Earlier this week, the New York Red Bulls announced the loan of Haitian Men’s National team starter and homegrown midfielder Derrick Etienne Jr. to FC Cincinnati. The loan will run until the end of the 2019 MLS season, with the option to purchase at the end of the loan, and RBNY receives a third-round pick in the 2020 MLS SuperDraft. 

The young 22-year-old, originally from Richmond, VA but living most of his life in Patterson, NJ, has been a life-long member of the RBNY system. Etienne joined the organization’s academy in 2009 and over the next few years played for U-14, U15, U16, and U18 teams before spending a single season with the University of Virginia Cavaliers men’s soccer team in 2015.

Despite making a few Red Bulls II appearances in 2015, including scoring his first professional goal with the organization against FC Montreal that May, Etienne signed a homegrown contract with the RBNY first team in December of that year to forgo the remainder of his college eligibility. 

Since then, Derrick has been a team jumper between RBNY I & II. In his first season, he spent a majority of the season loaned to the USL Championship side and helped the team win both the regular season and league titles, which included his opening goal in the championship game against Swope Park Rangers on route to the win, 5-1. Since then he’s always been a majority MLS player, including the 2018 season was made an appearance in 31 different league games, but in recent months the situation hasn’t consistent.

Turing the turbulent beginning of the 2019 season, including losing streaks and injuries to key players, Etienne found himself in a similar position. Of the 17 games he’s played, four have been in USL Championship (three of which were starts and included three goals in three straight games), two were in the CONCACAF Champions League where he acted as a second-half sub in the Quarter-Finals series against Liga MX side Santos Laguna, and the rest coming in Major League Soccer. 

Etienne hasn’t played a huge part for the MLS squad this season, scoring one goal in 11 MLS appearances and mostly acting as a late-game sub player up-until late July. He wasn’t getting time in games whether it be due to his Haiti National team call-up during the Gold Cup, where he helped his team reach the semifinals for the first time since the 1970s (under the competition’s old name; the CONCACAF Championship), or due to Red Bulls’ head coach Chris Armas shifting around players trying to find a formula that worked consistently. 

The New York Red Bulls wish Derrick Etienne luck as the team completes his loan to FC Cincinnati (CREDIT: New York Red Bulls)

The move to Cincinnati, a team that is already in a rebuilding mode as it sits at the bottom of the Eastern Conference and league overall, will allow him to get more playing time plus if he impresses he may become a fundamental piece for the Orange and Blue come next year. The young man posted on social media to former RBNY star and current Chicago Fire player Dax McCarty that he “(knows) how you feel bro,” a reference to the latter’s shock at being traded in early January of 2017. But also thanked the fans and organization who gave him a chance to grow and do things like play against Club América. 

The fans and team will miss him as a personality and set-up player, but with players returning, more call-ups coming from Red Bulls II, and the recent addition of winger Josh Sims on loan from Southampton FC the MLS side won’t be in danger of regretting this decision right away.

The Red Bulls will have their first game without Etienne Jr. today as they take on MLS leaders, Los Angeles FC, on the road. Etienne Jr. played his first match with Cincinnati yesterday, coming on as a second half sub in his new team’s draw, 2-2, against the Columbus Crew, the first time the team has earned points since July 13.

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