This year, RBNY fans have the opportunity to see what Etienne was talking about for themselves. Danielle Etienne is part of the Haiti squad at the CONCACAF Women’s U-20 Championship in Trinidad.
The 17-year-old midfielder is one of just two foreign-based players in the Haiti squad; the other is star and captain Nerilia Mondesir, who plays professionally for Montpellier in France. Etienne plays for NYCFC’s Academy - a victim of the circumstance that is RBNY’s lack of a girls academy team - but she is the strongest Red Bull connection in the CONCACAF tournament. So lend her and the rest of the Haiti U-20 women your attention and support, RBNY fans, for the remainder of their attempt to qualify for the 2018 Women’s U-20 World Cup.
The CONCACAF tournament is down to its final four. Haiti is perhaps the surprise semi-finalist, joining the region’s big three teams at this level: Canada, Mexico, and the USA. Were Haiti to qualify for the final, it wouldn’t just be the team’s first appearance in the Championship game of this competition - it would be the first time any team other than Canada, Mexico or the USA had made the CONCACAF Women’s U-20 final, and the first time the USA had missed one.
The tournament’s top three will qualify for this summer’s U-20 World Cup in France: both finalists and the winner of the third-place playoff.
Haiti got through the group stage with back-to-back 3-2 wins over Trinidad and Tobago and Costa Rica. In the opening game against T&T, the team dropped into a 2-0 hole before a Mondesir hat-trick turned the game around. Against Costa Rica, it was the other way round: Haiti took a 3-0 lead into half-time, and then weathered a Costa Rican fight-back in the second half.
For the final group-stage game, against Canada, Haiti rested starters and sank to a 4-0 loss to one of the stronger squads in the tournament. But expect a full-strength side to start against the USA in the semifinals.
The USA brings a perfect record from the group stage to the semifinals, though there is perhaps the sense the team did just enough to win its group and not a lot more. Nonetheless, the Americans will start the game as favorites - not least because the USA has won the last four editions of this tournament. It will be up to Haiti to demonstrate the fallacy of that assumption.
The winner of this match progresses to the final and qualifies for the 2018 Women’s U-20 World Cup. The loser will play in the third-place playoff for a second chance at World Cup qualification. Both those games will be played on January 28.