year, there’s going to be ups and downs,” he said. “I’ve said that there’s always two things I can control, it’s my attitude and my work ethic. I’ll continue to work hard, whether the results are going our way or not, whether my performance is good or not. It’s about putting a good positive effort out there every time.”