The biggest surprise of the New York Red Bulls game against Columbus Crew on October 3 came before kick off: Kemar Lawrence, the man whose reputation has progressed from "who?" to "best left back in MLS, maybe even CONCACAF" in the course of this season, was missing from the starting lineup.
Where was Kemar? He had not been listed as injured in the build-up to the weekend. He was not suspended. Almost as soon as the lineup was announced, the answer arrive - courtesy of BigAppleSoccer.com's Kristian Dyer: "personal reasons" had summoned Lawrence away from the team on Friday, and he hadn't been able to make it back to the club in time for the Saturday game.
It's a little perturbing when a rising star disappears from the squad unannounced, so it is a lot relieving to learn - again, courtesy of BAS's Dyer - that Lawrence is back! Welcome back, Kemar!
What appears to be SoccerBolt.com's second-ever article on MLS might be its first scoop about the league, if its sources are right about the reason for Lawrence's absence.
All's well that ends well: Kemar is back!
The news is not entirely good, unfortunately. BAS reports Lawrence spent time training alone with RBNY's strength and conditioning coach, Tony Jouaux on Monday, October 5. Head coach Jesse Marsch told BigAppleSoccer.com the club was evaluating the player's physical condition: "Get through I think today and tomorrow and see how he's feeling, then make a decision to see how he fits," said Marsch, expertly identifying the length of time he has to pick a squad for a Wednesday game.
If Lawrence does not play for RBNY against Montreal, it is possible he won't be seen in Red Bulls' colors again until October 18 (when the team plays its final home game of the regular season, against Philadelphia). Jamaica has yet to name its squad for its October 13 friendly in South Korea. If Lawrence is selected for national team duty this month, it's unlikely he'll be ready to play in RBNY's October 14 match against Toronto FC.
The Red Bulls' shorthandedness in defense (Chris Duvall, Roy Miller, Matt Miazga are all expected to be unavailable for most of October; Karl Ouimette's international duty may see him miss the Toronto game) could persist for a few games yet.