In 2014, Ethan Finlay scored his first professional soccer goal against the Portland. He followed that up with his first MLS assist two games later. With one game remaining in the MLS regular season, the Columbus Crew midfielder has 11 goals and seven assists to his name.
He now also has a contract extension.
"It feels great," he said. "It's been something we've been working for and it's great. I'm extremely happy, my family's happy, and I think the club is happy so it's a win-win for both sides."
The Columbus Crew made the announcement on Friday morning, but Finlay signed the contract Thursday night at a local bar where head coach Gregg Berhalter hosted a question and answer session with fans.
Finlay is a remarkable story. He was drafted 10th overall in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft by the Crew, but struggled to make an impact in his first two years. To begin the season, Finlay was attempting to crack the 18-man game day roster under his new head coach. Once he did, he finally demonstrated what he is capable of.
"He wasn't in the 18, now he's in the 18, now he's a starter, now people are talking about national team stuff and third leading American scorer per minute in the league," Berhalter said on Friday.
"That stuff's good. That stuff's exciting."
Finlay knew coming into the year it was time to put up or shut up. As a forward at Creighton University, Finlay played and started in 79 matches, scoring 43 goals yet struggled to translate the finishing touch on the professional stage. Finlay knew what he could do and knew he had to prove it.
"I kind of got to the point where after a couple goals, I knew I had the potential to continue to have a breakout year and that kinda came to fruition," he said.
For Berhalter, it was important to reward his player who had that breakout year and was without a contract going forward. He wanted to get the deal done so Finlay knew where he belonged.
"Ethan's a guy that because of his situation, having been with the Crew for three years and not having scored and then what he went through this year in terms of getting his way back into the 18, and then into the lineup, and then maintaining a spot in the lineup, and developing the way he is, that's what we represent and that type of opportunity," the head coach said.
"Grasping that opportunity is important to us and because of that, we wanted to keep him around and give him a clear signal that that's what we wanted."
For Finlay, it wasn't just about getting paid, but staying in a city he now calls home and club for which he wants to play. With all of the "New Crew" going around, Finlay wanted to be a part of it.
"It was about the community and the club that is making huge strides here," he said about signing the new contract.
"That's what I'm most happy about, that I'm going to be a part of the future and what we're going to do down the road."
For the Crew, it means locking up their second-leading scorer for the next two seasons. For Finlay, this extension means he has to work harder to earn that next deal.
"You're always playing for a new deal," he said. "I mean heck, next year I'm playing for a new deal, right? So you're always playing for that next contract and you're just trying to get better."