Longing for ways to compete without being able to play, soccer players from around the USL Championship and USL League One are taking to the digital fields of Rocket League. Live matches are streamed on ESPN3.
A popular cross-platform video game, Rocket League combines soccer and futuristic cars into a fast paced eSport that’s accessible to gamers of all ages. Tacoma Defiance midfielder Josh Atencio is our captain in the virtual competition. Defender Abdoulaye Cissoko is his backup.
Atencio leapt at the opportunity to play a game he’s enjoyed for a few years now. The teen-captain isn’t resting on his past experience playing the game. He started training as soon as he found out he was playing for The United Way of Pierce County.
“When I found that out, it made playing a lot more special. It made me a little more nervous, too, that I was playing for a cause. It’s super special to be in these times, sitting in my house noticing some mild impacts of what the pandemic is doing. I know there’s more severe effects on others. So, to be able to do even my little part while cooped up inside the house, it feels good.”
Getting the first match victory over Louisville City puts Atencio in a good place to advance in the competition. The USL eCup is structured like a World Cup, with a Group Stage and then a knockout round.
Coach Little would be proud of his defender/defensive midfielder. Josh shutout LouCity on his way to a 2-0, +9 goal differential victory. Like Justin Dhillon, Atencio scored in rapid fashion. It took just four seconds to net his first goal in the completion.
Josh’s work is now cut out for him. Reno 1868 FC dominated North Carolina FC 19-0 in their 2-game victory. Early indicators are that Defiance’s Group 1 is possibly the dreaded Group of Death.
That’s where Atencio’s years of watching and playing will come in handy.
“Rocket League is a game that I play with my friends a lot, so I feel like I’m pretty decent. It was exciting to play on a competitive level. Throughout last year, I’d be on Twitch every single day, honestly. But, now I kind of just watch YouTube highlights here and there when there’s nothing else to do.”
Now, Staying Home to Stay Healthy, Josh has something to do – practice those runs, shade the ball carrier, and win games to help The United Way of Pierce County while repping the Black and Green of Tacoma Defiance on a global stage.