Kemar Lawrence was a revelation for the New York Red Bulls in 2015. Brought in as left back depth behind the incumbent Roy Miller, Lawrence was thrust into the starting lineup in the second game of the season after Miller picked up an injury in the opener.
Miller never got the spot back.
Proving to be a perfect fit for NY’s gegenpressing system, Lawrence’s motor and top-end speed were invaluable to RBNY’s success. Able to contribute in the attacking third both offensively and defensively while possessing the ability to track back and snuff out counter-attacks, Lawrence became a mainstay in the Red Bulls’ lineup making 23 regular season appearances and starting all four of New York’s playoff games.
Lawrence Played A LOT of Soccer in 2015
2015 saw Lawrence emerge into a fixture not only for the Red Bulls, but for the Jamaican national team as well. This resulted in a jam-packed schedule the likes the speedster from Kingston had never experienced. Between 27 MLS regular season and playoffs appearances combined with 15 Jamaican caps in the Copa America, CONCACAF Gold Cup, World Cup Qualifiers and friendlies, Lawrence saw action in a whopping 42 games for club and country.
Prior to 2015, Lawrence had featured 14 times total for the Reggae Boyz between 2013 & 2014. As for his club career in Jamaica, Wikipedia has Taxi at 62 appearances for Kingston club Harbour View F.C. from 2011-14. (Note: Youth national team career documentation is even harder to verify than Jamaican club soccer appearance stats.)
Following an unprecedented load in 2015, one has to wonder if Lawrence has yet to recover from the effort and some of his early 2016 MLS performances lend to that theory.
Many times in 2016 Lawrence has just looked off. And being just slightly off his game has resulted in goals against NY.
*Just* A Bit Off
As the Red Bulls have dealt with a spate of injuries in defense, Lawrence has found himself shifted between his preferred left back position and central defense in a pinch for head coach Jesse Marsch. Not only that, Lawrence himself was forced to miss a game in April with a slight knee injury.
A long 2015 and a schizophrenic 2016 has resulted in Lawrence making some big-time mistakes. Let’s a look at an instance from each month so far this season.
- Just this past week at Orlando City SC, Lawrence had a change to sweep up a 67th minute danger moment in the penalty area but whiffed leading to Kevin Molino’s game-tying goal in the 1-1 draw.
- Cyle Larin bagged the opening goal when the same two teams met two weeks prior at Red Bull Arena as Lawrence found himself woefully out of position leaving the Lions with acres of space down the left side.
- Back in March against the Houston Dynamo, Lawrence was one-on-one with Dynamo forward Will Bruin and presented a relatively easy clearance. Another swing and miss leads to Bruin’s easy chip over luis Robles.
These are merely a few specifics examples of Lawrence being off his game in 2016. Despite a slow start, it’s highly unlikely that the 23-year-old, who turned heads in 2015, suddenly became a bad player. As the season moves along one should expect the Jamaican international to get his feet back under him and put in the type of performances that garnered him international attention.