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Welcome back, Kemar Lawrence

Is Kemar Lawrence unsettled at RBNY? No, say the Red Bulls - about as loudly as they possibly can.

New York Red Bulls v DC United Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

The New York Red Bulls’ 2018 pre-season is in full swing. The team has let a few players go, signed a few fresh faces, got itself ensnared in a transfer rumor or two, and played a few friendlies. And, finally, it has welcomed the last straggler from the off-season to its training camp: Kemar Lawrence is back.

Lawrence’s return to RBNY was delayed for the perfectly understandable reason that he was on international duty with the Jamaica men’s national team. But he was followed for much of the off-season by rumors of a possible transfer out of RBNY, he is reportedly in the last year of his contract, and he stated very plainly to a national newspaper - the Jamaica Observer - that he was interested in moving on.

In itself, that is not an ambition one needs to hold against any player. After three seasons as the team’s starting left-back, Lawrence’s commitment to RBNY’s cause ought not to be questioned, and his ambition to see if he can take his game to a higher level is surely exactly what the Red Bulls want from every player on their roster. After all, a player who isn’t trying to be better is a player who isn’t helping the team to be better. And the sixth-placed team in the 2017 MLS Eastern Conference has room for improvement.

Fans, of course, can think what they like about Lawrence’s ambitions. He’ll make his case to RBNY supporters the only way he can: on the field. But to get on the field, the want-away Jamaica international needs the confidence of the Red Bulls’ coaching staff and his teammates. One would sincerely hope that a club in the habit of summarily cutting loyal, senior players does not get upset when someone wants to leave the team on his own terms. But there is no law requiring RBNY to be consistent in its attitudes and behavior.

Fortunately, the Red Bulls perhaps sensed the question mark following Kemar Lawrence in to pre-season, and acted swiftly to chase it out of their training camp. A late-Friday article on the team’s official website declared Lawrence “ready to step into [a] leadership role in 2018”. And it was packed with positive quotes from RBNY head coach Jesse Marsch (“It is great having Kemar back”), and the team’s all-time appearances leader, Luis Robles (“He brings it each and every day”), and Lawrence himself:

It is good to be back home. I think I am ready for the role to lead and I think I am free mentally so I just want to settle in and get everything rolling right now.

And he got rolling right away with a start in RBNY’s Saturday-morning scrimmage against Philadelphia Union.

With a few comings and goings to be settled still, it seems RBNY wants all watching the club to be clear on one thing, at least: Kemar Lawrence isn’t expected to go anywhere for the foreseeable future, and both he and his team are happy about that.

Welcome back, Kemar.