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Kemar Lawrence could be ready for New York Red Bulls’ CCL clash with Atlético Pantoja

Jul 8, 2018; New York, NY, USA; New York Red Bulls defender Kemar Lawrence (92) controls the ball against New York City FC during the second half at Yankee Stadium. (Vincent Carchietta/USA TODAY Sports)

The 2018 season ended agonizingly for the New York Red Bulls after an ouster by Atlanta United in the Eastern Conference finalIt was especially painful for Kemar Lawrence since the MLS Best XI left back missed both legs of the series due to an MCL injury.

With the start of the 2019 season a little more than three weeks away, will the Jamaican international be fit for the Concacaf Champions League Round of 16 clash against Atlético Pantoja?

“He’ll be an option,” Red Bulls coach Chris Armas said during a conference call with reporters Friday. “Whether we use him or not we’ll make the decision as we get closer.”

Armas said there’s no reason to rush Lawrence in the preseason, which has been a mix of modified work and, as was the case on Friday, training without restriction for the defender nicknamed “Taxi.”

“He looks really good,” Armas said. “It’s deceiving because Kemar is so fast and aggressive maybe his 80 percent looks like everyone’s normal speed. He looks great.”

Armas also said midfielders Florian Valot and Vincent Bezecourt, who both impressed early in 2018 before season-ending knee injuries, could find their way back onto the field for the first leg in the Dominican Republic Feb. 20.

Valot had three goals and five assists, starting 13 of the Red Bulls’ first 14 games last year before his season was cut short by a torn ACL in early July.

Bezecourt had a pair of assists in nine regular season appearances — five starts — and scored in a 4-0 drubbing of New York City FC in the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup. He suffered an MCL injury in June that required surgery in late August.

“Florian Valot and Vincent Bezecourt are training regularly, they’re all-in on training and those guys are options,” Armas said. “We just have to be mindful they had a layoff and we have to keep moving them along the right way. Will Flo and Vince be options for that game? Yeah, they will be.”

Kyle Duncan also had a promising start of 2018, starting the first four games of the MLS regular season and recording his first MLS assist in a 3-0 home win over Minnesota United FC before the 20-year-old defender needed surgery to repair a torn ACL suffered against Orlando City SC.

“Kyle Duncan was training with us at the end of the year and had a great offseason,” Armas said. “He’s certainly available and looks great moving himself along the right way.”

Also on the injury front, goalkeeper Ryan Meara will be sidelined for a month after undergoing surgery to repair a torn MCL in his right knee, the club announced on Wednesday.

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