HARRISON, N.J. – Kemar Lawrence is quietly putting together the best season of his three years in MLS, and the New York Red Bulls left back continued his strong campaign by setting up both his side's goals in a 2-1 win over the New England Revolution at Red Bull Arena on Saturday night.
His recent run of solid performances come after a rough start to the year for Lawrence, both professionally and personally. In fact, his whole world was turned upside down just a few months ago.
The Jamaican international lost his grandmother recently. She passed away during the offseason, which prompted Lawrence to spend time away from the club several weeks ago to attend her funeral and say goodbye. The left back shared those moments on social media along with messages about his grief, his loss.
A woman who was his confidante is now no longer there for him, but Lawrence speaks of her influence and how with each passing day he is able to hone in more and more on his play on the field. He has played very well in recent weeks, and been a consistent bright spot for the Red Bulls in what has been a season of struggles so far.
“I’m definitely focusing more on soccer but you can never put an essential part of your life, you can never just put it away," Lawrence said. "My grandma was a rock, my best friend. She’s a person I spoke to every day. It’s weird somedays when she’s not around."
Against the Revolution this past weekend, Lawrence had an impressive showing. He did well to help limit New England forward Kei Kamara, and, as is usually the case, got involved offensively.
New York head coach Jesse Marsch was buzzing about Lawrence after the game, saying that the 24-year-old defender is “playing the best he's ever played”. This, after so much pain that Lawrence has had to deal with in recent months.
“I even said to Jesse, 'I have so much anger lately,'" said Lawrence. "I just have to come on gamedays and express it on the field because gamedays you get away from all that. I still miss her every day. Oh man, there’s still a space in my life.
"The guys help a lot. Glory be to God, I pray every day and ask God to fill that spot with joy for me. Every day, it gets easier and easier.”
Lawrence's performance on Saturday night played a big part in snapping a four-game winless run for the Red Bulls. He set up New York's first goal, a scramble in front of the net that Bradley Wright-Phillips fired home for the equalizer, and assisted on the second when he overlapped into the final third and played a beautiful ball across the six-yard box.
The textbook cross found Daniel Royer at the far post for the simple finish.
“Basically that is the way we train: get the ball in the right spot," said Lawrence. "That’s where the 'keeper can’t touch it and the defender probably puts it in his own goal [if he gets a touch]. I’m just trying to get the ball in that spot.
“I’m basically hoping that the runners are making the run. Brad ran to the near post and Danny found the back post and found the ball.”
With a call-up to Jamaica’s national team for the upcoming CONCACAF Gold Cup this summer a certainty, Lawrence will soon try to take his form into games that matter at the international level. If he can repeat the type of outings he has been having for the Red Bulls as of late in that regional tournament, the Reggae Boyz will be plenty pleased.
“I think for the last six weeks, Kemar has been easily our best player. I mean, even when we lose, the guy is the best,” Wright-Phillips said. “He is very hard to deal with and not just going forward. At the back he puts in a few tackles. He has been a very good player.”