Ethan Finlay just cannot stop scoring.
After failing to score in his first two seasons with the Columbus Crew, the young midfielder has been the leader of the Crew’s resurgence as an offensive team.
Scoring three times, and adding an assist, over the last four matches, Finlay has helped to cover some of the gaps that have been left with midfielder Federico Higuain’s time away from the squad.
His most recent goal might be his most important. After allowing a second half goal in a midweek matchup against Real Salt Lake, the Crew struggled to find a breakthrough that would have prevented a second consecutive loss.
Enter Finlay. Subbed on in the 77th minute for Hector Jimenez, Finlay’s speed was again the thing that earned the Crew at least a point.
In the 88th minute, midfielder Ben Speas slipped the ball to a streaking Finlay, who chipped the ball perfectly over the keeper for the equalizer. The 1-1 draw was enough to push the Crew into the fifth and final playoff spot in the Eastern conference on 17 points.
“You end up being really proud of them, the way they fought back, and the way they were determined to get something out of the game,” Crew head coach Gregg Berhalter said following the draw. “But the other side is, we’re disappointed we were in that place to begin with. We’re on the sideline celebrating a tying goal when we should have been in a different position.”
The chip came on the heels of a phenomenal performance by Salt Lake’s backup keeper Jeff Attinella, who made save after save to prevent the Crew from scoring their first of the match.
“He was good. I kind of like it when their goalie is the Man of the Match because it means we’re doing a lot offensively,” Berhalter said.
Defender Bernardo Anor played his first-ever match at left back, and was praised by Berhalter, who called him one of the best players on the pitch.
“Bernie was close to my Man of the Match in terms of what he did at left back, having never played there before,” Berhalter added. “He just kept going, and we were telling him just keep going … And he did.”
The Crew had a chance to go up early on when Higuain was given a chance to hit a penalty, but the team’s leading scorer sent it sky high. He was later taken off for Speas because of a hamstring injury in the 44th minute of the match.
“He (Higuain) made a through run and came up limp, holding his hamstring and we had to take him out,” Berhalter said.
Next up Columbus will travel to FedEx Field to take on D.C. United Saturday at 6:30 p.m. Berhalter added he does not expect to have Higuain back for the match.
Subside Sports Man of the Match: Bernardo Anor
Although he was only close to being Berhalter’s Man of the Match, Bernardo Anor was the clear standout from the Crew on the night. Despite the poor performance by the team in the first half, Anor rarely allowed a run down the left for Real, and was a consistent presence crossing the ball in the second half.