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Report: Don’t hold your breath for Kemar Lawrence’s return

Whatever kept Lawrence out of Sunday’s first leg of the MLS Eastern Conference Final was still keeping him off the field for RBNY’s Tuesday training session.

MLS: Eastern Conference Semifinal-Columbus Crew SC at New York Red Bulls Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Kemar Lawrence’s absence was an immediate talking point when the New York Red Bulls announced their match-day squad for the first leg of the 2018 MLS Eastern Conference Final against Atlanta United.

Whispers suggest that MCL injury held Lawrence out of the game.

That diagnosis has not been confirmed by RBNY. Red Bulls fans may recall a sprained MCL is what precipitated the beginning of the end of Vincent Bezecourt’s season.

Officially, Lawrence’s status is “day-to-day”. After RBNY’s walloping in Atlanta, head coach Chris Armas stated he hadn’t given up on the idea of having his first-choice left-back available for the second leg of the Eastern Conference Final series on November 29.

Pro Soccer USA’s Dylan Butler reported from RBNY’s Tuesday training session that Lawrence was not on the field.

And Butler found Armas hadn’t changed his line about Lawrence much since Sunday:

A player who wasn’t fit to play on Sunday and isn’t fit to train on Tuesday would seem a longshot to be ready for a game on Thursday.

Lawrence is RBNY’s undisputed starting left-back, and has been since 2015. His familiarity with the team’s tactics and chemistry with the rest of the squad is such that the Red Bulls could certainly make a game-time decision to let him play: if he’s fit, he’ll fit right into he team’s plans. But he wasn’t fit 48 hours before the second-leg kicks off, and the lack of an official description of his injury might suggest the Red Bulls don’t think that information will add much to the credibility of their public statement that Lawrence might feasibly be on the field on November 29.

Lawrence has shown a willingness to push through injuries to get on the field in the past. But that can be counter-productive: he drew criticism from then Jamaica head coach Winfried Schaefer for showing up for the 2016 Copa America Centenario with an injury.

Meanwhile, Doug Roberson reports for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Atlanta United has no fresh injury concerns in the squad since the first leg.