Unsurprisingly, the Jamaica Men's National Team squad for its February 16 friendly against Honduras in Houston sees only two changes from the roster called to play the USA on February 3. Surprisingly, one of those two changes is not the New York Red Bulls' Kemar Lawrence.
Despite the fact he has a CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal game on February 22, and despite the fact he has played about 48 minutes of preseason soccer with his RBNY teammates to date, Lawrence has been called to his national team's roster for a not-particularly-significant kick-about against Honduras.
It is the ambition of most players to represent their country, and it is a sensible soccer club that is mindful of that ambition. But this February 16 friendly always seemed like one Lawrence would probably miss.
Jamaica is deploying what might charitably be called an "experimental" roster, with very few seasoned internationals. That is mostly explained by the fact that the Reggae Boyz are playing this game outside the FIFA-approved dates for internationals, so there is no obligation for clubs to release players.
It is also the case that Jamaica's next competitive internationals are not until June, when it will play in the Caribbean Cup finals. While the Reggae Boyz would certainly prefer to be thinking about World Cup qualifying games, that is no longer an option. Instead, the team is in something of a rebuilding period. It has scheduled two out-of-season friendlies - the first was the 1-0 loss to USMNT on February 3 - and the games are mostly serving to allow for younger or lesser-known players to stake a claim to a place in future squads.
The roster called to play USMNT didn't feature many experienced Jamaican internationals, and head coach Theodore "Tappa" Whitmore has now let Alvas Powell (27 caps for his country) and Omar Holness (only four caps, but that is four more than either of the replacements summoned to the squad) return to their clubs.
In their place, teenager Fabian Grant and uncapped 22-year-old Andre Lewis have been asked to join the team.
Lawrence stands out as one of the senior members of the squad, but he also stands out as the only one on the roster with a CCL game to play less than week after Jamaica plays Honduras.
Though he was named to the roster for the USMNT game, Lawrence - who appeared to have taken a knock during his only appearance in RBNY's preseason friendlies to date - was held out of Jamaica's squad for the match. Word from the Reggae Boyz camp was that the left back had an injury and was staying with his club.
In his brief appearance for RBNY against Portland Timbers at the end of January, Lawrence looked one of the sharper players in the Red Bulls squad and combined well on the left flank with winger Daniel Royer. The primary concern in preseason is to get fitness levels up, and Lawrence would get just as much opportunity to test his legs against Honduras on February 16 as he might against NYCFC on February 15 (the game he'd play if the call-up is declined). But joining his national team would see him miss what we assume to be RBNY's last chance to test first team chemistry against a true opponent (as opposed to training session run-outs against other members of the Red Bulls roster) before playing Vancouver Whitecaps in CCL on February 22.
It would be surprising if Jamaica had simply called up a player for February friendly without first agreeing that player's release with his club. The Red Bulls are not obliged to let Lawrence play for his national team on this occasion, but Reggae Boyz team management has repeatedly emphasized that it was required to negotiate for the release of players for the February friendlies. So Lawrence's presence on Jamaica's roster suggest RBNY has agreed he can play in Houston on February 16.
Maybe he does play against Honduras. Maybe he suffers another strain in RBNY's preseason camp and has to stay with his club.