Derrick Etienne Jr.
ESNY Graphic, MLS

It’s tough to watch New York Red Bulls player Derrick Etienne Jr. go to FC Cincinnati on loan, but it’s for his own benefit. 

Onz Chery

He used to sit on the sideline as a ball boy but years later, on Oct. 28, 2018, Derrick Etienne Jr. stood by the 18-yard line to take New York Red Bulls‘ penalty against Orlando City SC in the 15th minute.

It was the last game of the season. New York couldn’t lose to Atlanta United F.C. The Supporters Shield was on the line.

Etienne Jr. shifted on his left, tip-toed to the ball then hammered a shot to the bottom left corner of the net. Orlando’s keeper, Adam Grinwis, pounced on his right to perform a breathtaking save.

Etienne Jr. missed a penalty in a game the Red Bulls couldn’t lose.

The 22-year-old made up for it 38 minutes later. He made his way inside Orlando’s 18-yard box with a swift stepover, cut on his right to freeze Shane O’Neill then hit a shot in the net.

The midfielder pointed to the crowd after scoring. New York won the match 1-0 and captured the Supporters Shield.

Two years before that, Etienne Jr. helped New York’s second team win the USL Cup, scoring the opener of the final against Swope Park Rangers in a 5-1 victory.

He’s been with the club for 10 years and is definitely one of the most animated players on the Red Bulls’ roster.

The team signed Southampton’s winger Josh Sims on loan on Wednesday.

The following day, RBNY announced that they’re sending their beloved winger, Etienne Jr., on loan to FC Cincinnati with an option to buy.

The fans weren’t too happy.

It seemed like this loan didn’t sit too well with the youngster either at first.

Later on, Etienne Jr. clarified that this tweet wasn’t directed at the Red Bulls:

But then he tweeted something else that hinted he wasn’t too pleased to get sent on loan: “Lol Dax McCarty I know how you feel bro.”

McCarty played for New York from 2011 to 2016. McCarty was unexpectedly traded to Chicago Fire in 2016. More than likely, the mutual feeling Etienne Jr. is referring to is the Red Bulls letting go of players.

The winger was one of the best players for Haiti in the Gold Cup this summer. He showed confidence with the way he ran at his opponents, forced an own goal, and tallied an assist.

However, he does have his flaws. Etienne Jr. isn’t the best finisher, but he’s always been a young player with potential. That’s why it’s painful to watch him leave the club on loan.

You can argue that the Haitian-American hasn’t been given enough time on the pitch to fully develop. He only started five matches for RBNY this year, never played a full 90 this season, and didn’t play in the opening four games.

The midfielder amassed one goal and one assist for the Red Bulls this campaign.

Tough to say, going back to his lack of playing time this year, the club doesn’t think he can make major contributions yet. As mentioned, they signed a winger with a better name on Wednesday, Sims, a player who broke into a Premier League’s team.

This means Etienne Jr.’s playing time was going to be in major jeopardy. He was already finding it tough to get consistent minutes. Imagine having to fight for minutes against a 22-year-old who played in one of the best leagues in the world.

Sending Etienne Jr. on loan shows that New York knows that their homegrown player has potential and they want him to grow, even if it’s not with them.

But, yes sure, RBNY could’ve just dropped Etienne Jr. to their second team. In fact, he started the season with the second team. But what’s better for an MLSer: play in the USL or stay in the MLS?

Etienne Jr. is not a USL player.

The Virginia native is now on an MLS team in which he will more than likely record enough playing time to fully develop. That’s the best option for any player.

McCarty agrees that sending Etienne Jr. on loan was the best option for his growth.

The winger will develop with FC Cincinnati. But one burning question remains: Is he going to come back to the Red Bulls? The loan came with an option to buy. When this happens, most of the times the player doesn’t return to his team.

Let’s imagine if Etienne Jr. demonstrates his full potential with FCC (he only played 26 minutes for them so far). The Red Bulls should be fighting to get their beloved winger back, especially given the fact that Sims’ loan ends after this season.

And let’s say, Etienne Jr. does just good enough with Cincinnati. Odds are, RBNY will sell him to FCC. This will honestly be for his own good because if he returns to the Big Apple, he might yet again be struggling to get consistent playing time.

If you can’t keep a youngster with potential in your lineup, the most loving thing to do is to let him go.

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.