HARRISON, New Jersey — The talking point following the New York Red Bulls’ 2-1 win over the Chicago Fire on Saturday night was Kemar Lawrence.
The hero of the match drew praise, but also raised some question marks with his statements after the match. The Red Bulls starting left back not only scored the game-winning goal in the second half, but afterward claimed he played with a concussion.
Lawrence told MSG Network’s Tina Cervasio following the match that he had a head injury during the week. Then he suffered another injury to the head, apparently, in the first half. In the interview, he claimed to have been told to try and play through the injury by head coach Jesse Marsch.
On Monday, Marsch said that Lawrence had a head knock during the week and went through concussion protocol — “We had all our medical team check on him all last week. He came through fine.”
Then on Saturday at halftime, Lawrence was again checked by the team’s medical staff and given the clear. Before the start of the second half, Marsch talked with his left back, one of the best in MLS.
“At halftime, I said to him ‘Relax, take your time, see how you feel and if you have to come out, no problem and we’ll take you out.’ He winds up saying something after the game like he’s supposed to push through. That was never part of the discussion,” Marsch said Monday. “I told the team at halftime to dig in because it was a hot game. Maybe he misinterpreted that. Even before he went back out I said to him again, I checked with him and I said ‘OK, they say you’re OK. You sure you feel all right? There’s no problem if you had to come out.’"
Marsch continued: “He said ‘No, I feel good. I’m ready to go.’ He went back in the game and obviously he made a big play and we’re happy he’s OK and we hope he gets through the next couple of days in a good way.”
Lawrence did not train with the team Monday but it was unrelated to any head injury. He was back in Jamaica attending the funeral of his grandmother.
He will rejoin the team on Tuesday in Kansas City ahead of their Wednesday night match.
Marsch, a former player in MLS, takes concussions quite seriously, having had several during his career in the league.
“What I know personally about concussions — identifying them early. I know that a headache is different than a concussion headache from experience. The more you force it, the worse it gets,” Marsch said.
“That’s why for me, it’s partly because we care about our guys but it’s also knowing that the quickest way to recovery is to be cautious. And the quickest way to get guys in trouble is to be aggressive. It’s a different kind of injury that way. That’s why I think it’s always important to be overly cautious.”