On the field, fans knew Kemar Lawrence as a fierce competitor. He embodied the “all in” mantra the New York Red Bulls chanted in team huddles for the last few seasons. Lawrence was a rock a the left back, and quite possibly the best at the position in MLS. Off the field that’s where things were apparently different.
Behind closed doors, it seemed that the player many fans loved, had a different side altogether.
Sources with knowledge of the situation told RBNN that Lawrence had an on-going series of off the field problems for years, dating back to Jesse Marsch’s tenure as head coach.
Over the years, Lawrence often failed to report back to the team following international duty. In some cases, he would remain out of contact with the team for several days, reportedly turning his phone off.
One recent incident came last spring, when during a visit to the Philadelphia Union. The match is best known for Ilsinho’s game changing substitute performance, thrashing the Red Bulls in a come from behind win for the Union. Andre Blake and Kemar Lawrence were both expected to play in the match following their international foray. Blake appeared in the match, Lawrence did not.
At the time, Head Coach Chris Armas instead elected to cover for the player saying he had played 90 minutes and the team was being careful after a recent injury.
The source said that Kemar was not actively negative in the group, but regularly operated outside of team rules, benefiting from exceptional talent keeping him on the field. More issues surfaced this offseason, where Lawrence publicly campaigned for a raise one year into a long term contract after Aaron Long and Tim Parker received substantial pay increases to start 2019. The relationship finally reached a breaking point.
Lawrence now heads to Belgium, joining Michael Amir Murillo at RSC Anderlecht and a chance at the European soccer he has desperately craved. The Red Bulls loss on the field is undeniable, but their struggle off the field with a difficult player comes to an end.
When reached for for comment, Kevin Weinress, Director of Soccer at Hype Projects Agency responded:
“Our clients transfer was based solely on RSC Anderlecht desire to sign Kemar, regarded as one of, if not the best left back in the MLS. As our vision for Kemars growth we felt the timing and contract offer was in-line where a player of his ability should be.”
Photo by Bill Twomey Photography