At the end of these series of scouting reports (for now), it is time for New York Red Bulls' fans to get to NYRBII sensation and new homegrown signing, Derrick Etienne.
Who is Derrick Etienne? A scouting report
Born: November 25th, 1996- Richmond, Virginia
Height: 5' 10" Weight: 160 lbs
Derrick Etienne burst onto the scene this spring for New York Red Bulls II in the USL, providing a bright spot as the team struggled to get going. Here, Etienne played 14 games, starting 10 of them. He served as one of the academy players loaned up to the USL team, before exiting the season early to head down to Virginia for college. For NYRB II, Etienne scored 3 goals, and assisted on 3, tied for fifth on the team in points, despite playing only half the season. Once down at Virginia, Etienne started a little slower for the Cavaliers, but eventually he went on the play 17 games (starting 10), score 2 goals, and assist on 1 more. Despite not getting on the scoreboard as often in Virginia, when he did, it was rather spectacular.
Etienne's first-rate USL play along with a solid performance at Virginia, earned him the number 14 place on TopDrawerSoccer's Top 100 freshmen.
Prior to UVA, Etienne had been with the New York Red Bulls Academy since 2009, scoring 21 goals for the U18 in 42 games between 2013 and 2015. Etienne also captained the U18s during the 2014-2015 season and racked up double digit assists. Over the course of his time at the academy Etienne has featured for Haiti's U17, U20, and U23 teams.
Born in the US, Etienne has dual citizenship, though to this point he has never featured for, or even been contacted by, US Soccer. Instead, on the international stage he has featured heavily for the nation of his father, a country he remains connected to, as both his dad and his uncle played soccer for the Haitian National team.
As a player, Etienne is dynamic, exciting, flashy, and a complete spark plug. He's a winger by nature, capable of playing on both the left and the right side of the field, though he can play centrally in a pinch. On the wing Etienne shows better on the left, for as a right-footed player the inverted nature of playing on the left suits him well. There he can challenge defenders, utilizing his excellent close control on the run while the strength of his right foot makes him a constant threat to cut inside, towards goal.
On the ball Etienne is a strong dribbler. His driving and mazy runs are probably his game's greatest strength. He can beat a man with a small piece of skill or with straight-up pace, depending on what the situation requires. This is an area he has improved on greatly in recent years, as during much of his time in the academy his speed had not developed fully and he relied too much on flashy moves to beat a defender. Now he has developed exceptional speed, with his acceleration from a standstill to top speed being a huge asset to his game. This makes his wing play much more unpredictable, and forces defenders to constantly adapt, never getting comfortable going against him. As it stands his skill is more deadly when coupled with speed.
Etienne still enjoys being flashy, and while this is entertaining, it could come back to bite him in the pro game unless he can moderate it. Etienne loves putting a fancy move on the defender, beating him, entertaining the crowd, and making the defender look silly in the process. However, in the professional game this could be a spot of bother, as one move too many could result in Etienne getting hacked. No defender likes to be beat, much less be made a fool of, and in MLS, a physical league as it is, Etienne's tricks could result in him getting kicked and hacked at by opposition defenders, which could result in injuries down the line. He's not in the wrong here, but it is an unfortunate side effect of playing in a physical league like MLS.
Despite all the flair that comes with his game, and the connotations and assumptions that come with that, Etienne is not a selfish player. He assists more than he scores, and is willing to work on both sides of the ball. As shown for NYRB II, he is a capable winger in a high-pressure system, and that should be able to translate to MLS despite the step up in pace between the two leagues.
One area where Etienne will have to improve: he is prone to shutting down once the play is no longer centered around him. After an unsuccessful run and the other team regains possession, or a successful pass and a switch of the field, Etienne sometimes stops and admires his handiwork (or lack thereof). While not a significant hole in his game, it will need to be cut out if he is to truly perform to the level many are expecting of him in MLS.
Derrick Etienne provides what US soccer lacks for the most part. America has long been capable of producing smart, hard working soccer players, but the country has yet to be able to consistently produce the pure talent in soccer that makes the sport looks so effortless, or at the very least bring that talent along to the professional game. It's only when one is able to combine those two archetypes that one gets the global stars of the game. Etienne's not there yet, not even close, but he has the unteachable base of talent, the intangible physical skills, as well as the perceived work ethic to grow into a player unique to the US soccer landscape.
Everything Etienne does on the ball looks effortless. He thinks fast on the attack, rarely dawdling to make a decision. He has a soft first touch, cushioning the ball well constantly, allowing him to receive a pass well as well as keep the ball with ease on the run. He could be a little smarter with his first touch, thinking where he wants to take the ball and what he can do with it before he receives it, a skill that makes Mael Corboz and Sean Davis the players they are, but even that's a minor issue. The only real weakness that could be exploited is his lack of size, though even then he's not truly small.
As a player, think of Derrick Etienne as a brute force version of Lloyd Sam. A fast, skilled winger, the difference being Sam is much more willing to turn and reset the play while Etienne will drive at his defender, either into a dead end or past him into open space, an opportunity created. Etienne, like Tyler Adams and Matt Miazga, is different from many of the Homegrown players signed this year as his potential is open-ended. The level of his play could well be beyond MLS by the time he's in his prime, but that's up to Etienne and how he develops. At the very least New York has a live-wire winger on its hands.