Despite suffering three defeats and ultimately elimination from the 2015 Copa America in Chile, Jamaica has perhaps exceeded expectations and has quite a lot to be proud of. Despite talks in the media about players behaving like tourists in Chile and taking on-field selfies, 22-year-old left back Kemar Lawrence has been named in the Copa America’s best 11 for the group stages. The New York Red Bulls youngster has certainly been the best player on both sides of the ball at his position in the competition thus far.
Having started his career in the youth ranks at Rae Town, the man known popularly as ‘Taxi’ moved to Harbour View FC where he developed his trade. He progressed through the ranks at the Harview View Mini Stadium and was also a member of the residency program at Vancouver Whitecaps back in 2009. In July last year he went on a two-week-trial at DC United however he wasn’t offered a contract by the MLS outfit.
After making his debut for Jamaica back in November 2013 in a friendly against Trinidad and Tobago, the young speedster has made steady progress and has never looked back since. He finally secured a move to the MLS with the New York Red Bulls in May of this year after impressing during a preseason trial.
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A Pepsi Brand Ambassador, Lawrence has been described as ‘fearless’ by Red Bulls boss Jesse Marsch and a ‘player with intelligence on the pitch’ by his national coach Winfried Schafer. The Red Bulls insisted that it was impossible not to sign the former Harbour View man because he has all the qualities they were looking for as a left sided defender. Schafer has also stated his belief that the 22-year-old has a chance to ply his trade in Europe due to his outstanding qualities.
Known from his time in the Red Stripe Premier League for his incredible stamina going up and down the left flank, Lawrence has an excellent left foot and a wonderful football brain. He often gets himself into great defensive positions thus giving very little away as pointed out by his Red Bulls boss. He is tidy in possession, comfortable with the ball at his feet and his distribution is generally top class. His reading of the game is sometimes seen as way beyond his years and if he stays healthy then he can only get better over the years.
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A fierce competitor blessed with a good technical skill-set, "Taxi" is always ready for a challenge and is never fazed by the big occasions. He demonstrated his strong character against Lionel Messi where the Argentine skipper was kept at bay in their Copa America encounter, matching the Barcelona talisman stride for stride.
For a man with a slight frame, he is a tough cookie who is very hard in a challenge and never afraid to get ‘stuck-in’ against the very best. He’s also quite adventurous going forward and his pace also makes it difficult for the opposition to track his runs from deep.
Being named in the best eleven of the group stages at the illustrious Copa America tournament will only enhance the reputation of the New York Red Bulls defender. He may even be under consideration by many clubs across Europe as they aim to capture the best young talents across the globe. With his humble demeanor, Lawrence will surely keep grounded and work even harder to improve despite his impressive performances. He is a very ambitious young man who will be looking to build on his performances as he aims to take several steps forward in his very young professional career.
As things stands, Lawrence is set for future success in his career if he stays healthy for a very long time and continues to work hard. He may be called into action again for the Reggae Boyz at the Gold Cup but coach Schafer should give one of his best players a rest. With the MLS still in progress and World Cup 2018 qualifications in the foreseeable future, his management team must ensure that he is looked after properly to be at his very best when he is needed again by Schafer and his club in the future.
Jamaica fans - was the Copa America a massive success or failure?
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