Atlanta United attacking midfielder Derrick Etienne, Jr. (18) looks to make a pass during a match against Toronto FC Saturday, March 4, 2023 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Photo: Itoro N. Umontuen/The Atlanta Voice

It didn’t take long for Atlanta United midfielder Derrick Etienne, Jr. to make an impact during his first start for the club Saturday night against visiting New York Red Bull (now 1-3-2 overall).

A 1-0 victory, United (4-1-1 overall) remains undefeated at home this season.

At the seventh minute and with the match tied at 0, Etienne received a long pass down the left side of the pitch and immediately found Thiago Alamada for an open shot on goal that missed, but would yield a perfect rebound however was immediately put into the back of the net by fellow newcomer Giorgos Giakoumakis.

Etienne came over to the club from Columbus during the offseason and has been a super-substitute off the United bench this season. He had an assist during the previous home match, a 5-1 victory over Portland on March 18.

In the 43rd minute there was another scoring opportunity for Etienne that didn’t result in a goal for United but kept the Red Bull back line honest. Etienne’s speed helped him draw a yellow card from Red Bull defender Andres Reyes in extra time just before the half.

Etienne drew more attention during the second half of the match. He even turned defender during a Red Bull possession, heading away a pass when they were threatening to tie the match in the 63rd minute.

Asked how it felt to get that first start for United under his belt, Etienne said, “It felt good. I got to play against my childhood club and it’s always fun to play against them. It was very good to get the win the first start.”

All in all Etienne played 73 minutes tonight, a season high, and was efficient during his first start of the season, according to United manager Gonzalo Pineda.

“The goal starts with Miles playing that long ball into Derrick, Derrick playing that cutback into Thiago,” Pineda said of Etienne’s contribution on the wing.

Etienne, a native of Richmond, Virginia, was a homegrown selection by the Red Bull a couple of years go. “Hopefully it keeps going,” Etienne said. “I had a pretty good game.”

Etienne has played in five games of United’s six games this season for a total of 175 minutes.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Donnell began his career covering sports and news in Atlanta nearly two decades ago. Since then he has written for Atlanta Business Chronicle, The Southern Cross...