Etienne quietly growing into MLS role

In the middle of a packed stretch of fixtures, the New York Red Bulls beat D.C. United 1-0 to take the Atlantic Cup. The last time the two rivals squared off it was on July 25th and to the same scoreline as well. Midfielder Derrick Etienne Jr. got the start on that rainy night in D.C. United’s new digs, Audi Field. Last night he returned to the starting lineup for the first time since that game.

Etienne quietly growing into MLS role

When asked about the midfield’s performance post-game, Chris Armas zeroed in on Derrick Etienne’s performance.

“Tonight he challenged the back line,” said Armas after the match. “We look at Derrick’s performance and it was really good. He was focused and he looked like — you almost have to remind yourself how old he is sometimes. We put a lot on him: Academy product, which we are very proud of, and we put a lot on him. He’s only 21 years old, unless I’m mistaken but he looked like a young pro tonight. All the things that matter, all the things that add up, Derrick was there. And he gives you the threat behind.”

Derrick Etienne stretched the field and consistently posed a problem for D.C. United left back, Joseph Mora. Etienne Jr. finished with 45 touches in just 71 minutes on the field, and was unlucky to not earn a point on the night. On three occasions, Etienne set up goal scoring chances for Kaku and Daniel Royer while nearly scoring himself on a breakaway towards the end of the first half.

When he subbed out of the game Chris Armas took Etienne aside for some feedback. Etienne explained, “he said to keep building on it, it’s a good performance, he put faith in me to give me a start this game and I just wanted to get out there and help the guys in any type of way, he said to keep pushing and keep working to build on this performance.”

The right attacking midfield position has been up in the air since Florian Valot tore his ACL in early June. Since then the positionĀ a rotation of players occupied the position, including Marc Rzatkowski, Alex Muyl, Derrick Etienne Jr. and even Tyler Adams. In the past month, the Red Bulls brought in Andreas Ivan and Brian White, both capable of playing in the spot too.

When asked about the importance of minutes with other players vying for similar roles Etienne responded thoughtfully.

“Of course every player wants to play,” said Etienne. “But at the end of the day it’s a team and our job is to make it difficult for Chris and the coaching staff to make decisions so it’s all competition, whatever player is in form or whatever player is playing the best should get to start. So when you get on the field to put your best foot forward and a good performance in is the most important thing. Of course minutes are important but at the end of the day the most important thing is a win for the team, to get closer to Supporters Shield and MLS Cup.”

It was a bright performance from the homegrown talent. It could help Etienne cement some more minutes, especially in the coming two matches. With just eight matches remaining ahead of the playoffs, performances like this can have a lasting impact in the mind of Chris Armas.

Photo by Bill Twomey Photography

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