How good did it feel to see Kemar LAwrence back on the pitch at Red Bull Arena on Sunday? How fulfilling was it when he was going up and down the left flank as he showed why he is one of regions best left fullback in all of CONCACAF.
It felt like ages when he suffered a leg injury during the international break and training before the flight down to Mercedes- Benz Stadium, to play that first leg in last seasons Eastern Conference final.
You saw that with a healthy Lawrence, that left sid of the backline is inpenitriable and of course with a disciplined Michael Murrillo at right full back, the ends are tough to break down. But what Taxi did on Sunday early evening was something that was missing, while Connor Lade and the rest did a good job, it was missing a big bite from Lawrence.
What he did was contain, frustrate, and found ways to stop VIllalba on the pitch. He showed Atlanta United why he was missing in that series. He made a hard, clean tackle in second half stoppage time on Villalba which did injure him a bit. Then you saw the raw emotion of the Jamaican defender come alive.
He roared told him something, and then he tried to get ready for another defensive play, but Villalba went after him, bumped Lawrence hard using his chest, and then both sides separated the men.
After the match was over, Lawrence spoke to the media about his play and the win. “I told you what was going to happen. I told you what was going to happen, right? I told you I’m going win it, right? I’m going to win it for my team.” said Kemar Lawrence “We went out there and we did that. I told you. I’ve been carrying around a lot of anger, because I got injured last year and I missed out on all of the biggest games ever for my team – Conference final.
“And I just knew, I had that feeling that gave me such an awesome thing to just be on the field and I just had that feeling if I was on the field last year, we would have won that game.
So I had the worst offseason last year, knowing I was injured, knowing I couldn’t help my team, everything I could do was text guys or try to motivate guys, so getting back from injury and facing these guys when I’ve got my full fitness level, it was just amazing and the only thing on my mind was to repay them for how my team felt last year, and I felt like we did that tonight.”
Lawrence was fined an undisclosed amount by the league for putting his hands up towards the face of VIllalba, but in reality the fine was not warranted. When Villalba intentionally used his chest to bump Lawrence hard, which caused the reaction from Lawrence to raise his arms.
No where was his hands near Villalba’s face and the league has looked foolish for even sending the fine to Lawrence, for an act that was started by Hector Villalba. But what this says it that Taxi is back, and he’s rady to dominate the left side of the backline once again.