Derrick Etienne Jr.
ESNY Graphic, MLS

New York Red Bulls youngster Derrick Etienne Jr. entered the game for Haiti and completely altered the course of the match for his country.

When a national team isn’t performing too well, the solution is simple: just bring in a New York Red Bulls player.

Haiti couldn’t quite find their rhythm in the first half of their Gold Cup opener versus Bermuda on Sunday night at Estadio Nacional de Costa Rica. They went to halftime down by a goal after getting outshot 6-5.

It appears as if Haiti head coach Marc Collat asked 22-year-old Red Bulls player Derrick Etienne Jr. to start warming up in the 23rd minute to later enter the match as the youngster got off the bench.

Indeed, Collat subbed the winger in the match at halftime. It was the first time Etienne was going to play in an official tournament at the international level. Prior to this match, he played in just 10 matches with Haiti, scoring three goals. Despite those numbers, it was a great sub from Collat.

The exciting winger did exactly what he entered the game for; he lifted up the spirit of the team from the left flank.

Etienne’s first touch was a long pass that didn’t reach his target but he quickly made up for it. He later pressed his opponents like a raging bull—thanks to the 10 years and counting he’s been with the Red Bulls for.

In the 49th minute, the midfielder tackled Donte Brangman then hit a sublime curling low-pass to Frantzdy Pierrot in the box. Pierrot took one too many touches in the 18-yard box and failed to hit the ball past the opposing keeper.

It was one of Haiti’s best scoring chances of the match up to this point, Etienne had only been in the encounter for five minutes.

Later in the 54th minute, the Haitian-American played a major role in Haiti’s tying goal without even touching the ball. Haiti was rewarded a free-kick. He and Steven Sabat stood by the ball. Etienne acted as if he was going to kick the ball while Sabat made a run right in front of him.

It seemed as if the two internationals were on different pages, but really, they were. Sabat paced back to the ball and sent a delivery to Pierrot, who headed a shot in the net.

After the goal, Etienne looked even more energized and eager to usher Les Grenadiers to a victory. In the 58th minute, he bolted across the top of the 18 before steering a shot past the lower left goalpost.

Fast-forward to the 66th minute, Haiti did take the lead, partially because of Etienne’s energy. The 22-year-old dispossessed Dante Leverock on the left flank then galloped down the line before squaring a pass to Duckens Nazon. Nazon’s shot was saved but Pierrot buried the rebound home to put Haiti up 2-1.

Etienne wasn’t done then, he juked Brangman in the 68th minute before passing the ball to Nazon, who unfortunately hit a shot over the net.

The 73rd minute was perhaps the Virginia native’s favorite minute of the match—despite the goals of course—Etienne pulled off a wicked rabona pass to Wilde-Donald Guerrier. The midfielder couldn’t help to retweet a video of it after the match.

Etienne was explosive and confident to show his skill on the ball, something a direct team like New York will be proud of.

The youngster almost found the net in the 78th minute when he chested a pass down before rolling a shot at the keeper. Etienne was furious after missing the chance to score his first ever Gold Cup goal as he kicked the goalpost.

Needless to say, the RBNY winger started the Gold Cup on a bright note. Hopefully, he will transfer this form back with him in New York.

New York’s head coach Chris Armas hasn’t used Etienne often this season. The Red Bulls product only played in six MLS matches so far this campaign. In a game against L.A. Galaxy, he played the similar super-sub role and netted the winner of a 3-2 win.

After his performance versus Bermuda, Etienne will more than likely start Haiti’s next match against Nicaragua on Thursday. A good run in the Gold Cup will surely boost the midfielder’s chances of becoming a starter for RBNY and give him the spark he needs to take his young career to the next level.

Originally from Haiti, Ralph 'Onz' Chery started his writing career as a City College of New York student with The Campus. He also wrote for First Touch, the Cosmopolitan Soccer League and other local leagues. After graduating, Onz started covering the New York Red Bulls for ESNY and joined Haitian Times.