HANOVER, N.J. – It was a decision that turned some heads on Saturday night: the Red Bulls’ Best XI left back starting on the bench. Kemar Lawrence has had a hard time finding a rhythm in 2019 with nagging injuries and national team call-ups, but Saturday didn’t fall under either category.
Instead, Lawrence was present and healthy enough to sub out Amro Tarek – who started at left back one week after assuming the position in Orlando when Lawrence didn’t travel – in the 67th minute. The strategy, it seems, was to introduce the Jamaican international’s two-way ability – his capabilities to push forward and recover defensively – in a match that had just been equalized at 2-all with a Daniel Royer penalty in minute 63.
But the question still remains for many, why not start with the player who would have been more suited to quell Columbus Crew SC’s rampant second runners and prevent a 2-1 deficit from ever coming to be?
Following the match, Chris Armas responded to that question by echoing a notion that he has stood by from his very first match in charge. He wanted continuity.
“We had a backline last game. We’re looking for continuity, we’re looking to run back certain guys, especially things that work, guys that are playing well,” Chris Armas said at the podium.
This did not sit all too well with many followers of the team, who struggled to understand why, even riding high off a morale-boosting three points, the backline wasn’t switched to its first-choice group with Lawrence on the left.
Today after training, Armas elaborated that answer and recognized how, not knowing the full picture, it may be hard for fans to comprehend such a personnel decision.
“Well, to be fair to the fans, when they’re looking at it, some things might not make sense at all, and I understand that,” Armas said today. “You know, we make decisions based on the information that we have on the inside. We’re paid to know all the details, and every day to take close looks.
“And, you know, certain guys get rewarded and some don’t. And sometimes it’s commitment levels, sometimes it’s the quality in which they’re playing, and sometimes, yeah, on the outside, media or fans, they just see it, maybe what a guy’s done in the past or what they would like to see out there, based on maybe his individual player quality, which makes total sense.
“But, when you know some of the stuff that we know, because [we’re here] on a daily basis, I think that every single fan out there of ours would agree. If you sat down with them, they’d basically say, ‘Yeah, I get it.’
“So, I don’t expect, on the outside, people to understand it, why we make certain decisions but, I can assure everyone, the office spends a lot of time deliberating what’s best for the team on the day. And there’s some good experience in that office that bases it on real information.”
The back four of Lawrence, Tim Parker, Aaron Long and Michael Murillo that guided the Red Bulls to a league-low 33 goals in 2018 has only started three matches together this season – all losses.
Lawrence was away from training today, as he is the lone Red Bulls representative on the 26-man MLS All-Star Team that will face Atletico Madrid tonight in Orlando.