Thursday, January 31, 2013
BRADENTON, Fla. – As he sat in the auditorium of the MLS SuperDraft, waiting to hear his name called, former Reading United and Notre Dame standout Ryan Finley talked with his mother as the Columbus Crew prepared to make the eighth selection.
“It was funny, I was sitting there with my mom, and she said, ‘who do you think Columbus will pick?’, and I said, ‘well, they might pick me’, and they ended up calling my name,” Finley said IMG Academy this week. “It was kinda funny, but I had no idea, I was obviously very excited to come to Columbus.”
One of the top seniors in the 2013 SuperDraft, Finley scored 21 goals in 22 games for Notre Dame last fall, becoming a finalist for the MAC Hermann Trophy. Now he’s settling in with the Crew as they begin their preseason training in Florida, and getting used to life in the professional ranks.
“Obviously it’s taking me some time to get used to, but I’m having a good time, all the guys are very welcoming and they’re all a bunch of great guys, so that obviously helps,” Finley said. “I’m just trying to work hard and do my best.”
In addition to his standout career with the Fighting Irish, Finley also gained experience in the PDL. Having previously played for the Ocean City Nor’easters and Central Jersey Spartans, he decided to train and play for Reading United this past summer. Under the watch of Reading coach, and Philadelphia Union assistant, Brendan Burke, Finley scored twice in eight appearances, playing alongside fellow SuperDraft selections Deshorn Brown, Stephen Okai, Ian Christianson and Greg Cochrane.
“Brendan Burke did a great job, I talked to him, and I knew that Reading had a good history of finishing top of the table and having some good players come in and play for them,” Finley said. “I think just playing under a guy who has some MLS experience coaching-wise, it’s a great experience, and then you’re playing with some of the best players in the country, so it’s a pretty well-run organization.”
Finley had another link to the Union thanks to his time with the U.S. U17 residency academy, with John Hackworth now the Union’s head coach. With their MLS affiliation, and the quality of player United was able to attract, MLS scouts would regularly attend Reading’s contests to keep an eye on potential future draft picks.
“With Reading finishing at the top of the table year-in and year-out, I think it’s obviously an attraction for MLS coaches to come out and watch the best players and the best teams play,” Finley said. “That was obviously a pretty good attraction for me to come.”
Now Finley is working to find his role for the Crew. For Notre Dame last fall, while one of the top players in the nation, the 21-year-old came off the bench in every game to score his 21 goals, and a similar role could be waiting for him, at least in the beginning, with Columbus.
As you’d expect, Finley is ready to do whatever Crew coach Robert Warzycha asks of him, but he is eager to get his opportunity on the field and get his scoring account opened in MLS.
“I’d like to score some goals,” he said of expectations for his rookie season. “I haven’t really set a goal yet, I’m sure I will before the season starts, but I’m just down here trying to work my tail off and just try to get as much playing time as I can.”
As MLS and its teams prepare for the league’s 19th season, it is now starting to include players who have grown up with the league as part of the U.S. soccer landscape. As Finley prepares for his rookie season, in the same place that he worked to get to the position he is in now, it’s also a chance for him to reflect on what it means to have found a place in the league.
“It’s funny, I was saying to one of my teammates who I was in residency with, it was funny when we were in residency and the MLS teams would come down, we’d think it was a huge deal, and now we’re in the MLS spot with the residency kids here,” Finley said. “It’s obviously an honor to be in MLS, the league has grown so much and there are a lot more great things to come from it.”
With Finley’s scoring prowess, and all-around game, great things could soon come from him for the Crew.