COLUMBUS, Ohio – Every practice brings a new lesson, and sometimes terse words from the older players around him. But Crew rookie Ethan Finlay doesn’t mind the prodding.
“It’s challenging,” the 10th pick in this year's SuperDraft told MLSsoccer.com this week. “I’m trying to keep my head up about everything. It is preseason. You’ve got to kind of roll with the punches.”
Finlay is not only getting acclimated to new teammates, but to a new spot as well. He’s been playing on the right flank after scoring most of his 43 career goals for Creighton as a forward.
He’s also been thrown into the first team because of nagging injuries to Eddie Gaven and has soaked up the advice of veterans such as midfielder Milovan Mirosevic and right back Sebastián Miranda.
“You don’t think it’s much of a change, but when you’re on top, it’s much different,” Finlay said. “I still need to be a threat in behind people as well as keep possession in the middle and combine with the midfielders.”
There are times Finlay looks natural and plays on instincts. And then there are the moments he looks like, well, a rookie on the wing. And that’s when he hears it from Mirosevic and Miranda.
“Those guys demand a lot,” he said. “Milo’s played professionally for many years; Seba as well. Playing on that side, they try to help. They’re tough on me, but it’s a good tough.”
Finlay’s biggest problem is drifting toward the sideline and denying a channel for Miranda to make an overlapping run.
“When you play forward, maybe you have to stay wide and go to the goalie,” Miranda said. “When you play a little back on the field it’s different. You have to come talk to me about the run and giving me space.”
Finlay views the criticism in a positive manner.
“Seba a couple of times in training probably saved my butt and let me know he’s not happy,” Finlay said. “Milo’s given me a lot of ideas where I should be defensively and offensively, where he wants me to be so he can orchestrate the play.
“They’re trying to help me know my potential,” he added. “I get that kind of feedback from the coaches as well. I’ve had some good meetings with [the coaches] to try and find out where I can do better.”
Columbus head coach Robert Warzycha likes Finlay’s upbeat approach to training.
“He’s a quick learner," Warzycha said. "He’s getting some experience with those older guys, so obviously it’s going to benefit him and us.”
And that’s really what all the tutoring is about, said Miranda.
“I like to talk to the young players because when I was young, I liked for the experienced people to help me,” he said. “We can help him. He has very good tactics. He’s fast. He can help us a lot.”