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Official: Toronto FC sign defender Kemar Lawrence from Belgian side Anderlecht

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The club has moved to bolster their defensive line by bringing in the 2018 MLS Best XI left back.

RSC Anderlecht v KRC Genk - Coupe de Belgique
Kemar Lawrence of RSC Anderlecht and Junya Ito of KRC Genk during the Croky Cup match between RSC Anderlecht and KRC Genk at Lotto Park on March 14, 2021 in Brussel, Belgium
Photo by Herman Dingler/BSR Agency/Getty Images

MANITOBA, Canada—Toronto FC announced today that the club has officially signed Jamaican international left-back Kemar Lawrence from Belgian side Anderlecht. The deal will run through 2024.

The Athletic’s Joshua Kloke, Sam Stejskal, and Paul Tenorio were the first to report this story earlier this week.

“We are very excited about Kemar joining the club,” said Toronto FC General Manager Ali Curtis via a press release. “He’s a fearless competitor, he has experience, and he immediately makes our team better. Kemar is a lockdown wingback, and we are excited to get him going. Looking forward to he and his family planting roots in Orlando, and then Toronto. Very excited for Kemar to join is an understatement.”

Lawrence, 28, will be making his return to MLS after leaving New York Red Bulls in January of 2020 to join the Belgian side. The defender went on to make 17 appearances for Anderlecht, scoring once.

Previously, Lawrence spent five seasons with Red Bulls, establishing himself as one of the best left-backs in the league and earning an MLS Best XI selection in 2018 and an MLS All-Star selection the same year—under current TFC head coach Chris Armas. He was a key figure in the 2018 Red Bulls side that boasted a league-best defence on the way to win the 2018 Supporters Shield. He followed that season up by helping the Red Bulls’ backline secure nine clean sheets during the regular season.

“I believe that we are a really good fit for Kemar and that he complements our roster well,” said head coach Chris Armas via a press release. “He adds experience, intensity and a defensive presence that is fierce. I am excited to start working with him again.”

The addition of Lawrence bolsters Toronto’s fullback position, which was certainly an area of concern for the club. So far this season, TFC have only had Auro Jr., Justin Morrow and Richie Lareya on the books as natural full-back options, with Auro playing on his off-side as a left-back thus far. The addition of Lawrence brings veteran experience and further defensive cover to a Toronto side that has shown the need for both.

The move also reunites Lawrence with former NYRB men Chris Armas and Ali Curtis, both of whom he played under in his time with the club. Ali Curtis also acquired Lawrence as Sporting Director for Red Bulls in 2015, when he brought the defender in from Harbour View FC in Jamaica.

Lawrence qualifies as a free agent within MLS so the transfer was not subject to the MLS Allocation List. He also obtained a green card in 2018, meaning the Jamaican international will count as a domestic player.

Internationally, Lawrence has earned 60 caps and recorded three goals and six assists for the Jamaican National Team. He got his first call into the senior national team in September 2013 for a Concacaf qualifier match against Panama but earned his first cap in November of the same year in a friendly match against Trinidad & Tobago. He was a part of the teams that earned second place in the 2015 and 2017 Concacaf Gold Cup.

Lawrence will join the Reds pending receipt of the International Transfer Certificate (ITC), meaning he is not expected to be eligible for Saturday’s match vs. the New York Red Bulls.