HOUSTON, TEXAS – Kemar Lawrence is aware of the raised expectations around the Jamaican national team after the program’s second place finishes in the last two Concacaf Gold Cups – expectations that have them coming in as the favorite against El Salvador for Friday’s Group C clash at BBVA Stadium in Houston.
Whether those expectations come with added pressure or not, it’s no reason take away from enjoying the experience to the fullest.
“There is a big fun factor for us in everything we try to do. We know it’s all serious when it comes down to preparation and game time but if we can’t enjoy this work, while we’re doing it, I feel like that’s where we go downhill,” said Lawrence in a pre-match press conference on Thursday.
The 26-year-old defender is one of the more experienced players on Theodore Whitmore’s Gold Cup squad, with the second most national team appearances among active players behind Je-Vaughn Watson.
The Kingston native has been part of the national team setup since his days with the U17s and has represented the senior team in some of its biggest moments, including the two Gold Cup final runs and the Copa America Centenario.
“Even if people expect us to go to the finals right now, that noise, we’re shutting it out. Right now, it’s just for us to get everything right in the locker room, on the pitch, off the pitch, and really tapping into everything that our coach is trying to teach us and I feel like, if we can do that, I feel like we’re unbeatable,” added Lawrence.
The New York Red Bulls defender relishes the big moments.
It was Lawrence who scored in the 1-0 win over Mexico in the 2017 semifinal at the iconic Rose Bowl Stadium. Its these types of performances, one that led him to be named to the 2017 Gold Cup Best XI, that he has worked towards his entire career.
“These stages and bigger stages too,” said Lawrence. “This has always been a dream since I’ve started to play soccer and my dream right now is to win the Gold Cup and go to a World Cup.”