Derrick Etienne, Jr. on BWP:  “He reminds me of my father a lot, not because of his age or anything,” Etienne said. “He’s very honest and that’s something that my dad taught me throughout my childhood career.” (Photo courtesy of MLS)

By Michael Lewis

FrontRowSoccer.com Editor

After a couple of years as a Red Bulls understudy, Derrick Etienne, Jr. figures it’s time for him to take a giant step forward.

The 21-year-old midfielder-forward wants to become a regular if not a start.

“It’s everyone’s goal to work their way into the starting lineup,” Etienne Jr. said in a recent interview. “So that’s really my goal. I’m trying to become a starter in terms that the team can depend on. My goal is that; also trying to continue to establish myself with the team and push for goals and assists. I always set myself to trying to get into double digits for goals and assists.”

But …

“First things first,” he added. “I’ve got to be able to start and get myself the minutes, the chances. Then the way I play, the system we play in, the players we have, the goals and assists will come.”

Head coach Jesse Marsch did not think that was idle talk for the Haitian international, who is the son of a former Haitian national team player and Long Island Rough Rider, Derrick Etienne.

“I think Derrick will establish himself as a major piece this year,” he said. “When I first came here, [I was told] about Derrick, about how he was lazy, that he took too many touches on the ball, that he wouldn’t fit in the system. A big credit goes to Derrick because he’s really challenged himself to adapt, to learn, to push himself to get better every year.”

Over the past two seasons, the 5-10, 160-lb. Etienne, Jr. played 19 games and 706 minutes with two assists. He is still looking for his first MLS goal.

Not getting the playing time or being involving in scoring hasn’t hurt his self-esteem at all.

“I have a lot of confidence in myself,” he said. “I am a confident player. The way we play, it allows us to take risks. We want to go goal as quickly as possible. To be able to get a run in for myself and 1 v 1 positions a lot. So I feel confidence is a big part of my game. When you have someone like Bradley-Wright Phillips talking to you constantly, and the confidence from the coaching staff, it really helps. I feel that I have a lot of confidence, especially with my time with the national team and starting to get more minutes with the club. The confidence is getting higher and it’s the highest it’s ever been since I’ve been with the first team.”

Not surprisingly, Etienne, Jr. looks up to BWP, the Red Bulls’ all-time goal leader, who has become his mentor.

“He reminds me of my father a lot, not because of his age or anything,” Etienne said. “He’s very honest and that’s something that my dad taught me throughout my childhood career. He’s completely honest with me when he feels when I am playing well or there are things when I’m not doing well. That’s the most important thing, having someone who is in the trenches with you and who’s able to understand the tactics and help you with the little things.

“He has been, in my eyes, the best striker for the last three years. and probably one of the best strikers in MLS history. So, just to be able to learn from him and pick up any little tips that he has is something that I have been able to take personally.”

Etienne, Jr. was grateful he has had so many teachers on the team, although several are not with the squad anymore.

“I’ve had him, I had Shaun Wright-Phillips, I had Lloyd [Sam], I had Mike Grella,” he said of three departed players. “I had some of the attacking players in the last three years in front of me and they were willing and able to give me advice to further improve my game. I just take it in and hopefully implement into my game, but still to be able to be true to myself. He’s been very big on and off the field for my development as a pro.”