HANOVER, N.J. — Chris Armas isn’t completely ruling him out. But it seems more and more unlikely that New York Red Bulls star left back Kemar Lawrence will be able to play a part in the second leg of the Eastern Conference Championship against Atlanta United on Thursday (7:30 pm ET | FS1, TSN2, TVAS2) at Red Bull Arena.
The Best XI selection missed the opening leg due to a meniscus injury and didn’t train with the Red Bulls on Tuesday morning.
Armas initially said Lawrence was “day-to-day.” That assessment didn’t change after training on Tuesday.
“We’re trying to give Kemar every chance to be back out there,” Armas said. “We’re not putting him in any situations right now, but we might see him out there [Wednesday] and we’re hopeful he can be used on Thursday.”
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Although he’s not tipping his hand at who will be in his starting XI or what the formation will look like on Thursday, Armas said he’s fully confident Connor Lade, who started in Atlanta Sunday, can get the job done if Lawrence is unavailable.
“Connor did a good job,” Armas said. “He really did a good job on the day and he was up for it, like we thought he’d be.”
Right back Michael Amir Murillo also praised Lade’s performance in the opening leg.
“Obviously it’s a tough loss for us, not having Kemar in the last game, but Connor played great,” the Panamanian said through a translator. “Connor’s been able to step up when his number’s been called on. He’s put in the work and we trust him when he’s out there.”
Armas knows the Red Bulls will need to have an aggressive mentality to overcome a 3-0 deficit, but his team will have to do so with a “calculated and mature approach,” because of how lethal Atlanta are on the counterattack.
“With this scenario, it’s really important to balance it out and to not get too ahead of ourselves and understand how to put out some fires and mitigate and what we're trying to do up there,” Armas said. “It's really important that it's a calculated approach and a mature approach, understanding that the way they play and the structure in which they play and the attackers that they have from the start of the game, and guys they can bring on off the bench, that they're good at that.”
And if Atlanta get an away goal?
“If we need five [goals], we’ll get five,” Armas said. “But we're going to go about it in a really intelligent way.”