MONTCLAIR, N.J. — Junior Flemmings could not have asked for a better return to Red Bulls II Starting XI Friday night.
In his first game back since injuring his knee last season, the 21-year-old Flemmings sparked the home side with the first score of the game in what turned into a 3-1 win over Orlando City B.
Flemmings had accumulated seven goals and four assists before injuring his knee, which forced him to miss the rest of last United Soccer League season and the playoffs. NYRBII went on to capture the regular-season title and the USL Cup.
“Junior showed last year that in USL he can be a dangerous player and he had a really frustrating offseason due to injury,” Red Bulls II coach John Wolyniec said. “We are going to have to be patient with him and I have been over the first few games.
“Now, he is feeling a bit better and you can see him getting results. I would still challenge him as well to do more but we are going to be patient with him because we know he went seven months without playing a game and it’s hard to judge where he is or whether he is back to 100 percent. Clearly tonight he took a step in the right direction and showed that he can make plays at this level.”
Flemmings certainly did in the 16th minute, lifting the hosts to a 1-0 lead at MSU Soccer Park.
“This is my first 90 minutes after being out for 7 1/2 months so I just want to give thanks,” he stated. “It has been paying off in training and ultimately came off in the game so I’m actually grateful for the first goal of the season.”
The 5-foot-11, 164-lb. Flemmings was just happy to be back playing and starting after logging 60 minutes as a substitute in the previous two matches.
“Mentally, it is very frustrating but I wanted to play this beautiful game again so I got to do what is best to get back onto the pitch and I did,” he said.
On his goal, Flemmings made multiple cutbacks running at a defender and slotted a shot past the goalkeeper.
“I’ve been putting in a lot of work during the offseason,” he said. “Even on rest days you do a little bit more. It paid off in the game. That’s my mentality, just keep working hard every day and hopefully I can help the team whichever way I can.”