Passing, physicality locks Lambert in Schantz’s starting XI for Rising FC

Sep 4, 2020, 12:37 PM | Updated: Sep 5, 2020, 6:00 pm
Phoenix Rising FC midfielder Kevon Lambert. (Arizona Sports/Ashley Orellana)...
Phoenix Rising FC midfielder Kevon Lambert. (Arizona Sports/Ashley Orellana)
(Arizona Sports/Ashley Orellana)

Certainty is a word that has escaped our vocabulary in 2020.

But in a year of overwhelming change, one thing has been a constant for Phoenix Rising FC: midfielder Kevon Lambert.

The 23-year-old Jamaican international has been a rock for manager Rick Schantz’s midfield trio this season.

Lambert is the only midfielder to have started all 10 of Phoenix Rising’s matches this year and is fourth on the team with 889 total minutes played (Corey Whelan leads the club with 899).

But what makes that metric so remarkable is how much more the Jamaican has played over his more attack-minded midfield comrades Jon Bakero and Sam Stanton.

In nine matches in 2020, Bakero has tallied 661 minutes, while Stanton has accumulated 592 minutes in seven games. Additionally, the Spanish and Scottish midfielders have also been subbed out in every match they have played, whereas Lambert has only seen his number come up on the fourth official’s board just twice this season.

“I think he’s improved technically quite a bit, he’s very good on the ball,” Schantz said on a Zoom call with media on Tuesday.

“His passing and passing percentages have been very high. I think that’s always been a knock on him — that he didn’t have the feet to play as a No. 6.”

Lambert has completed 368 of his total 442 pass attempts this season, the second-most attempts on Phoenix Rising behind Whelan’s 546. The Jamaican’s 83.3% pass percentage is the best among all PRFC midfielders and ranks second on the team for those with a minimum of 200 pass attempts.

Schantz said he works on getting extra touches in every day after training and praised the Jamaican on how well he takes care of his body.

“Physically, the way we press — when we really press, he can cover a lot of ground,” Schantz said.

“It’s unbelievably impressive how much Kev can dominate physically. He wins everything in the air. I’ve shown him a lot of film and told him he has a big opportunity and just has to keep working on the ball, keep getting touches.”

Schantz joked that three steps for the 6-foot-3 Lambert are equivalent to 15 steps for 5-foot-2 captain Solomon Asante.

Defensively, Lambert leads the team in aerial duels won (29), interceptions (18) and tackles won (12).

“I’m just so proud of him,” Schantz said. “Sometimes it’s not even close who the first name is when we write down the teamsheet. There’s a few of them, but he’s definitely right up near the top.”

And after seeing 6-foot James Musa — who struggled to get playing time behind Lambert last season — make a move to MLS side Minnesota United at the age of 27, don’t be surprised to see teams come calling for the Jamaican’s talents in the offseason.

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Passing, physicality locks Lambert in Schantz’s starting XI for Rising FC