OBETZ, Ohio – After a disappointing rookie season with the Columbus Crew in 2013, forward Ryan Finley was loaned to the team's USL PRO affiliate, the Dayton Dutch Lions, in preseason. But despite the chance to prove he belongs, early indications are that Finley's time in southwestern Ohio has not gone as planned.
After starting the first match for Dayton, the forward missed the club's match against the Charlotte Eagles last weekend, and indications were that Finley had a slight injury. But now, reports from Dayton suggest that it may not have been an injury at all, but an attitude problem or suspension that kept Finley out of the lineup.
While he didn't confirm those rumors, Crew head coach Gregg Berhalter didn't shy away from his disappointment with Finley's progression in Dayton.
“He's not doing that well,” Berhalter said after Crew training on Thursday. “We need to get him going as well. He's a very good player, and his performance we expect to pick up. We know he can make an impact there, so we're waiting for that.”
Dutch Lions head coach and director of soccer operations Sid van Druenen said that Finley's absence was an easy explanation.
“The light injury, the suspension, all of those things are not correct,” he told MLSsoccer.com. “It comes down to a decision from the technical staff that we're not fully happy with his performance in training and games. He knows what he needs to work on, and once he does, he'll become an option. It's a very simple answer.”
Berhalter said he had spoken to the Dayton coaching staff, but that he was only interested in on-field information.
“We're in constant communication,” he said. “But we're focusing on his performance. We're focusing on getting him playing well and scoring goals, and we know he can do it. ... He scored a lot of goals in college. It's just about him getting comfortable with that group and being able to contribute.”
Finley and Berhalter have spoken, the coach said, but declined to give any details of the conversation.
“Like most of the conversations with players, this one was private between me and the player, but we're focusing on his performance,” Berhalter said.
When asked if Finley's issues could be rooted in disappointment at being “sent down,” to the USL PRO affiliate, Berhalter reiterated what he said when the announcement was made.
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“What I would say to that is that it's an opportunity for him to score goals and to play,” Berhalter said. “It's not an easy level, and I don't want the guys to look at this as a demotion. It's not that. It's about finding your form, being able to find minutes and being able to perform. We see it as a positive, and we hope our guys see it that way as well.”
Berhalter cited Kevan George, Ross Friedman, Matt Walker and Aaron Schoenfeld as other Crew players who have the right attitude about the Dayton move, and said that he hopes Finley can grow to see the opportunity the same.
“Kevan and Ross, Matt Walker, Aaron last week, they performed really well, and that's exactly what we imagined of this partnership,” Berhalter said.
Dayton host their home opener Friday against the Rochester Rhinos.