Another Columbus Crew player is traveling away from Ohio’s capital for some international soccer. Columbus winger Derrick Etienne Jr. was called up to the Haiti national team for its upcoming FIFA World Cup qualifiers. Three other Black & Gold players will also be on international duty in winger Luis Diaz (Costa Rica), goalkeeper Eloy Room (Curacao), and midfielder Liam Fraser (Canada).
The 24-year-old Etienne has played in five MLS matches and has made three starts this season with his most recent coming in last Saturday’s 2-1 win against Toronto FC at historic Crew Stadium. The Haitian has become a versatile option for Caleb Porter’s squad, making appearances at both the left and right wing and even a sighting at right back in the Crew’s opening 4-0 win against Real Esteli in the CONCACAF Champions League.
Etienne had a productive 2020 season for the Crew with 21 appearances, including a goal in the MLS Cup Final win against the Seattle Sounders last December. He will now put on the blue shirt of his country to try and shock CONCACAF. Haiti has not qualified for the FIFA World Cup since 1974 and a couple of results in June could put the nation two steps closer.
The Grenadiers will play their third match in the first round on June 5 against the Turks & Caicos Islands in Providenciales and will close out its group games on June 8 at home in Port-au-Prince against group rivals Nicaragua. Haiti is in third place in the group but is level on points with first place Nicaragua and Belize. Belize has one last match against Nicaragua on June 4 and a victory for Belize could be just what Haiti needs to get an extra push to win the group.
If Haiti wins the group, the country will advance to the second round of qualifying and face the winners of Group B. The favorites of Group B is Canada, featuring Fraser, with Suriname and Bermuda still in the running to advance. Should Haiti defy the odds and win the group, Etienne and company will advance to the Octagonal third-round group that features the United States, Mexico, Costa Rica, Honduras, Jamaica and the other two second-round winners.
Outside of World Cup qualifiers, Haiti will play in the Gold Cup preliminaries in July where Etienne could be a likely call-up for CONCACAF’s premier tournament. The Grenadiers will face St. Vincent and the Grenadines in Florida on July 2 and a win would mean a date with Bermuda or Barbados on July 6.
Etienne will likely not be the only Crew player away from the team in July for the Gold Cup. Curacao, Canada and Costa Rica are all already qualified for the group stages of the tournament and guaranteed to play three matches. The likes of Room, Fraser and Diaz could all be called up to their respective nations and missing for most of July, a month in which the Black & Gold have six matches.
The Crew returns to the pitch on June 19 to play the Chicago Fire in the last ever game at historic Crew Stadium. The club sits in sixth place in the Eastern Conference with 11 points after seven games played.