Kemar Lawrence could be back for the second leg. (Photo courtesy of MLS)

ATLANTA — Even prior to the opening kickoff, the Red Bulls already had suffered a loss, a big one.

Left back Kemar Lawrence was not in the Starting XI against Atlanta United due to a knee injury he suffered in training earlier last week.

So, Connor Lade took the MLS Best XI defender’s place in what turned into a 3-0 loss to Atlanta United in the first leg of the MLS Cup Playoffs Eastern Conference final series Sunday night.

Lawrence is one of the best overlapping fullbacks in MLS, something that Lade could not duplicate.

“I’ll say two things. Kemar is a big part of things aroundhere. He has had a great year,” Red Bulls head coach Chris Armas said. “We all know that. Maybe he will be back for leg two. We will see. He is day-to-day, but more importantly, Connor Lade stepped in and did a good job. He was solid. He gave everything like we knew that he would. It was a big test, a lot of direct play. He was fearless on the night. Connor stood up admirably, I believe.”

The Red Bulls will host Atlanta in the second leg at Red Bull Arena Thursday night.