Kemar Lawrence emerged as a star for club and country this season. He was the undisputed starter at left back for the New York Red Bulls' league (but not Cup) winning 2015 squad, and for the Jamaica team that exited Copa America with no wins but a lot of credit and made a surprise run to the final of this summer's Gold Cup. For most of this year, he has been the best left back in MLS, and close to the best in CONCACAF.
His form has been rewarded with some flattering transfer rumors. If they prove true, we may not get to see whether he has more to offer RBNY. But he made it easy to forget that left back looked like a problem position for the Red Bulls at the start of the season. And his work - especially in the improvised defending a high-pressing back line will often require - was a large part of the reason the team finished the year with another trophy in the cabinet.
Player Stats (all competitions):
27 Games Started
2342 Minutes Played
Player Grade: A+
Things Done Well:
By the end of the season, it was commonplace to see Lawrence racing in to retrieve the situation when the defense was breached. So much so that one of his few miscalculations (In the first leg of the Eastern Conference finals, he underestimated Ethan Finlay's speed and wasn't able to keep the Columbus winger from seizing on a Kei Kamara flick-on to set up the Crew's opening goal) attracted disproportionate criticism. He is Jamaican, but he's not Usain Bolt.
Nonetheless, Lawrence isn't just quick, he's quick-thinking. His anticipation is his true gift to RBNY's defense: he frequently finds positions that save the day because he's good at figuring ought where he needs to be when the back line is in disarray. The fact he can also match most players around the league in a foot race is a bonus.
Things Done Poorly:
If defenders didn't make mistakes, goals would be even rarer than is already the case. The best defenders keep their mistakes few and far between: Lawrence has fulfilled that requirement this season.
His crossing could use a little work, though that perception ought to be considered against the fact he spent most of the season crossing to Bradley Wright-Phillips - who is 5' 8". That is an undersized target for the vast majority of crosses, regardless of who is sending them in.
In general, one might suggest his attacking play could use more attention: his speed doesn't seem quite the asset in the final third that it is when he is in his own half. He looks more confident defending than in attack. But he did contribute four assists and a goal to the cause this season (all in regular season play), which is an entirely respectable return for a full back in a system that mostly wants its front four to do the critical work of getting the ball into the 18-yard box and into the net.