Photo courtesy of Phoenix Rising FC.
As a part of Jamaica’s roster for the upcoming Gold Cup, Junior Flemmings will have a chance to show North America exactly what has made him such a fantastic addition to Phoenix Rising this season. Statistically, Flemmings has been great in 2019. He’s already scored and assisted on a combined total of 13 goals during the young USL season.
But what exactly has made Flemmings so good for Phoenix and earned him a national team call-up? To help give us all a better, more well-rounded appreciation of the Jamaican’s game, we are going to look at four things (of the many) that make him such a dangerous player.
His right foot
Unless you’re Ousmane Dembélé and you’re not sure if you’re right or left footed, one of the most foundational aspects of any soccer player’s skill set is his or her dominant foot. As a winger, Flemmings’ right-footedness is one of his biggest strengths. Flemmings is capable of creating with his left foot, which is important to avoid becoming a one-dimensional attacker, but he consistently uses his right foot to make plays in compact spaces and cut inside from the wing.
During a friendly against Costa Rica on March 26th, Flemmings pulled off this absurd skill to keep possession of the ball and find a teammate.
The above clip should be a scary sequence for potential Gold Cup or USL opponents to watch. Even surrounded by defenders, Flemmings’ right foot is good enough to get out of danger a large percentage of the time. But Flemmings doesn’t just use his dominant foot to get out of danger. He uses it to create danger.
When he starts out wide on left side of the field, Flemmings often looks to cut inside and shoot on goal. That is exactly how he scored this goal from 24 yards out against the Tacoma Defiance.
He is great at dribbling at an angle toward the edge of the box, using the outside of his right foot to slide past opponents, and creating tiny shooting windows on the edge of the box.
Flemmings can keep the ball and create in tight spaces, but he may be even more of an attacking asset in the open field – he constantly looks to get forward quickly during counter attacks and stretch the opposing backline.
Because he is comfortable running with or without the ball at his feet, Flemmings can act as the “point guard” by dribbling the ball up the field during a counter attack or he can leave the ball for another player and simply sprint forward into the attack and act as an outlet higher up the field. You can see his willingness to perform either one of those roles in this clip from Phoenix’s recent win over the Las Vegas Lights.
As Cochran carries the ball forward from deep, Flemmings looks over his shoulder to see if he needs to come back to the ball and help carry it forward. When he sees that Cochran is going to dribble forward himself, Flemmings kicks it into high gear and gets as far upfield as possible.
His off-ball positioning
When Flemmings doesn’t have the ball, he uses precise positioning to create space for himself so that he can eventually receive the ball. One of the best ways for any player to create space is by moving into the space between the opposition’s midfield and defensive lines.
When an offensive player is positioned between in an area in front of some opposing defensive players and behind others, it is difficult for the opposing team to track that player’s movement and deny him the ball. Even before Flemmings arrived in Phoenix and started playing in a system that demands solid spacing and timely off-ball ball movement, tape from his time with the Tampa Bay Rowdies showed that he was comfortable playing with his back to goal and controlling the ball between the lines.
This season, one of Phoenix’s most used attacking movements (which I wrote about in the most recent edition of RTR) involves Flemmings moving inside and between the opposition’s defensive lines.
In the above clip, you can see just how difficult it is for opposing teams to stop Flemmings when he gets the ball between the lines. He sucked in six defensive players, which created space for Asante and Aguinaga on the weak side. By creating space for himself with his disciplined off-ball positioning, Flemmings typically ends up creating space for others as well.
His body feints
The final, and most subtle, part of Flemmings’ game that we are going to analyze today is his ability to manipulate defenders with subtle body fakes. It’s hard imagine just how effective ever-so-slight body movements can be, so here is an annotated video breakdown of Flemmings using a body feint to dodge a defender and create a shooting window at the top of the box.
Flemmings’ crafty fakes are just another trick in his impressive arsenal of skills.
If he can get on the field for Jamaica during their Gold Cup campaign – and he should – Flemmings’ right foot, speed, off-ball positioning, and clever body fakes will make him tough for opposing defenses to deal with.