“Finlay for USMNT.”
The call for Columbus Crew SC’s right winger to join the U.S. Men’s National Team resounded in tweets, Tifos and chants throughout 2015. At the close of the MLS season, focus turned to the international window and Ethan Finlay’s phone finally rang with the call-up.
On the midfielder’s trip home to Wisconsin to visit family for the holidays, Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter notified his player he had made the roster for the U.S. senior team’s January camp. He’ll be joined in California by teammates Tony Tchani and Wil Trapp.
“He was extremely excited for Tony, Wil and myself,” Finlay says about his call with Berhalter. “It’s just going to be a great opportunity obviously on an individual level, but also an opportunity to represent this club and put what we’ve been doing here on the map.”
The 25-year-old has earned this opportunity after playing his best MLS season in his fourth year with the League. He scored a single-season career best 12 goals, adding another in the postseason against Montreal to keep Crew SC in contention. Coupled with his 13 assists, Finlay became just the second player in club history to ever record double figures in both categories over a single campaign.
The speedy winger credits his teammates and coaches for his accomplishments and now for the chance to showcase his talents and abilities with the national team.
“The coaching staff that’s been here, a lot of the work they’ve put in, as well as playing with some great players, have given me the platform to play at a high level and to perform at a high level,” he says. “So I’m definitely thankful for all those guys and they’re going to be a part of this journey that we’re on, and when I get to camp I’m just going to do my best.”
His best is exceptional and was recognized by MLS last season, earning him a “Best XI” spot for the first time in his career. Adding MLS Player of the Week honors and an appearance in his first AT&T MLS All-Star Game, 2015 was thrilling for Finlay.
With his first international call-up to kick off the new year, the rising star continues to make a name for himself.
“It’s definitely exciting,” he says. “We say it’s a long awaited thing, obviously every kid wants to play international soccer for their country and represent the Red, White & Blue, so this is just another step in that direction.”
On his quest for national prominence, Finlay puts fitness at the top of his priority list.
“From a fitness standpoint, I think I’m a guy that tries to prepare myself and be one of the fitter guys on the field every time I get on the pitch,” he says. “I have high expectations for myself in that, and this is going to be a whole other level. These are going to be the best and fittest guys on most MLS teams and maybe across the world. The level is going to be higher, which will hopefully bring out the best in myself.”
Fitness hasn’t been an issue for Finlay as he flashes down the wing and slices inside, leaving defenders in his dust, even when matches are in stoppage time. He started and played in every MLS match in 2015, including Crew SC’s five postseason matches.
“Obviously this camp is very fitness-based at the beginning, so especially coming in and being fit is extremely important for me and starting out on a good foot,” he says. “And then from there, it’s just doing what fits me best: using my strengths and my attributes of speed and movement to try to affect the game and make an impact on the game, whether it be in training or during actual games.”
Finlay’s impact on the pitch is obvious as he scored, assisted—and in some cases did both—in more than half of Crew SC’s 2015 regular-season matches (19 of 34). Now, he looks forward to the chance to do it for his country.
“I’m going to be playing with better players, it’s a higher level and I think if I find the right connection with a couple guys, they’re going to be able to make some passes that maybe I didn’t think I could get, so it’ll be fun.”