TEMPE – Phoenix Rising is preparing to lose two of its top players until July.
Kevon Lambert, 22, is currently with the Jamaican national team. He was part of the squad for the Reggae Boyz’s CONCACAF Gold Cup warmup fixture against the U.S. men’s national team Wednesday, setting up a goal in the process.
“We’re so proud of him,” Rising coach Rick Schantz said. “Coaching staff, teammates, everybody. It’s a big deal to have guys called up to the national team. Especially as he’s at a young age, and we’re hoping someday we’re going to get to watch Kev play in the Champions League.”
Those sentiments were echoed by team captain Solomon Asante, who has represented Ghana in the past.
“It’s a great opportunity for him, and I believe he’s one of the best midfielders in the USL Championship,” Asante said. “Calling him for the national team is a great thing. He’s doing well and he should be called.”
Yet the timing of the call could prove disruptive. With Lambert making the final cut for the Gold Cup – the top competition for men’s national teams from North and Central America and the Caribbean – he may be unavailable for Rising until July. That means he could miss up to five matches for Phoenix.
To date, Lambert has been a fixture in the Rising lineup, missing just a single league game. The box-to-box player leads the team’s midfielders in total passes, and has also picked up a goal and an assist.
“It will be very difficult for us as he’s one of our best players,” Asante said. “I think we are going to cope with it. The coaches have so many solutions. I think we’ll still be good.”
While Schantz joked that the solution would involve putting Asante “on top of somebody’s shoulders and that would be Kevon Lambert,” he too recognized the difficulty.
“You don’t really replace a guy like Kevon Lambert,” he said. “You do your best, and what I’ve asked the team to do is if everybody goes in and gives their best, some guys have to do a little bit more.
“We know that if there was another Kevon Lambert, he would have been starting as well, so it’s not good to look at it and say ‘when Kev goes, who’s going to slot in and play?’ We just know as a team we have to pick it up.”
Rising teammate and fellow Jamaican Junior Flemmings did not get the call for Wednesday’s game, despite finding the net four times in his last six USL matches. Yet Flemmings will still feature in the tournament after being named to the Reggae Boyz’s 23-man final roster Thursday morning.
— Phoenix Rising FC (@PHXRisingFC) June 6, 2019
In a video released by Rising after Thursday’s announcement, Flemmings described being “elated” with his call up.
“I know they’ll (Rising) take care of business until me and Kevon get back,” he added.
The Jamaican team, featuring both Rising players, will now travel home to its capital city of Kingston to open its Gold Cup campaign against Honduras on June 17.
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