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From Goal Scorer to Provider, Ethan Finlay Keeps Producing

The Crew SC winger has found a different way to contribute in 2015.

Yesterday we wrote about the scoring prowess of Columbus Crew SC's Kei Kamara, but today we take a look at the player that helps to set up the forward.

On Wednesday, Ethan Finlay setup Kamara for his league-leading 12th goal of the season, which was also the winger's MLS-best ninth assist of the year.

"The league has got to definitely recognize, he's definitely one of the best passers around," Kamara said of Finlay after the game. "He can find people. He's found that strength that he can make the good passes."

Last season, Finlay worked his way into the starting lineup after not making the bench at times in the preseason. His speed and ability to get behind a defense were on display as he scored as a second half substitute in a 3-3 draw with the Portland Timbers and the following week in his first start, a 2-0 win over the Chicago Fire.

Finlay finished the 2014 campaign tied with Federico Higuain as the team's leading scorer, but was also tied with Pipa for tops in assists with seven.

After the goals helped to cement Finlay as the right midfielder for Crew SC, the winger struggled to score early in 2015. It took six games and 508 minutes for Finlay to find the net this season, but that does not mean the winger wasn't productive.

"Ethan's been another guy who would like to have more goals," head coach Gregg Berhalter said on Wednesday. "We all would like that, but he just keeps plugging away. He never gets down, he keeps working and his assists mean a lot as well. It's great to see a guy like that who had a breakout year last year just keep going and keep performing."

Last year, Columbus relied heavily on the wingers to provide the offense. The Black & Gold's forwards combined for just 10 goals in 2014, while Finlay, Justin Meram, Bernardo Anor, and Hector Jimenez - the four players who lined up on the wing the most - totaled 26 goals.

With the addition of Kamara, the burden for players like Finlay to score has been decreased. While the Black & Gold's No. 13 would love to have more than just two goals on the season, he is doing his job playing provider.

"Ethan's just getting on the assist sheet and he's doing a great job of that," Meram said.

"Ethan's just punishing them and putting the right balls in the right places."

While Kamara can create opportunities for himself, the game is easier for the striker when his teammates are helping to set him up.

This is the beauty of Columbus' offense in 2015. All four of the attacking players have the ability to score, but are capable of doing other things to help the team as well.

While Finlay's career may have kicked off when he began to find the back of the net with regularity, he has now transitioned his game a bit to help play a new role.

One person who is grateful is Kamara.

"It's not about scoring goals all the time," Kamara said of Finlay. "It's making the good pass and finding somebody that's open and it's great. I'm just happy to be at the end of it."