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Bulls Abroad: Kemar Lawrence, Jamaica Limp Away from Venezuela with Loss in Copa America Centenario

A valiant effort, but Reggae Boyz fail to recover from early red and injuries

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Last year, the Reggae Boyz won a great deal of credit but no matches at Copa America. This year's foray into CONMEBOL's showpiece tournament looks ominously as though it might follow the same script: the 1-0 loss to Venezuela in the first game of Jamaica's Copa Centenario group stage neatly mirrored the trio of 1-0 losses the team posted in this tournament last summer.

In this instance, Jamaica started brightly against one of the less-fancied South American teams in this competition. Venezuela's recent form has not been encouraging: La Vinotinto played four friendlies in the build up to Copa America, registering three draws and a loss. The Reggae Boyz, by contrast, went to Chile and came back with a win.

Clayton Donaldson and Jevaughn Watson threatened the Venezuelan goal in the early exchanges but their shots did not find the net. Instead, Josef Martinez opened the scoring for La Vinotinto in the 15th minute.

The goal triggered a cascade of unfortunate events for the Reggae Boyz. Captain Rodolf Austin was sent off in the 23rd minute.

Then New York Red Bulls' defender Kemar Lawrence pulled up lame and was substituted in the 40th minute. His replacement was Wes Morgan - who had been deemed unfit to start the match. At half-time, Jamaica was losing, down to 10 men, and suddenly reliant on a player who was supposed to be resting.

And then head coach Winfried Schafer was banished to the stands for words exchanged with the referee during the interval.

It was a catastrophic sequence for Jamaica's chances in this game and this tournament. The team rallied impressively in the second half, getting close to scoring on several occasions and seeing a Donaldson goal called back by the referee. But the final score was familiar: the Reggae Boyz lost 1-0 in a Copa America game, as they seem to do every time they play in this tournament.

Post-match reports indicated Lawrence sustained a "slight groin tear" - few would be surprised if that rules him out of the rest of Jamaica's tournament. Austin will have a suspension to serve. And the rest of the squad must now prepare to face a buoyant Mexico on June 9.