Philadelphia Union’s Stuart Findlay in his freshman year in MLS, playoff atmosphere that “isn’t a gimmick”
Stuart Findlay hasn’t played as much for the Union this year as he thought, or as many underdogs thought.
Because Jim Curtin hasn’t turned his center-backs as much this year as he did last year, Findlay only played 486 minutes in nine games, and two of those appearances were last-minute cameos.
Findlay was able to see what Curtin saw, however: Jakob Glenses and Jack Elliott were so consistently good that Curtin didn’t want to put either of them on the bench just for the sake of it.
Of course, some managers would do it anyway to keep the entrees fresh. Findlay gives Curtin credit for giving Findlay an open door to come talk to him, and for being clear that Findlay’s lack of playing time wasn’t just the player’s fault.
“Jim was great with me. He never ignored me – anything I wanted to talk to him about, he was happy to talk to me,” Findlay told The Inquirer as he headed for an offseason break in his Scotland native.
âHe understands the position I’m in, and he understands that I’m not on the moon not to play,â Findlay said. âBut I think you get a feel for the reality of it when you realize how good the guys were this yearâ¦ When your two center-backs are two of the most consistent performers in the full year, those things happen.â
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But when Glesnes and Elliott were excluded from the Eastern Conference final due to health protocols, Findlay stepped up his efforts. Not only did the 26-year-old Scottish perform well, but he quickly established a chemistry with teammate AurÃ©lien Collin in the latter’s first major minutes in two years.
“The guy may have only played a minute of football this season, against Saprissa [in the Champions League], but he has a wealth of experience in this league that no other person on the pitch could claim to have had, âsaid Findlay. âI would also like to see myself as a little experienced. So if you put two experienced guys together, they’re going to be able to pull through. “
It helped make the biggest crowd roar in Subaru Park history from start to finish. Findlay called Chester’s atmosphere as vibrant as any he has seen in his career. And he has given sound advice to critics on both sides of the Atlantic who believe American football is not genuine.
âI would like to think that I have had the privilege of playing in many good stadiums over the years: I have played in FA Cup games for Newcastle. [United] in St. James’s Park, I played in front of 60,000 at Celtic Park, [and] at Ibrox Stadium in Scotland, âhe said, referring to one of the greenhouses of English football and both sides of Old Firm’s world-famous rivalry in Glasgow.
“When we scored – and I know they scored two minutes after – but when they kicked off after the first goal, the noise that reverberated around the place, I thought to myself : ‘It’s football’ “, he continued. âIt’s not the MLS that everyone thinks. They are not gimmicks. That’s right, die-hard fans who love football, and that was amazing. This is something this league doesn’t get enough credit for. “
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Even after conceding the equalizer, the cheering continued, and it didn’t stop until well after the final whistle.
“The welcome we got at the end of the game was really special,” Findlay said. âI’m just proud to have been able to be on this ground and not look at it from the stands. It was nice to be able to be in the park, to be able to kind of use that atmosphere and try to put in the best performance possible. “
After the game, Findlay posted a message on Twitter thank the fans for their support for him and the team. Although he didn’t have too many followers yet, the tweet did the rounds and was warmly received.
âI’m not usually a heavy social media user, but it was only a moment that I felt it was the right thing to do,â he said. âAnd I think it was received so well not only because of me and because of what I said. I think everyone felt the thrill of the day.
The Union are the first non-British club Findlay has played for. This, he said, was part of the attraction of coming to the United States for the first time in his life.
âI came to America because it was a good level of football; it was a new challenge for me, but a big part of my decision to come was for life experiences, âhe said. “To be able to say that I played in the [Estadio] Aztec; to be able to walk in Mexico and to some extent take a seat there; see Costa Rica; to see cities in America that I never dreamed of being able to seeâ¦ it leaves me wanting even more, because each week was something new for me to experience, which I thrive on.
He admitted he wasn’t sure how things would go outside of work. But after moving to the King of Prussia, he said he was having “the best nine months of my life off the pitch”.
This included being pleasantly surprised at how much his Glasgow fiancee enjoyed being here. Although she could not be here for the entire season due to visa restrictions linked to the pandemic, Findlay said at the end of the year that she wanted to stay for the holidays.
âI’m going to be honest with you, before we came she wasn’t very enthusiastic – she was really a stay-at-home girl,â Findlay said. âAs soon as we arrived, she met a very good network of friends, the other wives and girlfriends on the team. â¦ I think that says a lot about how much the club, how much the city, how the other players have helped us all.
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Findlay knows he’s still being followed at home. He saw the report a month ago in the Scottish newspaper Daily Record – a tabloid notorious for jumping on transfer gossip – that Hibernian, from Edinburgh, was considering a winter move for him.
Asked to address the report, Findlay agreed. He still has one year guaranteed on his contract with the Union, with a team option for 2023. If the Union wants to keep him, he is happy to stay.
“If they want me to go or if they want something to happen to me, then I’ll speak in Philadelphia,” he said. “But until then, I as a footballer know that I play for [the] Philadelphia Union, and until they tell me otherwise, then it will be for me.
And as he said throughout the conversation, if he’s proven he deserves more playing time, even better.
âIt’s just up to me to have hopefully shown what I can do that I can be trusted whenever I am needed,â Findlay said. “If this leads to more games – which I really hope it will – then I have to make sure I take that chance when it comes.”