COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ethan Finlay's rookie season for the Columbus Crew was a memorable one, just not for all the right reasons.
"Overall it was a success, maybe not to the point I wanted, but it was a pretty fair season," the Creighton University product told MLSsoccer.com.
The team's first pick in the 2012 SuperDraft made his debut in the season opener when Dilly Duka picked up a 12th-minute injury. Just over a month later, on April 14, he got his first start at Philadelphia.
However, his last start of the season came on May 12, just nine games into the season, when he suffered a concussion that caused him to miss three games. Later in the year, he also had an oral infection that hindered him, and he played just 68 minutes over the Crew's final 25 games.
"There's a lot I learned about myself this year," he said. "You have to be consistent and that will make the difference. Whether you're a starter or you're coming off the bench, if you're consistent those were the guys getting the time.
"It's even more important for a young guy because if you're not consistent they're going to go with the veteran."
Any disappointment that he felt for his on-field performances, however, pales in comparison to losing his roommate and fellow rookie Kirk Urso, who died August 5 from arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy at the age of 22.
No one on the team was closer to him and more shaken by the sudden death.
"It's a season I'll never forget," Finlay said. "For me as a rookie and with everything that happened to this team this year, no one saw that coming."
He vowed to play the rest of his career in Urso's honor and may do so next season at a new position after Columbus head coach Robert Warzycha decided to try him at right back in several reserve matches.
The Crew are thin on the backline and Finlay presents an alternative, although the club is seeking to acquire at least one veteran for the spot.
"He is a very smart player who is good on the ball but it is still new to him," Warzycha said. "We will see how he does in the preseason and if it is a position for him."
Finlay is confident he can do the job.
"I feel I can have success anywhere on the right side," he said. "If you're playing with a guy like [midfielder] Eddie Gaven in front of me, he likes to go inside. He's not much of wing guy all the time so it opens up all kinds of space for me. I enjoy that because I can get crosses, I can get into the box, score goals and attack."