Creighton's Ethan Finlay submitted the performance of the Combine to date as players did all they could to ensure moving day went their way.LAUDERHILL, Fla. – Nothing could stop Creighton forward Ethan Finlay from making his mark on the MLS Player Combine.
Not the disappointment of learning he had finished second in the MAC Hermann Trophy award balloting on Friday night. Not the scant amount of sleep he snatched before his early Saturday morning flight from St. Louis to Fort Lauderdale. Not the delay he encountered in Atlanta along the way. Not the modest amount of time afforded to adjust to a process already well underway before he arrived. And certainly not his opposition on Sunday afternoon.
Finlay registered a hat trick inside the opening half hour in adiPure's 4-2 win over Prime to make up for the match he missed on Friday and remind MLS coaches and executives why he has scored 29 goals in the past two seasons.
“It was a great result for the team and it was a good day for myself,” Finlay said. “It was nice to come out and get the legs moving after not really playing some good soccer in at least a month now.”
The rust didn't show as he formed one-third of a potent attacking trio with Sam Garza (Generation adidas/UC Santa Barbara) and Luke Holmes (Akron). All three players posed problems for the Prime defense by allying energy with incisiveness inside the attacking third, but Finlay's deft finishing – including a clipped conclusion to a tidy sequence for his third – stole the show.
“We clicked right away,” Finlay said. “I talked to Sam before the game and I love how he plays. And Luke, I hadn't seen him play too much, but his movement off the ball (is good). We found (each other). Sometimes, I'd start out on the right, then I'd be on the left and then I'm playing up top. The movement is what made us so difficult to cover today.”
All of that movement ensured Finlay wandered gingerly off the field with ice bags strapped around his calves. He said he'll be fit enough to feature on Tuesday despite the soreness he encountered today as he made the transition from turf to grass. Given his determination to overcome a series of obstacles to submit the performance of the Combine to date, he probably deserves the benefit of the doubt.
Recapping the day
Game one: adiPower (Red) 2, adiZero (Blue) 1: All of the scoring came in the second half as adiPower secured its second win in as many attempts through its potent strike force. Chandler Hoffman (Generation adidas/UCLA) tucked home his second goal from a Casey Townsend (Maryland) feed four minutes after the interval, while Townsend joined his partner on two goals by doubling the advantage with a well-taken volley after 69 minutes. Evan James (Charlotte) lashed home five minutes later to reduce the deficit, but adiZero couldn't find an equalizer in the final quarter of an hour.
Game two: adiPure (White) 4, Prime (Green) 2: Findlay netted a first-half hat trick as part of a four-goal explosion by adiPure. Holmes netted the other goal as adiPure romped into halftime, but Darren Mattocks (Generation adidas/Akron) jumped off the bench in the second half to prompt replies by James Kiffe (UC Santa Barbara) and Babayele Sodade (UAB).
News and notes
- Finlay now leads all scorers at the Combine with three goals in one appearance, while Hoffman and Townsend are joint second with two goals after their strikes on Sunday afternoon.
- Nick DeLeon (Louisville) did not feature Sunday in adiPure's romp. The projected first-round pick said a quad knock kept him out of the proceedings.
- Alec Purdie (Indiana) pulled out of the starting lineup for adiPower with tightness in his left hamstring. The all-Big Ten selection spent most of the first half stretching on the sideline and entered the fray in the second half. First day injury victim Jason Banton (Leicester City/England) took Purdie's place in the starting XI.
- Kelyn Rowe (Generation adidas/UCLA) wrapped up his Combine by featuring in a free role in central midfield. The U.S. U-23 international showed some glimpses of his talent in the attacking third, but he also received plenty of counsel from the adiPower coaching staff about his penchant for holding the ball just a bit too long at times. Rowe will depart for Carson, Calif. on Monday morning to link up with his international teammates.
- Warren Creavalle (South Florida) has turned a few heads with his displays at right back over the first two days, but it isn't his natural position. AdiZero coach Jim Barlow (Princeton) asked Creavalle before the Combine started if he would slide away from his usual role in central midfield to provide some cover at right back. Creavalle complied with the request and ultimately reaped the benefits of his unselfish decision.
“I think I held my own at right back,” Creavalle said. “I started to get more comfortable. I think I was more comfortable there (today) than I was in the first game, especially. I think that's what it's all about: progressing and adapting. That's what I did today.”
- The international contingent continues to underwhelm on the whole, but there were at least a few flickers of life. The best of the lot on the second day: Kohei Yamada (Thespa Kusatsu/Japan) showed fairly well as an attacking midfielder – and earned praise from Findlay for his combination play – in adiPure's rampant display.
Kyle McCarthy writes the Monday MLS Breakdown and frequently writes opinion pieces during the week for Goal.com. He also covers the New England Revolution for the Boston Herald and MLSsoccer.com. Contact him with your questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter by clicking here.