HARRISON, N.J. — It was a moment Derrick Etienne Jr. envisioned while playing in his Paterson, N.J. backyard growing up.
Game on the line, closing moments and he steps up in the biggest moment.
That was the case Saturday afternoon when Etienne came off the bench to bag the game-winning goal, a 67th-minute strike to help lift the New York Red Bulls to a 3-2 win over the LA Galaxy at Red Bull Arena.
“It’s just trying to be ready for those moments,” Etienne said. “If it happens, it happens. If not you learn from it.”
The 22-year-old has come on a second-half substitute in three of the Red Bulls last five games, but Saturday’s high-profile showdown with the Galaxy was his most productive performance of 2019.
Was it coming? Did Red Bulls coach Chris Armas push the right button? Perhaps Etienne scoring for Red Bulls II in the midweek helped influence his decision.
“To see him take those games seriously — then it’s not such a surprise,” Armas said. “They are getting these real reps. And then just to see Derrick get rewarded with the work he’s put in and a big goal, and we know he loves those moments. He’s built for those moments.”
I believe that we will win
On Saturday, it was Armas who helped lift his club back from a 2-1 deficit with his halftime team talk.
His message was one of self-belief and that “we are better than LA,” according to midfielder Marc Rzatkowski.
“We watched our plays on our screen here and what we could do better and it was a very close game,” he said. “He just said that we have to believe in ourselves, that we don’t want to go out there and tie the game, but we want to win the game. That was our mentality and we did a great job in the second half to turn the game around.”
Three for one
The goalscoring load for the last five years has been shouldered by Bradley Wright-Phillips and that’s worked out pretty well with BWP twice winning the Golden Boot award, becoming the quickest player to reach 100 league goals and the first to score 20 goals in three different seasons.
But Wright-Phillips is 34 and it’s reasonable to assume that production will at some point slow down. There’s also injury concerns and Wright-Phillips missed his second consecutive game with a groin strain.
It was time for other players to pick up the scoring and on Saturday three different players — Amro Tarek, Rzatkowski and Etienne — scored their first league goal.
Brian White started for BWP for a second straight match and, although he didn’t score, he put in a hard-working shift, pressuring the Galaxy backline, knocking down second balls and generally doing a lot of the dirty work to help create chances for others.
“What you’re seeing now is a lot of guys being aggressive in the final third, taking guys on, setting up plays the right way to give us the best chance to score,” midfielder Sean Davis said. “It’s really important that we get goals from everywhere and you saw that today with three different goals scorers.”