By Michael Lewis

FrontRowSoccer.com Editor

Derrick Etienne, Jr. was been to soccer hell and back.

Unwanted by not one, but two teams in 2019, the midfielder finds himself in seventh heaven today after he played an important role in Columbus Crew SC’s 3-0 triumph over Seattle Sounders FC by scoring the second goal at MAPFRE Stadium Saturday night.

To appreciate Etienne, Jr.’s journey, you need to remember that he was jettisoned by the Red Bulls, who sent the Haitian international midfielder on loan to the Devil’s Island of Major League Soccer, FC Cincinnati.

The MLS expansion team wasn’t interested in purchasing his contract. At the end of the year, the Homegrown player from Paterson, N.J. was released by the Red Bulls.

Opportunity knocked when he signed with Columbus Feb. 4.

“After being cut I just wanted to make a team and prove myself in the league,” Etienne said during a video press conference. “I’m just grateful that Columbus gave me an opportunity to come in. I was able to just seize that moment and make the team. Then it was all about just keep grinding and keep pushing.

“That’s been the most thing that I had the whole year. When I got my opportunities, just try to take the take advantage of and do the most with it and I was able to do that tonight. So honestly, I’m just blessed to be in this situation and be able to get this.”

During the regular season, Etienne scored one goal and assisted on two others in eight starts and 891 minutes over 21 matches. So, he was ready went Caleb Porter told him he was going to start.

“We’ve been doing it all year, next man up,” he said. “Just be ready for the call and I was able to get the call, get the start.”

Opportunity knocked again for Etienne in the 31st minute when game MVP Lucas Zelarayán found him on the left side of the penalty area. Etienne drilled a shot past goalkeeper Stefan Frei and the hosts had a two-goal advantage. It was Etienne’s second goal of the year. The first was in a 3-0 win over Chicago Fire FC Aug. 20.

“Lucas did a great job of finding me open,” Etienne said. “I just wanted to make sure that I finished it. You get at least one chance. So, glad I was able to capitalize on it. So, right now get super excited and happy to get MLS Cup.”

Especially after Columbus discovered it wasn’t going to have midfielder Darlington Nagbe and Pedro Santos, who missed the match due to testing positive for COVID-19.

“When we heard the news, of course we were upset,” Etienne said. “Two of our big-time guys who stepped up throughout the year who played so well for us were down. So, we just wanted to make sure that you went out there and kept playing that way we know we knew we could play.

“We had a very good performance from every single player on the field. I think that was the major part. So, to be able to get that one without Darlington and without Pedro was amazing. We wish they were here with us but unfortunately they’re not, but we were able to go out there and get the wind for them.”

Etienne and his teammates won’t have too much time to enjoy the moment.

Training camp is expected to start next month as the league hopes for a March kickoff. Of course, that all depends on the pandemic.

Etienne won’t be resting on his laurels or his MLS Cup medal.

He said that he will “just get back into the lab and be ready for next year.

“Of course, we’re going to celebrate for a couple of days and enjoy it but we want to move on to continue to keep this thing going.”