Ryan Bright

Carpe, Shadowburn lead Fusion's 2017 Overwatch League roster

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Carpe, Shadowburn lead Fusion's 2017 Overwatch League roster

Days after introducing themselves to the world as the Fusion, Philadelphia and Comcast Spectacor’s Overwatch League eSports team has announced its 2017 roster.

And it’s potent.

“We have worked hard to assemble a strong mix of all-star players and hidden gems that are ready to break out and compete with the world’s best,” said Comcast CEO Dave Scott in the club’s official release on Friday.

Of that group, former Faze Clan members and DPS players Jae "Carpe" Hyeok Lee (who is arguably one of the best DPS players in the world) and George “ShaDowBurn” Gushcha, are headliners set to propel the Fusion.

Throw in the strategic mind and top Lucio play of former FaZe support Joe “Joemeister” Gramano, and the Philly team has one of the sturdiest foundations of any club in the league.

“Philly’s strengths will be the core of the FaZe lineup,” said Wilson Xu, former Overwatch Contenders Season 0 manager of You Guys Get Paid and current Overwatch editor at Gusu Gamers told NBC Sports Philadelphia. "The DPS duo is probably one of the strongest in Overwatch League and Joemeister should bring a lot of direction to the team.”

With DPS covered, the Fusion picked up premier European flex player, Isaac “Boombox” Charles, and standout tank, Joona "fragi" Laine, who could be the difference-maker. Accomplished flex player Alberto "NeptuNo" Gonzalez Molinillo and Zarya-pro Gael "Poko" Gouzerch round out what should be a competitive group.

“The biggest signing for me is Fragi,” Xu said. “He’s widely considered one of the best tanks in EU.”

Like most teams in Overwatch League, chemistry, not pure talent, could determine the season. Outside of the three FaZe players, the Fusion, who will live together in a gaming house in California, are an unfamiliar group from nine different countries. That could hurt them out of the gate.

“Chemistry will be one of the most important aspects of this team, as language differences will be obvious at the start,” Xu said, “Especially with the addition of Korean players and drawing from so many different countries.”

Collecting former FaZe members wasn’t a bad choice. FaZe, led by Carpe, Joemeister and ShaDowBurn, reached second place (EnVyUs, who are now the Dallas Fuel, took first) in the North American bracket of Overwatch Contenders Season 1 — the preeminent Blizzard-run league prior to Overwatch League, which begins its preseason in December.

“We are proud to feature outstanding players from FaZe Clan,” Scott said. “A top-tier esports organization who has earned prestige in multiple games.”

Here’s a breakdown of the players and positions.

1. DPS:
Jae "Carpe" Hyeok Lee

George "ShaDowBurn" Gushcha

Josue "Eqo" Corona

Simon "Snillo" Ekstrom

2. TANKS:
Joona "fragi" Laine

Gael "Poko" Gouzarch

Sumin "SADO" Kim

Hong Jun "Hotba" Choi

3. SUPPORT:
Jeonghwan "Dayfly" Park

Joe "Joemeister" Gramano

4. FLEX:
Alberto "NeptuNo" Gonzalez Molinillo

Isaac "Boombox" Charles

5. COACHING STAFF:
Head Coach/General Manager: Yann “Kirby” Luu

Assistant Coach: Elliot “Hayes” Hayes

Assistant Coach: Sehuy “NamedHwi” Go

Analytics: Ethan “Beezy” Spector

Union, Earnie Stewart reveal who's staying and who's going in offseason

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Union, Earnie Stewart reveal who's staying and who's going in offseason

Union sporting director Earnie Stewart and head coach Jim Curtin wrapped up the Union’s 2017 season on Wednesday at Talen Energy Stadium, discussing the club’s recently completed campaign and its roster plans for the future. Although the Union released a list of players out of contract, it didn’t tell the full story.

Here’s a breakdown of who is going, staying and stuck in limbo.

