Robert Berić’s extra time, golden goal winner gave the Chicago Fire a 4-3 aggregate win over FC Cincinnati, sending the Fire to the next round against LAFC.
No, MLS isn’t back, just yet. This matchup was part of the “eMLS Tournament Special,” a five week tournament airing on FS1 and FOX Deportes. The Fire’s team—made up of captain Francisco Calvo and eMLS pro Enrique “BITW7” Espinoza—ended up getting bounced in the next round by LAFC. But for Espinoza, it was chance for him to show off his skills to a wider audience, while COVID-19 has the MLS season on hold.
“It was a great experience,” Espinoza told Hot Time in Old Town. “It was very well done by eMLS, and I was very, honestly, glad to take part in it, and represent the club at that level. Being able to give that to the people, since everyone is without sports right now, we have a little more responsibility.”
Espinoza represents the Fire as the club’s professional EA Sports FIFA20 player at eMLS events throughout the year. He currently sits 13th in the 2020 eMLS standings. Espinoza said he plays FIFA at least 3-4 hours a day to keep his skills sharp, and he streams on Twitch several nights a week, where he’s extremely charismatic.
BITW7 may be the eMLS pro, but he said Calvo’s no slouch. It was Calvo on the controller when Berić scored the golden goal winner.
“I’ll be honest, he was actually pretty good,” BITW7 said of Calvo. “I have brothers who play, and you don’t expect everyone to play like a pro, especially when they don’t play every day, you know? As busy as he is being a professional player, he played really, really well.”
In addition to his role as a pro gamer, Espinoza is actually a youth coach with Fire City Juniors. He said there’s a lot of crossover between FIFA and the real pitch.
“I would say it goes both ways,” he said. “The game is so realistic at this point, you can change tactics within the game, instructions, formations, there’s so many things that you can do, that you can do in real life as well. You kind of learn a little bit from both sides.”
That’s why Espinoza would recommend his real players give FIFA a try... every once in a while, at least.
“Maybe not as much as I do!” Espinoza joked. “But, I grew up playing just FIFA my entire life. I never played any other games, really. Since I started playing video games at 6, 7 years old, I think I only owned two other games that weren’t FIFA. For me, it was FIFA every single year. Being able to connect with the sport of soccer daily, whether I was on the field, or not, physically, was huge in developing my understanding for the sport, and my love for the sport.”
For more on eMLS, check out the league’s website. And to cheer on BITW7, check out his Twitch.