Kemar Lawrence
ESNY Graphic, AP Photo

After being one of the best left backs in the league for three seasons, New York Red Bulls stud Kemar Lawrence is finally an All-Star.

Onz Chery

It takes about 10 million years for a star to form. Knowing this, Kemar Lawrence absolutely paid his dues.

At last, the New York Red Bulls left back was selected for the 2019 MLS All-Star game versus Spanish giants Atletico Madrid on July 31 at Exploria Stadium in Orlando, Florida.

Lawrence was picked by this year’s All-Star team head coach James O’Connor. (Players could either make the roster by getting voted on by the fans, picked by the coach or the MLS Commissioner Don Garber.)

The Jamaican international is the only Red Bull player who made the All-Star roster after the team had four players in last year’s match against Italian side Juventus: Amir Murillo, Bradley Wright-Phillips, Aaron Long and Tyler Adams.

Juve won the encounter, 5-3, in penalty kicks after a 1-1 draw. Wright-Phillips infamously missed the All-Stars’ last PK.

Lawrence joined the MLS in 2015 and has been one of the best fullbacks in the league, if not the best, for the past three seasons now. He made the Best XI last season but missed out of the All-Star selection.

Elsewhere, the 26-year-old was selected in the CONCACAF Gold Cup Best XI in 2017 while playing for Jamaica also.

Lawrence played over half of RBNY’s games during the previous four campaigns, but oddly enough, the season he hasn’t been playing much is when he finally makes the All-Star team. The Jamaican only played in eight of New York’s 17 MLS matches.

He missed six games due to an MCL injury and two because he’s on international duty at the Gold Cup with The Reggae Boyz.

In the few appearances Lawrence has made, he showed the high caliber fullback he is. The only four times The Metros racked clean sheets in the MLS the Caribbean took part in the match.

The fullback position has been a vulnerable one for RBNY but Lawrence looked comfortable there. He brought an extra bit of energy on and off the ball. The left back’s passes have been precise for the most part and he’s been a nightmare for opposing attackers with ferocious tackles.

His most memorable moment of the season so far was when he slammed Atlanta United midfielder Hector Villabla with a tackle and got into it with him after the game.

On a nicer note, another noteworthy moment from Lawrence was when he slide-tackled Real Salt Lake midfielder Sebastian Saucedo before dribbling and hopping over Brooks Lennon right by the sideline.

Despite being one of the most entertaining fullbacks in the MLS, because of his aggression and smooth dribbling skills, as noted, Lawrence has surprisingly never been among the most voted defenders in the league.

Atlanta United center back Leandro Pirez, Sporting Kansas City right back Graham Zusi and U.S. international Walker Zimmerman won the fans’ votes this year.

O’Connor came to the rescue and granted Lawrence his deserved spot in the All-Star roster. The Irishman only coached against Lawrence once. It was when the Kingston native helped RBNY defeat Orlando, 1-0, on Oct. 28, 2018.

That day Lawrence stopped Orlando forward Dom Dwyer from hitting a proper shot in the 66th minute with a shoulder challenge. Perhaps his intervention saved the Red Bulls a clean sheet.

Three notable RBNY players didn’t make the All-Star squad as the defender did. The first name that comes to mind is Bradley Wright-Phillips. Wright-Phillips was an All-Star in 2014 and in 2018. It’s understandable that he didn’t get picked this year since he only played in seven games because of a groin injury and only scored one goal.

Well, is it really understandable? As mentioned, Lawrence himself only took part in eight matches.

Long, who was the league’s best defender last season, didn’t get selected either. The most heartbreaking non-All-Star from New York is arguably their keeper, Luis Robles. Robles saved his side on multiple occasions this season with a series of breathtaking saves, including in the team’s last game against Chicago Fire on Friday, which they won, 3-1.

The American shot-stopper tallied seven saves.

The Red Bulls are only going to the All-Star game with one player, but one tall enough to represent the team. Kemar Lawrence isn’t just one of the best fullbacks in the league; he’s one of the best in the CONCACAF region.

Go shine, Lawrence … just don’t get injured.

Originally from Haiti, Ralph 'Onz' Chery started his writing career as a City College of New York student with The Campus. He also wrote for First Touch, the Cosmopolitan Soccer League and other local leagues. After graduating, Onz started covering the New York Red Bulls for ESNY and joined Haitian Times.