Head Coach Jim Curtin 
If Curtin somehow survived 16 straight winless games between the end of 2016 and the start of 2017, there was little chance he’d lose his job at season’s end, despite missing the playoffs and earning just one road win. Stewart confirmed that Curtin was staying on Wednesday. 

“I’m very pleased and proud to announce that Jim Curtin will be the head coach in 2018 and we’ll make sure that we keep going in the same direction that we have been going in,” Stewart said confidently. “I think he’s a big part of this foundation that we’ve laid down.”

Assistant Coach Mike Sorber and Goalkeeping Coach Oka Nikolov 
Despite a report that both Sorber and Nikolov would seek employment elsewhere during the offseason, Stewart would only confirm that Nikolov was out. In awkward fashion, the Union decision-maker said he was unaware that Sorber, Union assistant coach since 2014, was walking away from the club.

“Mike hasn’t come to us to say that he’s going,” Stewart said. “Up to today, the rest of the coaching staff will stay. But soccer is soccer.” 

Midfielder Roland Alberg 
The shot-first midfielder has been incredibly productive over his two seasons with the Union, scoring 16 goals and four assists over 2024 minutes. That’s a goal every 126.5 minutes. 

“I think Roland has had a very good role within the Philadelphia Union,” Stewart said. “When you look at Roland Alberg and his biggest quality, anything that gets close to the 18-yard-box, everything gets on target. Even though he’s a midfielder, I want to say he’s one of the best scorers that we have out there.” 

But his inability to keep possession and get others involved never made him a favorite of teammates or the coaching staff. That, along with the salary that accompanied his contract option, helped Stewart make the decision to let him walk. Alberg has signed with CSKA Sofia of Bulgaria.

“We came to the conclusion that the number that he was at, it wasn’t the right fit,” Stewart said. “He has the opportunity now to go to CSKA Sofia. He’s going to be making that step. I think his role has been good in the last two years.”

Winger Chris Pontius
In 2016, Pontius had a career year, putting up 12 goals and six assists in 33 games. But 2017 was a different story. Despite a U.S. Men’s National Team stint, very little worked for the veteran as he struggled with two goals and six assists. 

Now, the 30-year-old California native has the rare opportunity to be an unrestricted MLS free agent and pick his next destination. Pontius joins Maurice Edu and Charlie Davies as veterans not returning to the Union. 

“We made a decision on that,” Stewart said. “Chris Pontius will not be coming back. Chris Pontius will be a free agent.”

Midfielder Ilsinho 
Ilsinho’s option wasn’t picked up but the Union want him back. He’s a dazzler and more dynamic than Alberg, which makes him a valuable asset, but consistency has been an issue. The 32-year-old playmaker has only captured eight goals and seven assists in 52 games. His production is way below his skill level.

“You’ve seen the roster moves that we’ve made,” Stewart said. “There are certain players on that roster that we have not picked up an option that we are still interested in, and I dare say that Ilsinho is one of those players.”

Winger Fabian Herbers
Though Herbers’ contract option wasn’t picked up, the club wants him back. The former sixth-overall selection in the 2016 MLS SuperDraft was on a Generation Adidas deal that ran out heading into 2018, leaving the Union on the hook for a pricey bill. 

Instead, the club broke him from that contract with the goal of resigning him to a friendlier deal. He finished with one goal and two assists in 12 games.

“We still believe in Fabian Herbers,” Stewart said. “It’s always a difficult discussion to have with players where you decline the options. He had a GA status the last two years and once we had taken the option, the GA status was gone so he had to come on to our roster. So it had more to do with the roster itself and the number, but we are still high on Fabian Herbers. We’re looking forward to him being part of the 2018 team.”

Defender Oguchi Onyewu
An unsung hero of the 2017 season that would have been much worse without him, Onyewu will pack his bags and leave Philadelphia for good this offseason. The Union will miss his experience as they lean toward youth — Richie Marquez, Auston Trusty or a free agent option for 2018.

