In the build-up to Jamaica’s January friendly with South Korea in Turkey, New York Red Bulls left-back Kemar Lawrence spoke plainly about his ambitions for his career with the Jamaica Observer:
I have been looking to leave the MLS and I really think it’s time as I have done well for club and country, but more importantly it’s that next stepping stone for me in my professional life.
He’s not wrong. Lawrence was identified as a player with the ability to play European club soccer well before he landed with RBNY. Back in June 2014, Lawrence was a 21-year-old attracting praise from (now former) Reggae Boyz head coach Winfried Schafer, and teammates Wes Morgan and Adrian Mariappa.
Technically, he’s very good, he understands the game and his attitude is spot on. He wants to listen, he wants to learn and I think if he carries on the way he’s playing, he will go very far - Adrian Mariappa to the Jamaica Observer, 6/9/14
Since then, he has established himself as a first-choice starter for the New York Red Bulls and Jamaica. He is closing in on 100 appearances for his club and 50 for his country, and has won trophies (Supporters’ Shield for RBNY; Caribbean Cup with Jamaica) and been to major finals with both (US Open Cup with the Red Bulls and twice to the Gold Cup final with Jamaica). Lawrence hasn’t won everything there is to win, by any means - but he has certainly proved himself a top-tier player at the pro and national team level in CONCACAF.
Lawrence turns 26 in September, 2018. If he’s ready to see whether he can succeed at a higher (or at least better paid) level than he’s at now, this seems an entirely reasonable ambition.
What he doesn’t have yet, however, is an appropriate place to go. Lawrence told the Jamaica Observer that if and when he leaves RBNY, it will be for one reason: career advancement.
I just don’t want to leave for just anywhere, it has to be in a bigger league. I have been hearing things here and there, but nothing solid yet and the January transfer window is near closing,” Lawrence said with a chuckle.
So perhaps no move for the moment. Lawrence is reportedly in the last year of his contract with the Red Bulls. There is no clear challenger to his starting role with the MLS team, and he told the Observer he was happy at RBNY. At the beginning of January, the Red Bulls’ sporting director, Denis Hamlett, told the press he was yet to receive any inquiries regarding Lawrence, and that the team was looking forward to welcoming the player back for 2018.
Lawrence has been on international duty with Jamaica in Turkey for the first week or so of RBNY’s pre-season, but his latest comments to the press suggest that - although he’s open to offers - he will be heading back to the Red Bulls for (at least) one more season, and one final attempt to write himself into the team’s history as part of the first squad to lift MLS Cup for the club.
Of course, as a player in the final year of his contract, with an eye-catching highlight reel and stated desire to move on from his current team, Lawrence is going to continue to attract the attention of the rumor mill. And his agent wouldn’t be doing his job if he didn’t try to help the rumor mill along. So don’t expect the Lawrence-leaving-RBNY stories to stop, just note the player has made his position clear: he’s going if he gets a shot at something better than he has with RBNY, and nothing less.