I think it’s safe to say that Ethan Finlay’s 2016 MLS campaign didn’t start off as planned.
The 2015 All-Star struggled to find his form and even lost his spot in the starting lineup for two different spells. Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter was adamant that Finlay would rebound, and now he has. In four games since returning the starting lineup, the speedy winger has rediscovered his goal scoring touch in a big way, bagging four goals in those four matches. (Including two game-winners and a last-gasp equalizer.) The most recent goal was Saturday night, when he finished a Justin Meram cross in the 32nd minute to put Crew SC up 1-0 on San Jose.
Not only was it the game-winning goal, but it also vaulted Finlay back into the double-nickel club. There are goal scorers and there are playmakers, but some guys like Finlay do a little of both. I’ve always kept track of how many times a Columbus player logs at least five goals and five assists in a season, since I figure that’s a pretty good mix of goals and assists.
Finlay had a Crew SC-unprecedented double-dozen season last year with 12 goals and 13 assists, so his five goals and six assists in 2016 may not compare when stacked side by side, but as he adds to those totals in the final two months of the season, he’s already in some good company. Finlay has now posted the 34th double-nickel campaign in the 21 seasons of Crew SC history. ( Meram is one goal away from the 35th such campaign).
Here are the double-nickel players sorted by the number of seasons they accomplished the feat:
- 5x: Brian McBride
- 4x: Jeff Cunningham, Federico Higuain
- 3x: Ethan Finlay, Guillermo Barros Schelotto
- 2x: Brian West
- 1x: Edson Buddle, Jason Farrell, Eddie Gaven, Stern John, Kei Kamara, Brian Maisonneuve, Justin Meram, Alejandro Moreno, Adrian Paz, John Wilmar Perez, Tony Tchani, Robert Warzycha, Dante Washington
Any time you tie Guillermo Barros Schelotto in anything, that’s cool. Any time you join a club that excludes even the incomparable Schelotto, that’s even cooler.
On Saturday, Finlay became just the fourth player in Crew SC history to post at least three consecutive double-nickel seasons. He joins Brian McBride, Higuain, and Jeff Cunningham. Here are those streaks:
BRIAN McBRIDE (4: 1997-2000)
- 1997: 6 G, 6 A
- 1998: 10 G, 7 A
- 1999: 5 G, 10 A
- 2000: 6 G, 5 A
FEDERICO HIGUAIN (4: 2012-2015)
- 2012: 5 G, 7 A
- 2013: 11 G, 9 A
- 2014: 11 G, 7 A
- 2015: 8 G, 9 A
(Note: This year, Pipa is a goal and two assists away from a club record-setting fifth straight double-nickel season.)
JEFF CUNNINGHAM (3: 2001-2003)
- 2001: 10 G, 13 A
- 2002: 16 G, 5 A
- 2003: 5 G, 7 A
ETHAN FINLAY (3: 2014-2016)
- 2014: 11 G, 7 A
- 2015: 12 G, 13 A
- 2016: 5 G, 6 A (for now)
So once again, if you were among the 20,031 at MAPFRE Stadium on Saturday night, not only did you see a victory, but another interesting little slice of Crew SC history.