“It’s a hard conversation at the end of the year, but he did everything that Earnie and I could’ve asked of him,” Curtin said. “For the club, with the depth that we have at that position, we decided to move on from him. It’s hard, but at the same time, we wish him success going forward, and we thank him for his contributions to our team.”

Left back Fabinho
Despite beating out Giliano Wijnaldum to round out the 2017 season, Fabinho’s contract has run out for 2018. But similar to Ilinsho and Herbers, the Union seem to want him back. 

“Left backs and left-center backs are like dinosaurs,” Stewart said. “You don’t see too many of them. To have a good left back and I still consider Fabi, as a left back in the league — we have this rating system of ours where he still rates very high. I think that answers the question.”

But even if Fabinho doesn’t return as a player, the club is interested in him sticking with the organization.

“I think Fabi is part of this family,” Stewart said. “To make those promises now is a little bit too early, I think it’s too early in his career to do that. But at the same time I do think that when it comes to a person that belongs to that club, he’s one of those players.”

Left back Giliano Wijnaldum
The Union’s other left back showed flashes of his potential in 13 games with the club but couldn’t gain a foothold. Between his brutal inconsistency, salary and homesickness, Stewart announced that Wijnaldum will not return. 

“For the number that we had in his contract, for the option year, it was not enough,” Stewart said. “He also had some, I almost want to say family issues, missing his kids. It was a good time to part ways.”

With two left backs now off the roster, Ray Gaddis, who can play both sides, remains the only player able to absorb that role. However, the Union do have Matt Real, a Drexel Hill native and Bethlehem Steel player waiting in the wings.

Comcast Spectacor introduces new eSports brand Philadelphia Fusion

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Comcast Spectacor introduces new eSports brand Philadelphia Fusion

Meet the Philadelphia Fusion.

Representing Philadelphia as one of the newest additions to a budding competitive eSports scene, the Fusion, owned by Comcast Spectacor, is the latest brand introduced for the inaugural season of Overwatch League beginning in December.

"We are thrilled to introduce the Philadelphia Fusion brand and team colors as we continue our exciting march toward the start of the season," said Dave Scott, president and CEO of Comcast Spectacor.

Utilizing orange and black, the Fusion will match the Flyers, also owned by Comcast Spectacor, in colors and logo simplicity. 

"Orange and black are colors of passion here in Philadelphia," Scott said. "We are proud to incorporate them as we continue to formulate our coaching staff and roster of players."

As the company explains in its official release, the choice for the name Fusion was inspired by "distinct entities coming together to create a new whole that generates power and heat."

And that might be more than simple graphic design. Facing powerhouse teams such as the Dallas Fuel — made up of one of North America's most potent clubs, EnVyUs, and London Spitfire (which consists of South Korean Overwatch champions GC Busan) — the Fusion will ultimately need chemistry and team dynamic to excel. 

The team, being put together piece-by-piece, is expected to officially introduce its coaching staff and roster in the upcoming weeks.  

The Fusion join the Boston Uprising, Fuel, San Francisco Shock, Seoul Dynasty, Spitfire, New York Excelsior, Los Angeles Valiant and Shanghai Dragons, as the first official brands introduced. The brands for Miami, Houston and a second Los Angeles team have yet to be announced.

Beginning preseason matches on Dec. 6, Overwatch League, which will feature 6-on-6 objective-based team play, officially kicks off its regular season on Jan. 10.

For those unfamiliar, Overwatch League is a geo-based eSports league made up of 12 teams from around the world. Unlike other eSports leagues which are typically made of up independent club teams not bound to a specific location, this one features teams representing particular cities around the globe with league-specific brands. 

It's a new dynamic to mainstream eSports competition.

Overwatch League is also an infant compared to the industry. It's viewed as a long-term investment with extreme growth potential. Ownership groups, made up by the likes of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, New York Mets owner Jeff Wilpon, Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke and more, paid a reported $20 million or more to carve out a spot.