Havertown teen earns pro eSports contract with Fusion University

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Havertown teen earns pro eSports contract with Fusion University

David “Rownplb” Long made the trek up I-95 on Saturday to try his hand at Fusion University’s Hometown Heroes Showcase at LocalHost, a LAN center in Northern Liberties. The 16-year-old had to convince his parents that trying out for a professional eSports team was a good idea.

“My dad doesn’t really know how eSports work,” he said. “So I spent time explaining how the system worked. He and my mom gave me a shot to try it out.”

Long wanted some competitive experience at the 16-team Overwatch tournament. And as a bonus, maybe even rub shoulders with Fusion University’s roster of young, well-known pro gamers.

By Thursday, he was one of them.

“I was expecting to compete, have fun and maybe get a little bit better,” said Long, who was hand-selected out of 96 local competitive Overwatch players to sign a contract with Fusion University. “I didn’t expect to make the team.

“I’m pretty excited.”

In front of a 200-person capacity crowd, the 16-year-old junior from Havertown, Pennsylvania, survived 12 hours and 95 of the area’s best with an aggressive performance as an off-tank D.Va main.

“Toward the end, I was really tense,” Long said. “But once you start, you barely feel it.”

When the dust settled, after days of deliberation by the Fusion University staff, Long was contacted by coach Aaron Atkins, who offered the youngster an opportunity to join the Fusion’s academy team.

“We love Philadelphia and we want to connect with the community as much as we can,” said Atkins, who is managing Fusion University's inaugural season. “Having a player from Philly will help us achieve that even more. There’s a connection you get when you have a player from your hometown on your hometown team. That connection is what we’re looking for.”

But the Delaware County kid isn’t in the bigs quite yet. Fusion University is an academy team for the Fusion. Both teams are owned by Comcast Spectacor and will work in tandem, with Fusion University developing prospects and potentially feeding into the Fusion’s first-team roster — similar to the partnership between the Flyers and Lehigh Valley Phantoms.

The difference is that the Fusion, who are approaching the midpoint of their season, currently play in Overwatch League, while Fusion University will compete in Overwatch Contenders North America, beginning on March 11.

In other words, Long is going from playground ball to the college game, with the pros within sight.

“It will be very different,” Atkins said. “Structured competitive play is very different than any type of online matchmaking. He will see how the macro game works from the top down and that’s the first thing I’m going to work with them on because it’s so different how everything is structured and play. The first few months will be a lot of learning.”

And luckily for Long, his parents are OK with that.

“I had to explain that I could still focus on my schoolwork but also play Contenders,” Long said. “I’ll have to balance it out.”

Union believe they found their missing piece

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Union believe they found their missing piece

David Accam is a dream come true for the Union.

“At the end of the season, we talked about adding players and David was at the top of our list,” Union sporting director Earnie Stewart said. “I didn’t think that would be a real option. When it comes along, it’s incredible.”

Shocking as it was for Stewart, the Union pulled 27-year-old Accam from the Chicago Fire for allocation money at the 2018 MLS SuperDraft on Jan. 19. With his ability to create one-on-one opportunities and punish teams on the counter-attack, Accam, who had 14 goals and eight assists last season, is a perfect fit in the Union’s 4-2-3-1 system, and the exact type of “difference-maker” the team was looking for.

“David is known in the league for his speed, but when we scouted him we noted just how good he is on the ball,” Union manager Jim Curtin said Tuesday at the official introduction of Accam at Talen Energy Stadium. “The space he creates for others because he is so dangerous. When he gets one-on-one, his quality will take over games and it’ll create a lot of space for the rest of our players.”

From Accam’s perspective, he’s joining an established attacking group. Specifically mentioning Union leading scorer C.J. Sapong and winger Fafa Picault, Accam expects to have space to work.

“We have enough quality on this team already,” he said. “I just have to do my part.”

On top of his offensive acumen, Accam knows MLS. What attracted the Union to the speedster is not only his skill but his familiarity with the league. Unlike European players that take time to adjust to the climate, travel and style of play, Accam should make an instant impact on the Union.

“He’s been now, for multiple years, a top attacking player in our league,” Curtin said. “He’s got the statistics to back it up. The fact that he has a familiarity with the league, he knows the defenders will be grabbing and kicking him for 90 minutes, and that matters a great deal. It makes the transition more seamless. 

“He’s a great fit for us.”

But snagging that perfect fit wasn’t free. Acquired in one of the largest trades in Union history, the attacker was moved by the Fire in exchange for $1.2 million in combined allocation money. According to Stewart, the speedster, who was ripe for a new deal, signed an extension with the Fire before the team moved him to Philadelphia.

“Our understanding is that David has an obligation now with the Union through 2020,” Stewart said.

Despite scratching out a significant name off their wishlist, the Union aren’t quite done adding players, with the expectation that they bring in a playmaking midfielder. But that doesn’t mean they’ll be going on a shopping spree.

“I think we are in a better place than we were last year with the acquisition of David,” Stewart said. “There will be a little more happening but not much more because I believe the foundation is solid. With the acquisition of David and one more player in the near future, we’ll be in good shape to compete for the playoffs.”

Union reward Andre Blake with multi-year extension

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Union reward Andre Blake with multi-year extension

Updated 4:52 p.m.

Andre Blake will backstop the Union into the future.

The 27-year-old goalkeeper inked a multi-year extension Wednesday. The deal is expected to make Blake one of the highest paid goalkeepers in MLS and was completed using Targeted Allocation Money. 

Further details were not released.

“I am ready to lead,” Blake said. “I’ll definitely try to lead by my performance on the field and the way I carry myself off the field.”

While the extension was a no-brainer for the Union’s on-field success, the move was also an important one off the field. Historically, the club is known for its roster turnover and lack of continuity. Keeping Blake on the books for years to come gives the Union a well-respected face of the franchise that fans can appreciate. 

“It is a priority for us to build and secure the foundation of the Philadelphia Union, and Andre is as big a part of that foundation as any player,” Union sporting director Earnie Stewart said. “Ensuring he will be here for years to come is an important step for our club. We’re delighted to sign him to a new multi-year contract and would like to thank him for his dedication and hard work.”

Blake, a former first-overall pick in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft and 2016 MLS All-Star, earned the 2016 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year honor and claimed the runner-up spot for the award in 2017. He has proven himself to be one of the most exciting and productive goalkeepers in MLS, with 220 saves and 17 shutouts over 65 career matches.

Because of that success, and his heroics while captaining the Jamaican National Team, Blake is viewed as someone who could transition to a European club. But despite the prospects and rumors, the Union claim there has never been a serious offer for the goalkeeper, making this extension a possibility.

“Right now my main focus is Philadelphia,” said Blake, who has never shied away from his interest in a European move. “I’m not worried about the future. I’m gonna live in the now and continue to work hard and make my performance speak for itself.”