When Ethan Finlay walks out of the MAPFRE Stadium tunnel Tuesday night, he won’t be wearing his usual black and gold.
A revelation for Columbus Crew SC the past two seasons, instead Finlay will be wearing the red, white and blue of the United States with hopes of gaining his World Cup Qualifying debut in his home ground.
“Anytime you get to play for your National Team, it’s a huge honor, it’s a huge privilege,” Finlay said Monday. “You don’t take that lightly. Obviously it’s going to be a special moment for myself, obviously playing in my home stadium in front of my home crowd.”
Finlay has already wowed the MAPFRE Stadium crowd, racking up 23 goals and 20 assists for Gregg Berhalter’s side the past two seasons. Finlay was particularly impressive last year, earning an MLS Best XI selection while helping Crew SC to an MLS Cup Final appearance.
U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann rewarded Finlay’s play with a call-up to January camp earlier this year where he made his first two international appearances and provided the assist on Jozy Altidore’s stoppage-time winner in the team’s 1-0 victory against Canada on February 5.
The display in his initial MNT camp earned Finlay a spot on the roster for this month’s matches against Guatemala, and though he’s one of the lesser experienced players in the team, Klinsmann said he could be called upon in Tuesday’s important match against Guatemala.
“[In Ethan], we added a player to our roster pool that is highly talented and he showed that in the January camp where he got his first taste of the senior National Team,” Klinsmann told reporters in his pre-game press conference Monday. “He’s going to be on the bench tomorrow, but possibly coming in. He’s very, very hungry. He’s very determined. He’s not a youngster anymore, and that means he has a certain level of confidence, so it could be that he comes on and we’re glad to have him in our roster pool now.”
Available to play on both wings, Finlay could be a suitable option off the bench in a few different scenarios. Whatever ends up happening, he’ll feel pride in the experience.
“Either way, whether I get in or not, I’ll be there cheering the guys on and excited to be a part of it,” Finley stated.