The New York Red Bulls have agreed to sell left back Kemar Lawrence to RSC Anderlecht of the Belgian First Division, a source confirmed to Pro Soccer USA.
Personal terms and medical paperwork still need to be completed before the Belgium transfer window closes Friday.
The transfer fee is about $1.5 million, according to sources, with the Red Bulls receiving $1.1 million after the league gets its 25 percent because Lawrence wasn’t a homegrown player and was in the league for more than three years. $750,000 can be used for General Allocation Money. The Athletic first reported news of the transfer agreement Thursday afternoon.
Lawrence, a 27-year-old Jamaican international, will join Panamanian international and former MLS All-Star right back Michael Amir Murillo, who transferred to RSC Anderlecht in December.
Lawrence had just joined the Red Bulls for preseason in Florida after missing the club’s first week of training to tend to a family matter in Jamaica. He trained with former club Harbour View FC while there.
After joining the Red Bulls from Harbour View in 2015, Lawrence almost immediately emerged as one of the league’s best left backs. Nicknamed “Taxi,” Lawrence started 113 games over the course of five seasons.
He signed a new multi-year contract late in a 2018 season in which he was named to the MLS Best XI. Lawrence received $382,749 in guaranteed compensation last year, according to the MLS Players Association Salary Guide.
In subsequent months, fellow defenders Tim Parker ($752,200) and Aaron Long ($800,000) signed new contracts. Lawrence sought a new deal and when that was ignored, he requested a trade.
“I feel like it’s fair enough,” he told MLSsoccer.com. “It came to the point where my agent reached out and said, ‘Yo, Kemar needs a raise but you’re not going to have a conversation about it?”
That interview didn’t sit well with the Red Bulls, according to sources, nor did the time Lawrence returned late to the club and missed a showdown with the Philadelphia Union three days after Jamaica defeated the United States men’s national team at Audi Field in June. According to a second source, Red Bulls players were upset Lawrence didn’t make it back to Chester when Union goalkeeper Andre Blake, who also represented Jamaica, did return and helped his team to a come-from-behind win.
After the game, Red Bulls coach Chris Armas publicly backed Lawrence.
“He played 90 minutes the other night and he’s coming off an injury,” he said of Lawrence. “We trust the player when it just doesn’t make the most sense. It certainly would have been nice. … It wasn’t realistic tonight.”
So where do the Red Bulls go from here? Sporting Director Denis Hamlett told Pro Soccer USA in an exclusive interview the club intends to be active when the MLS primary transfer window opens Feb. 13 and has enough room in the salary cap to make necessary moves.
Rece Buckmaster can play both fullback positions, as can Kyle Duncan, and the club signed homegrown left back John Tolkin earlier this month.