Derrick Etienne celebrates his insurance goal vs. Toronto FC. (Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)
HARRISON, N.J. — With the big confrontation looming, it is yet to be determined what sort of role Derrick Etienne, Jr. will play for the Red Bulls when they host Atlanta United in the Supporters Shield showdown at Red Bull Arena next Sunday.
With Bradley Wright-Phillips set to miss the game due to a yellow-card suspension, Etienne put his best foot forward crack the starting lineup.
Actually, make that his right foot as he scored an insurance goal three minutes into stoppage time in New York’s 2-0 triumph over defending MLS Cup champion Toronto FC. Etienne, off a long feed from Wright-Phillips, chipped goalkeeper Alex Bono from close-range on the left side of the box.
It was the 21-year-old Etienne’s first goal since May 12 and fourth in 765 minutes (seven starts, 26 MLS matches) this season.
“Yeah, yeah, it is good for D’s confidence,” BWP said. “You know Derrick on his game is one of the best wings in this league and he showed the potential that he has got. Yea it is good that he can have this confidence going into next week, if he’s needed.”
The 5-10, 170-lb. Etienne came on for midfielder Daniel Royer in the 67th minute.
When asked whether this helped his confidence going forward into the final five games of the regular season, Etienne hedged a bit.
“Yes and no. It’s always good to get goals,” he said. “Especially as an attacking player, that’s what you want to do. To be a professional at your best, you can’t get too high, you can’t get too low. So, there’s other plays that I messed up that I could’ve done better on. Nothing is ever perfect. It’s good to get a goal but the most important thing is the win.”
Especially winning against Atlanta (19-5-6, 63 points) next week.
The second-place Red Bulls (18-7-5, 59) trail the Eastern Conference leaders by four points, so they need a win to cut the margin to one to have any chance of catching United. A loss would essentially sew up the title for the visitors and a draw would do New York little good.
Playing without BWP, the team leader in goals (19) will be a difficult task. Whoever is penciled in in his place will have some big shoes to fill.
“It’s a big loss,” Etienne said. “For me, he’s the best forward in the league. He does so much for our team. We’re going to be playing against a star-studded team like Atlanta; we’re going to be at home so that’s a good thing. We’re always going to miss an important player like that, so we are going to have to sit back and see exactly what it is that we can do to fill that gap. No matter who it is, we know exactly what we need to do. That’s, how I think, this system sets up well for that. So, I think if we go out there and press them like we can, we’ll get a chance. Someone else has to step up now.”
Perhaps Etienne will be given the opportunity.