Haiti, Etienne eye Gold Cup berth

Haiti forward Derrick Etienne (#11) scored one goal in the 2016/17 Scotiabank CFU Men's Caribbean Cup fifth-place playoff. (Photo: CA-Images)

SUNRISE, Florida -- Reaching the CONCACAF Gold Cup for the third consecutive time would give a big boost to Haiti, says forward Derrick Etienne.

In order to do so, however, Les Grenadiers must overcome Nicaragua in a two-legged qualifying playoff, hosting the opener Friday at the Stade Sylvio Cator.

"It's extremely important for all the heartaches and hardships and all the things that happened to Haiti in the past 10 years," Etienne stressed.  “Just to be able to get to the Gold Cup, football is a healer.  To continue our run of form and continue to play well will mean a lot to the country.

"When football is played in Haiti, everything stops.  That's the only thing that's on their minds.  They've been through a lot down there.  To be able to qualify and bring joy to the country would just be amazing."

Haiti earned the right to face Nicaragua after capturing first place in the 2016/17 Scotiabank CFU Men’s Caribbean Cup fifth-place playoff by going 2W-0D-0L with wins over Suriname (4-2) and host Trinidad & Tobago (4-3).

"We had a chance to qualify early and we didn't do what we needed to do," remarked Etienne.  "We had a chance to rectify those mistakes we made in Trinidad and we were able to pull through and do that.  Hopefully, we will be able to continue this good form that we had."

Etienne, 20, has enjoyed a memorable start to 2017.  He played in both of the New York Red Bulls’ Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal games against Vancouver Whitecaps FC, made his first Major League Soccer start in a 1-0 win over the Colorado Rapids on March 11 and scored his first international goal in that win over T&T.

"Scoring goals has been something that has been in my family for years," finished Etienne, Jr., the son of a former Haiti international striker who goes by the same name.  "To do something in such a big game was a blessing.  Just to see how much it meant to my family, my teammates and to the country, it's been a long time coming for me, a 16-year-old kid who struggled to make the U-17 team."

ROSTER

GOALKEEPERS: Steward Ceus (San Francisco Deltas/USA), Luis Valendi Odelus (Real Hope FA)

DEFENDERS: Wilguens Aristilde (FICA), Carlens Arcus (Lille/France), Alex Christian (Camacha/Portugal), Romain Genevois (Caen/France), Reginal Goreux (Standard Liege/Belgium), Andrew Jean-Baptiste (Nykopings/Sweden), Mechak Jerome (Jacksonville Armada/USA), Paulson Pierre (Cibao FC/Dominican Republic)

MIDFIELDERS: Herold Charles Jr. (Cibao FC/Dominican Republic), Max Hilaire (Consolat Marseille/France), Kevin Lafrance (AEL Limassol/Cyprus), Jeff Louis (Caen/France), Sony Norde (Mumbai City/India), Sebastien Thuriere (Sheikh Russel/Bangladesh)

FORWARDS: Kervens Belfort (Syrianska/Sweden), Derrick Etienne (New York Red Bulls/USA), Wilde-Donald Guerrier (Alanyaspor/Turkey), Duckens Nazon (Wolverhapton Wanderers/England), Frantzdy Pierrot (Coastal Carolina University/USA)