SEATTLE – It was very nearly a fairy-tale debut for Ethan Finlay.
The 27-year-old midfielder started for Minnesota United in the Loons’ road matchup with the Seattle Sounders at CenturyLink Field on Sunday. It was his first time in the XI since he was traded from Columbus Crew SC — and he made his presence felt early, scoring the game’s opening goal in the 21st minute.
Chad Marshall’s first-half equalizer and Clint Dempsey’s game-winning penalty kick would ultimately spoil the party, but Finlay said he was still pleased to find the scoresheet in his first action with his new club.
“[Getting the goal] was terrific,” Finlay told reporters after the game. “I had thoughts of it earlier in the day, and it was a great ball by [Minnesota midfielder] Ibson and great recognition and it had been a long time coming, I think. I was happy to do it and it was a great way to debut.”
The goal was certainly a grand entrance for Finlay, but Minnesota head coach Adrian Heath said he was also encouraged by his overall integration with his new teammates. Specifically, Heath said Finlay should be tasked with filling a similar role in Minnesota that he played in Columbus, which has made for a smoother transition.
“Pleased for him, obviously,” Heath said. “He did exactly what he thought he would do. He slotted straight in, that was his role and I think he’s going to be a really good pick-up for us. He can be delighted with his first start.
“I think we try and play a similar type of games as Columbus so he’s used to the role we’re asking of him. That’s been a little easier, the adjustment for him. But he’s a great kid, he wants to come in and work hard and do really well and he will do well for us.”
Finlay’s arrival isn’t likely to spark the Loons to the historic turnaround that would be required for them to make a run at a playoff spot this season. But as Minnesota look to finish the 2017 season on a positive run and look ahead to 2018, the hope is that Finlay can act as a cornerstone for the club’s future plans.
“He works really hard. You’re always going to get that from him,” defender Brent Kallman said of Finlay. “He works super hard and he’s really direct. He’s not a guy that’s going to come underneath all the time but he wants to get in behind.
“That was exactly what happened on the goal. Ibson gives him time and space, he makes a good run in behind and he’s effective and direct in that way. But you’re always going to get a ton of work from him."