Why Kemar Lawrence is ultimately being traded by Toronto FC
“We’re going to be decisive and we’re going to be bold.”
That was Toronto FC President Bill Manning at his year-end media availability in November, and today, TFC have reached an agreement that would see their 19th player from last year’s roster go elsewhere.
According to multiple sources, the club is finalizing a deal that would send Jamaican international Kemar Lawrence to Minnesota United FC. The deal was first reported by MLSsoccer.com insider Tom Bogert.
The Reds will be paying the remainder of Lawrence’s six-figure transfer fee as well as inherit a portion of his salary. Per Neil Davidson of the Canadian Press, TFC’s return will be dependent on how much playing time the 29-year-old defender gets with Minnesota United.
So, let’s dive into this.
On January 19, we reported that Lawrence would be leaving Toronto FC. But with the Reds thin at fullback following the departures of Richie Laryea (to Nottingham Forest), Auro Jr. (to Santos FC), and Justin Morrow (Retired) — TFC are currently starting two natural wingers in Jacob Shaffelburg and Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty down the flanks — one must wonder exactly why?
Lawrence wasn’t the greatest on the pitch during his brief tenure with the Reds, however, he wasn’t terrible. So, it comes down to one main factor: a lack of commitment from the player.
“One of the big challenges is when you come into a situation, you try and get an idea of where everybody stands with things,” said Head Coach and Sporting Director Bob Bradley last month when asked about Auro Jr. and Lawrence. “And in different ways, in the last year and even two years, I think with Toronto playing outside of Canada so often and the team not doing well last year, I immediately got a sense when I got here that there were just guys in different places — guys that weren’t as committed to the club as they might’ve been earlier, guys that in different moments that hadn’t been committed to all the things that you need to do to be part of a winning team.”
The reality was that the environment clearly wasn’t what the former MLS Best XI fullback was expecting when he joined Toronto from R.S.C. Anderlecht in May of last season.
“I’m coming here to win — nothing else — and this team will give me the best chance to do that,” said Lawrence at the time.
That obviously wasn’t the case, and by the end of the year, there was a clear sense that he — like a lot of Toronto’s (now former) players — had checked out.
According to one source, Lawrence, who turned down offers from elsewhere in Europe to return to MLS in order to be closer to his family, would often be absent from training sessions.
And that coincides with what Manning was alluding to when he spoke to media at the end of last season.
“I don’t think we had a culture this year, and I think we’ve lost this amazing culture that we’ve built up over the years here at BMO Training Ground and it was reflected on the field,” said Manning. “The introduction of some of the players into the club and some of the guys that were here, it wasn’t seamless. Culture is a buzz word, but it’s also real. It comes down to togetherness, it comes down to alignment. … teams that win have fun.”
And that doesn’t just fall on the shoulders of the former New York Red Bull. A lot of Toronto’s decisions this past offseason have been made on the basis that the team needed a culture reset, and that some of the players that were with the club simply needed to go, including Yeferson Soteldo and Auro.
It’s worth noting that all four of Toronto FC’s signings last season (Ali Curtis’ signings) — Soteldo, Lawrence, Dom Dwyer and Luke Singh — are no longer with the club as Bradley has made one thing clear since his arrival in Toronto. He doesn’t care who you are, what you’ve done, or how good you are: if you’re not 100 per cent bought in to turning the ship around, you’re expendable.
And Lawrence is just the next domino to fall as the club looks ahead to hopefully what will be a brighter future.