Ethan Finlay, born in Duluth, looks to help Minnesota United in 2019
With 169 professional club appearances and three games for the United States National Team under his belt, along with an assist in a match against Canada, it’s fair to say Ethan Finlay is a clear example of an American soccer player who’s thrived in the domestic game.
The thing that makes Finlay most unique, however, isn’t his sizable number of appearances or, according to Transfermarkt.com, 35 goals and 29 assists in MLS. No, Finlay’s most unique trait is being the only professional soccer player born and raised in Duluth, Minnesota.
Finlay was born in Duluth on Aug. 6, 1990, but would live in Superior, WI, for several years before living in North Carolina and then returning to Wisconsin in his early teens, this time in the central Wisconsin city of Marshfield. Finlay is one of 15 men born in Minnesota who have played professional soccer in the 21st century and the only one from Duluth.
Finlay spent his pre-professional career playing with Creighton University and Chicago Fire Premier, a fourth division reserve side for the MLS club of the same name.
Finlay made waves at Creighton, recording 43 goals in 79 games according to university records, and earned various accolades, including the following: MAC Hermann Trophy Finalist, NSCAA All-America First-Team, College Soccer News All-America First-Team and MVC Player of the Year.
Finlay made a smaller impact with Chicago Fire Premier, where he scored three goals in 15 appearances.
Finlay spent a majority of his professional career with the Columbus Crew, based in Ohio, where he recorded 166 appearances and 34 goals in all competitions, according to Transfermarkt.com.
Finlay returned to Minnesota late in the 2017 MLS season via Minnesota United, who signed the winger hoping to bring new energy to a side that had struggled to score the goals it needed. Finlay proved a useful edition, scoring on his debut against the Seattle Sounders and adding two goals and two assists in the remainder of the season.
2019 will be a special year for Finlay, who spent all but eight games out of a 35 game season in 2018 sidelined with a cruciate ligament rupture. Finlay still recorded two goals and an assist in that time, but 2019 provides the Duluthian winger with a chance to finally bring his Columbus form to Minnesota.
Eli Hoff is Managing Editor of E Pluribus Loonum, a Minnesota Soccer website that focuses largely on Minnesota United. Hoff had this to say when we asked about Finlay’s potential return to the spotlight.
“Finlay returning to the lineup will definitely benefit the Loons this season. If he starts, he brings a level of intensity that is extremely valuable to any team. That kind of ‘fighter’ mentality can be the difference in creating a chance of scoring a goal… Even when injured, he was working at training sessions, preparing himself to return as best he can.”
In addition, Minnesota United Head Coach Adrian Heath told the Star Tribune recently that he felt the return of Finlay and fellow winger Kevin Molino represented the club earning “two new players.”
Finlay is the first and only soccer player from Duluth to achieve his many feats, from representing the country at the national level and in World Cup qualifying to achieving both success and fame in MLS with both the Columbus Crew and Minnesota United. Only time will tell what achievements will await the player in his continued seasons.
Minnesota United will begin its next season on March 2 with an away game against the Vancouver Whitecaps.