Kemar Lawrence
ESNY Graphic, AP Photo

After not starting versus Columbus Crew SC and coming straight from his first All-Star game, New York Red Bulls man Kemar Lawrence helped his side racked a clean sheet and scored in a 2-0 win over Toronto F.C.

On any given day, New York Red Bulls left back Kemar Lawrence is a player to fear, but on Aug. 3, 2019, in his club’s match against Toronto F.C., the Jamaican was a player to be terrified of.

He helped his side get a clean sheet and netted the second goal of a 2-0 victory over TFC with a cool one-time finish from inside the six-yard box.

It’s safe to say that an energized left-back as Lawrence is always very eager to step on the pitch. But against Toronto, the Kingston native might’ve been a little more pumped up before lacing up his boots.

There are a couple of reasons why. First of all, to everyone’s surprise, and probably to Lawrence’s as well, he didn’t start against Columbus Crew SC’s in the Red Bulls’ last match a week ago.

The 26-year-old entered the match in the 67th minute.

Head coach Chris Armas explained that he didn’t start the All-Star defender because he wanted to keep the same backline from the previous match.

“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,” Armas said in a post-match press conference.

Lawrence missed that previous game due to a personal reason. New York defeated Orlando City SC, 1-0, in that encounter on Jul. 21.

The following match against Columbus was a game, perhaps, Lawrence wanted to start. Not only because he had to miss the previous match but also because in the last game he had played in, the left-back gave up a penalty kick against Toronto on Jul. 17.

It’s easy to assume that he wanted to make up for that mistake.

The Jamaican slide tackled Richie Laryea in the box in the 25th minute. Alejandro Pozuelo converted the penalty kick to put TFC up, 2-0. The Canadian team eventually won the game, 3-2.

The former Harbour View man couldn’t make up for his mistake in the Red Bulls’ next outing because, as mentioned, he had to miss the game against Orlando due to a personal reason.

Then the following week he didn’t start against Columbus but subbed in the 67th minute only to watch the Crew score a game-winning goal in the 84th minute. And the goal came from his side of the defense, the left flank.

Most athletes who went through what Lawrence went through here would be craving to play in the next match to show the coach that he deserved to start against Columbus and to redeem himself for his mistake versus Toronto.

The defender himself said he was eager to help his side snatch an avenging win against the Canadian side after losing three points against them.

“We lost three points there that we could have picked up and now it’s back in game mood, about getting points and trying to move to the top of the table,” Lawrence told James Justice III of Once A Metro. 

The fullback has a history of going after avenging victories. Atlanta United eliminated RBNY out of the playoffs last season.

Lawrence was bloodthirsty to defeat the MLS champions back in their first outing against them this season. Indeed, he played a major role in The Metros‘ 1-0 victory over the MLS champions on May 19, 2019.

“The only thing on my mind was to repay them [Atlanta] for how my team felt last year. And I felt like we did that tonight,” Lawrence said via Pro Soccer USA reporter Dylan Butler.

Toronto didn’t do something as painful as ending New York’s road to their first-ever MLS Cup after they played the best season in their history, but they did take three points away from them.

And things are tight in the Eastern Conference standings now, meaning three points are needed each game. Going into Saturday’s match, a loss could’ve pushed RBNY out of a playoff position and drag Toronto up to the playoff spot.

After New York’s win over TFC, they jumped from fifth to third place, while Toronto remains in eighth position just one spot below the last playoff seed.

Elsewhere, Lawrence was fresh off his first-ever MLS All-Star game.

“This is my first time being here and it’s something I wanted to accomplish. It’s something that I prayed for. To get this opportunity is just tremendous,” he told Joe Tansey of Pro Soccer USA.

Not hard to tell how much the All-Star game meant to Lawrence. He started it. The Jamaican was energetic in the back as always and helped out the attack.

He was subbed out at halftime.

“For my first time, I felt like I made the best of it,” the fullback told Justice III. “I went out there and did what I was supposed to do. I played with confidence, I had a bit of fun at the same time, it was really good.”

The fullback previously touched on the quality of the players he was playing with.

“You’re playing with a bunch of guys that are just class, you get me? Guys that bring it every single training session, every single game,” he said.

The All-Star game might sound like just a fun encounter to be a part of but really playing alongside the best players in the MLS and against a European giant could help a player grow.

Perhaps, playing in his first All-Star match, not starting versus Columbus, making a mistake against TFC in their previous game, all piled up on top of Lawrence and gave him an extra boost to face Toronto.

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.