New York Red Bulls Academy midfielder Derrick Etienne is one of hundreds of players set to join a Division I men’s soccer programs in the fall.
But very few will bring the professional and international experience that can match Etienne’s.
The Haitian youth international has seized the chance, tied for second on the team with two goals and first on the team with three assists.
“I like being able to go train [with the USL team], might have a couple of first team guys there, you can pick up some habits from them,” Etienne told TopDrawerSoccer.com. “It’s a very good process, the guys are great and they welcome me with open arms, allow me to play and what I really like about it they’re not scared to get on you, which makes everyone better.”
Over the past four years, Etienne has developed into one of the top attacking prospects in the Red Bulls Academy setup. He’s amassed 37 goals in the past three seasons alone, despite featuring more as a creator rather than an out-and-out scoring threat.
A creative, technical attacking midfielder who thrives with the ball out his feet, Etienne’s two tallies have been highlight-reel worthy. The first was a perfectly placed volley against FC Montreal, and the second a slaloming, Cristiano Ronaldo-like run against the Richmond Kickers.
He’s one of a handful of academy players to see minutes with the USL team. Ethan Lochner, Marcello Borges, Mason Deeds, Juan Sanchez and Kyle Zajec are some of Etienne’s peers who have also earned playing time – although none come close to his 789 minutes.
Etienne’s schedule has helped maximize his training opportunities, as he’s home schooled and takes online classes to finish up his high school degree. He bounces between sessions with the U18 Red Bulls team and the USL side, but will be with the 18s next week as they head to Indianapolis for the Development Academy playoffs.
Back in 2012 Etienne was on the roster of the U16 champions, and he is eager to be part of another winning team.
“Being on that [U16] team with so many great players and learning from them, I feel that now that I’m in a leadership role, I can take what I learned from them and go out there and win one because it’s been awhile since we’ve won a championship,” he said. “It’s usually championship or bust with us, if we don’t get a championship we’re all disappointed so hopefully we can go out there and we can bring the title back.”
There had been a possibility of Etienne missing the playoffs. A dual citizen of Haiti and the United States, the midfielder spent a week in June down in Haiti with the U23s, aiming to make the roster for Caribbean Olympic qualifying that would’ve overlapped with the DA playoffs.
He found out at the end of last week that he didn’t make the final roster for the Haiti U23s qualifying team, but Etienne felt comfortable about the level and happy with his performance.
“I thought that I was able to fit right in, playing with Red Bull, training with the first team sometimes and being able to play USL the speed of play is always high, always demanding, I felt like I was really prepared to go out there and play with the 23s,” he said.
Having represented Haiti at the U17 and U20 level as well, Etienne’s last experience at U.S. camp came at the U14 level. He ended up not making the U17 residency roster for that cycle that had a number of Red Bulls Academy players on it. The only feedback he ever received came via academy coaches, who said they heard he was too small.
And that’s the plan right now. Etienne has obvious pro ambitions, but is being patient about it, and is planning on being in Charlottesville this fall.
“If I were to get an offer this year, I would have to sit down with my family and see what’s the best thing for us, for my family and myself, but if that’s not in the cards I would take it year-by-year to see what would be the best choice, leaving after one year, two years,” he said. “I’m taking it one step at a time.”