Austin FC dips toe in December free agency by signing MLS veteran Ethan Finlay

If MLS free agency is like Barton Springs Pool in December, let’s just say Austin FC dipped its toe in the water with its first major signing this offseason, but the club did not take the polar bear plunge.

Ethan Finlay, 31, is a steady 10-year MLS veteran midfielder with 245 appearances and 49 goals during his career. He played the last four and a half seasons for Minnesota United, after starting in the league with Columbus Crew. His time with the Crew overlapped with Austin FC head coach Josh Wolff, then an assistant coach under Gregg Berhalter. He also crossed paths with Brad Stuver and Hector Jimenez in Columbus.

Finlay agreed to a two-year guaranteed deal with the Verde & Black for an undisclosed sum. (For perspective, Minnesota United paid Ethan a base salary of $450,000 in 2021.)

Following a brief stint in 2010 with USL PDL side Chicago Fire Premier, Columbus Crew snatched up Finlay with the 10th pick of the 2012 MLS SuperDraft. Wearing the Black & Gold, Ethan scored his first MLS goal in 2014 against the Portland Timbers.

During his Crew years, the agile winger registered 30 goals in 150 appearances.

Finlay was traded to Minnesota United in 2017 during the club’s inaugural MLS season, posting 95 appearances and recording 19 goals in his tenure with the Loons. In 2021, Ethan played in 30 of 34 matches, starting 19 of those matches. He tallied 21 total shots on goal, 10 on target, and 3 goals scored last season.

Austin FC Sporting Director Claudio Reyna clearly values Finlay’s MLS experience.

“Ethan is a very strong addition to the Club,” Reyna said. “He possesses quality and experience, both of which will be valuable as we continue to grow and improve heading into 2022. We can’t wait to welcome him to Austin.”

Claudio Reyna
December 20, 2021

What does Austin FC get in Ethan Finlay

Austin FC gets a veteran player with a decade of MLS experience to bolster an Austin FC midfield that struggled last season, in part due to international and rookie players that still need to get their legs under them in the league.

Like several other current Austin FC players, Finlay comes to ATX knowing Wolff’s system from his days with the Columbus Crew. Ethan said as much during his introductory Twitter Spaces convo on Monday, “The [Austin FC] playing style fits how I like to play.” 

He’s also fully aware of Austin FC’s inaugural season woes saying, “Defensively, we’re going to have to be better.” Ethan also made it known that he personally plans to be accountable on that side of the ball “I’ve always said that defense starts up front” — music to Wolff’s ears no doubt.

“I hope to bring leadership and a winning culture to this young but prolific club.”

— Ethan Finlay

Jersey Number: Finlay was asked on Twitter Spaces what number he’ll take with Austin FC. Ethan said he would like to keep number 13, but he wouldn’t be a “prima donna” about it. He retold the story of how very early in his career the Columbus Crew equipment manager tossed him the number 13 jersey. Ethan really wanted number 8, but by the end of the season he had played so well in it that he kept number 13, with encouragement from the equipment manager, and has worn it ever since.

Plus, it would really screw up his Instagram handle (see below).

Player Bio:

Name: Ethan Finlay
HT: 5-9
DOB: August 6, 1990
Birthplace: Duluth, Minnesota
Nationality: United States
Instagram: @ethanfinlay13

Ethan Finlay Career Stats

Columbus Crew2012-201715030
Minnesota United 2017-20219519
TOTAL 24549

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