OBETZ, Ohio – Ethan Finlay has enjoyed a meteoric rise for the Columbus Crew in 2014.
The lightning-quick winger’s season began with a fight for a roster spot in Orlando, where he struggled to even find a moment in the team’s preseason matches. He then earned a few substitute appearances in the Crew’s opening matches of the season, but couldn’t find a starting spot.
But since breaking through with his first career goal in May, Finlay has been a mainstay in the Crew lineup, notching eight goals and five assists and providing game-changing speed to a sometimes stagnant offense.
Now, in the midst of his breakout season, Finlay is garnering some national team looks.
“There has been some inquiry,” he told MLSsoccer.com after Crew training Monday. “I’ll probably just leave it at that for now.”
The question, then, is who might be inquiring about Finlay’s services. The Creighton product was born in Minnesota, grew up in North Carolina and moved to Wisconsin for high school. But his father is Canadian, giving Finlay the chance to play for the Canadian national team.
Finlay declined to say which team was interested, but admitted that playing for the US would be a special honor.
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“If I had a choice, I was born in the United States, so to play for the United States is my No. 1 priority,” he said. “But I think when you have an opportunity to play at an international level, if one avenue isn’t open and another one came knocking, it’s something that I would possibly look into.”
Given the season – and career – that he’s had, Finlay says it was hard to imagine finding himself in this position at the beginning of 2014. But head coach Gregg Berhalter’s attitude has been key for Finlay and other players interested in national team or higher aspirations. From Michael Parkhurst’s quest for the World Cup to Giancarlo Gonzalez’s big-money move to Palermo, Berhalter wants to promote and advance his players. And the players know it.
“He gives us that confidence and wants us to aspire for those types of things,” Finlay said. “I don’t think you’ll ever see Gregg hold us back – he was obviously a national team player himself. I think it’s great. He talks about it being a different experience, a higher level, so if he can start breeding guys to take that next step, it only bodes well for the Crew going forward.”