Atlanta United attacking midfielder Derrick Etienne, Jr. looked back at the referee with a pained look on his face. In a 1-1 match against visiting Toronto FC Saturday night, the Richmond, Virginia native nearly drew a penalty after getting drug down by his jersey.
The play did not result in a scoring opportunity, at least not this time, but it was a prime example of the kind of energy Etienne brings off the bench for United, who drew with Toronto 1-1 and moved its unbeaten streak to two games. Moments earlier he was a part of the trio of passes that resulted in the game-tying goal in the 60th minute.
Coming off the bench this season, Etienne has completed 80% of his passes and has been a spark plug. He continues to impress United head coach Gonzalo Pineda. “In some ways it was part of the game plan to bring [Etienne and fellow newcomer Giorgos Giakoumakis] in around the 60th minute regardless of the result,” explained Pineda during his postgame press conference.
“I am very pleased with the way Etienne is impacting the games off the bench. Not yet with a goal or an assist, but it’s going to come. But with his energy and his willingness to break lines in the final third and dribble in tight areas,” Pineda said.
At 5’10 Etienne, 26, is both one of the quicker players on the pitch, while also being one of the most athletic. In his eighth year in Major League Soccer, he joined Atlanta United via free agency this offseason. His career began with the New York Red Bulls in 2017, where he was a homegrown player. He would go on to play for the Cincinnati FC and the Columbus Crew before signing with Atlanta. “I’m trying to work my way to 90 -minute fitness,” Etienne said in the locker room after the match. He looked comfortable talking to the media and wore a denim Martin cap turned to the back. “I’m just getting ready when I’m called in.”
A member of the Haiti National Team, Etienne has played 65 minutes and is feeling good about the squad, the future for Atlanta United and his role on the team. Atlanta United has earned four points in two matches this season. “I’m excited about what’s to come,” Etienne said. “I think we have a very good team.”
Pineda added, “He is just a skillful player. He’s competing very well once I put him on the field.”
Atlanta United (1-1-0) will be in Charlotte (0-0-2) Saturday, Mar. 11 for a noon first kick.