TEMPE – The high spirits of an eight game win streak met Kevon Lambert and Junior Flemmings as they returned to Phoenix Rising FC.
“It’s great, especially for me and Kev to come back,” Flemmings said. “When you’re in a happy environment, it’s good for the team, good for the club and everything. I think we just want to add value to that in terms of keeping the momentum going and keeping getting those wins.”
The two were away on international duty with Jamaica at the CONCACAF Gold Cup, the region’s top tournament for men’s national teams. Jamaica made it to the semifinals, recording victories over Honduras and Panama on the way.
Flemmings was a key part of that run, featuring in every single match and starting all but one. Lambert, however, was called upon by Jamaica coach Theodore Whitmore only once in his second Gold Cup tournament – a substitute appearance in a 1-1 draw against Curaçao.
“As a player, you always want to be out there,” Lambert said. “You always want to play. So even though the team was doing pretty good, and I’m happy that the team was doing good, but sometimes as a player you don’t really like to watch. You want to be out there. That part was kind of difficult.”
While Flemmings played in each match, some of those came away from his usual spot on the wing. Most notably, he was slotted into a far more central position by Whitmore for their quarterfinal victory over Panama.
“To be honest, it was a moment of ‘Wherever the coach needs me to play, I need to go out there and give 110%,’ whether or not it was my preferred position,” Flemmings said. “At the end of the day, I’m representing my country and you have to do whatever to get those results. It was just one of those tournaments where I had to play out of position to help the team, and I did.”
Adapting to different positions wasn’t the only challenge. A tough travel schedule saw Jamaica begin its campaign in the capital city of Kingston, before traveling to Houston and Los Angeles. Following that, its knockout stage matches took place in Philadelphia and Nashville.
“It was crazy,” Flemmings said. “The travel was literally the morning after the games, so after we played at 8, 9 o’clock at night, then we would travel at 6 a.m. in the morning.”
Yet that won’t stop them from taking part in this weekend’s trip to Rio Grande Valley in Edinburg, Texas. Coach Rick Schantz confirmed that both will be available for selection, and they may appear from the bench or even make the starting lineup.
Despite not starting for over a month, it’s a challenge that Lambert is ready to face.
“I’m always ready to play 90 minutes,” Lambert said. “It’s more of telling my mind that I’m ready, even though I might not have played a lot of games in the past month. But for me, I think that I’m ready. I’m always ready. If the coach calls on me, I’ll be ready.”
And while they’re looking for success in USL, they also have one eye toward a potential Jamaica call-up for the CONCACAF Nations League this fall.
“Time will tell,” Flemmings said. “You never know. A month and a half from now, a lot of things can come into play. So who knows. You just have to keep going and try to stay healthy and see what the possibilities are.”
Yet if they pick up with Rising where they left off a month ago, it’ll be hard for Whitmore to not give them that call.