On fire and in form: Phoenix Rising FC forward Junior Flemmings
Phoenix Rising FC forward and Jamaican international Junior Flemmings is on fire and in form at the moment.
Flemmings is coming off of a two-goal performance in Saturday night’s 3-2 loss to San Diego Loyal SC at Casino Arizona Field.
The brace not only extended the Golden Boot leader’s goal tally to 14 on the 2020 campaign, but also marked his 50th career goal in USL Championship.
And on Tuesday, the Jamaican was named to the league’s team of the week as an honorable mention (bench).
“Trust me, he loves to score goals. At practice he does that and he tells us all the time,” Phoenix Rising manager Rick Schantz told reporters via Zoom on Tuesday.
“The last thing usually to come for any player is the calmness, the intelligence to score goals. Right in that moment when he’s running at 10 meters per second, can he calm down and find the right corner? The kid is on fire right now. We’re just trying to ride that wave.”
Flemmings’ form this season has been impeccable and with only three games remaining on the regular-season schedule, it’s hard to imagine the MVP award being given to anyone other than Phoenix’s No. 7.
Through 13 games on the year, the Jamaican has compiled 14 goals and two assists. Average that out over the course of a normal 34-game season and that would amount to 36 goals and five assists. And while the assist count won’t impress many, that goal-scoring tally would obliterate Cameron Lancaster’s USL Championship record of 25 goals in a single season.
Now compare that to Flemmings’ first 13 league games with Phoenix Rising last year and the results are night and day.
Through the first 13 USLC matches in 2019, the Jamaican scored eight goals and notched seven assists before leaving PRFC for over a month to represent his country in the CONCACAF Gold Cup (missed four games). Upon his return, Flemmings would net seven more goals and notch two assists in 15 matches while also missing two additional games due to international duty.
So if we compare Flemmings’ 2019 campaign — which was essentially split into two seasons — to 2020, it’s evident that he’s taken the next step in his career as a goalscorer. And not only is he scoring more than anybody else in the league, but he’s doing so with both his feet and head while playing three different positions (winger, No. 9 and No. 10).
“It’s very simple to me. The reason he does this: he’s the most competitive human being I’ve ever met,” Schantz said of Flemmings. “He can’t stand to lose anything. If you go up and just try to bump shoulders with Junior, he flexes his muscle and tries to push me out of the way. He won’t lose anything.
“There are some people that growing up, they have such a desire to compete, they have goals and maybe he grew up in an environment that was difficult, so difficult that he had to compete just to survive. And he’s got just this innate competition inside of him that’s unbelievable, it’s so fantastic. You add that with talent, desire, skill, intelligence and you get Junior Flemmings.”
The good news for Phoenix Rising fans is that CONCACAF has postponed the October and November World Cup qualifiers to 2021, meaning Jamaica won’t be playing any competitive matches at the same time as USL Championship’s postseason.
However, due to Flemmings’ MVP-level performance this season, this might be the last two months the Jamaican plays in a PRFC kit as clubs from around the world will surely inquire about the 24-year-old’s talents.
“He and I both know that he’s not long for USL,” Schantz said. “He deserves to be above the USL and as I’ve said, I think he can play in Europe fairly easily. It’s just finding the right club and the right situation for him.
“I’m just proud to say that I’ve had a part in his development and I’ve helped him mature a little bit. I hope he takes off and is really successful.”
This isn’t the first time Phoenix Rising’s manager has said Flemmings is ready to make the jump to the next level, either, as last week featured Schantz expressing his confidence in the Jamaican’s ability to play at a higher level than MLS.
“He’s ready for the top level and I’m not talking MLS. He should be playing higher than that as well,” Schantz said.
“I’d love for him to stay here forever, but I don’t know if that’s going to happen. I told him when he goes to the Premier League that he has to make sure I get tickets and I can come watch him play.”