Ryan Bright

Former Fusion player 'Joemeister' takes on new challenge at Harrisburg University

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Fusion

Former Fusion player 'Joemeister' takes on new challenge at Harrisburg University

It’s been a roller coaster few months for former Fusion and Overwatch League professional, Joe “Joemeister” Gramano, who on Thursday accepted a varsity Overwatch coaching position at the Harrisburg University of Science and Technology.

“Collegiate esports is on the rise,” said Gramano, who retired from professional Overwatch in September. “Some of these collegiate teams are investing more time, money and resources into their teams than Overwatch Contenders teams. That’s the reason why I was drawn into this. They are very committed, are very passionate about it and I’m on board with it.” 

Coaching wasn’t on Gramano’s immediate radar prior to his retirement. But when Harrisburg University called — and showed him around campus — the decision came easy for the Canadian, who said the whole process took about a month. 

“I jumped on the opportunity and flew out as soon as I could,” said Gramano, who was recommended by the Fusion brass. “They showed me all the commitments they made, the passion and vision they have and the investments they put behind it. I was blown away by all of it.” 

The well-liked support main joined the Fusion for Overwatch League’s inaugural season in 2017 but retired after three years of professional Overwatch play. Although he didn’t feature in any matches for the Fusion, like a backup quarterback, Gramano gained an education on team management and Overwatch success. 

The underdog Fusion advanced to the Overwatch League finals but fell to the powerhouse London Spitfire. 

“I was able to spectate a lot more,” said Gramano, who previously played for Team Canada in the Overwatch World Cup, as well as Faze Clan, Complexity Gaming and Team SoloMid. “I was able to give input to the team and they respected me as one of them. It helped me develop a more broad understanding of the game. I was able to sit back and view from the different angles.”

Bringing Gramano, a well-known name within competitive Overwatch circles, on board is another bold move in the world of esports for Harrisburg University. The esports program at Harrisburg is the school’s only varsity sport and represents games like League of Legends, Hearthstone and of course, Overwatch. Harrisburg University varsity players receive full scholarships and play in a state-of-the-arena, fully equipped esports arena. 

“The esports program at Harrisburg University has truly put the university and the city of Harrisburg on the map, and Joemeister will be a real catalyst to our growing momentum,” Harrisburg University president Dr. Eric Darr said in the school's official release.

For Gramano, moving from player to coach was a difficult decision, but also a natural transition. With Harrisburg in his corner and his interest in teaching, the 25-year-old is embracing the future.

“I was studying to be a teacher in college so teaching was always my path," he said. "Things were going well as a player, I was competing and enjoyed it for almost three years. That changed recently, and I don’t regret [retiring]. It’s part of growing up.”

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Union add attack power in Brazilian forward Sergio Santos

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USA Today Images

Union add attack power in Brazilian forward Sergio Santos

Sporting director Ernst Tanner and the Union made their first big splash of the offseason on Friday by signing 24-year-old Brazilian forward Sergio Santos. 

Santos was acquired for a $500,000 transfer fee from Chilean Primera Division club Audax Italiano and was signed using Targeted Allocation Money. The length of the deal was not disclosed. 

“Sergio is a young forward with potential and we are pleased to complete his signing,” Tanner said in the team’s official release. “When we met with him in Chile, it became apparent that he is a good fit for our club both as a player and as a person.”

The move is intriguing for multiple reasons. The 6-foot center forward is the first impact addition from new sporting director Ernst Tanner, whose goal for the offseason was to make the Union a more offensive-oriented team with a potential two-forward setup. 

Secondly, Santos, who had nine goals in 16 matches for Audex last season, joins a busy Union attack corps that features Cory Burke, C.J. Sapong, David Accam and Fafa Picault. If only two of those five can play at any given time in Tanner’s formation, the team could look to ship someone out. 

Attacking pieces Jay Simpson, Fabian Herber and Marcus Epps were not retained for the 2019 season.

“We have observed rapid improvement and development at Audax,” Tanner said, “and believe he is ready for this next step. We next look forward to integrating him as quickly as possible with the team at the start of preseason.”

Fusion make history with homecoming match

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Philadelphia Fusion

Fusion make history with homecoming match

It was a history-making night for esports in Philadelphia. 

On Saturday night at Lucky Strike in Center City, the Fusion hosted their Homecoming Showmatch, the first-ever Overwatch League exhibition match in the city, facing New York Excelsior in a best-of-five tilt. 

“We always wanted to do an actual match in Philadelphia,” said Fusion president Tucker Roberts. “We had an opportunity to give the fans something to see live. The magic of esports is when you get to go and cheer.”

And cheer they did. Surrounding the players, the fans crowed over every elimination and point taken. They stood arm’s length from the Fusion players, who sat on six computers just steps away from the dimly lit bar. 

The sold-out venue had a Fight Club feel to it. Even Gritty was there. 

“It’s amazing, it’s surreal,” said Elijah Hudson “Elk” Gallagher, an upstate New Yorker and only American player on the Fusion roster. “It’s cool to come to this event to see people here for us. Their support is one of the things that help teams. It’s hard not to be happy.”

Led by their usual starting six of Jae-hyeok “Carpe” Lee, Alberto González “Neptuno” Molinillo, Josue “Eqo” Corona, Su-Min “Sado” Kim and Gael “Poko” Gouzerch and Isaac “Boombox” Charles, the Fusion came from behind two maps but fell short, 3-2. 

“It’s one thing to hang out with the players,” Roberts said. “But when you get to see them pop off, that’s when it becomes fun.” 

Although the Fusion, who made the Overwatch League finals, are moving into their second season, the club, which visited the city last season for autograph signings and meet-and-greets, had never played a competitive match in Philadelphia until Saturday. 

If that seems strange, it is. As it stands, all 20 international Overwatch League teams reside and play matches in a centralized area in Burbank, CA. However, that could change as early as 2020, when teams are expected to relocate to their home markets. 

“It’s motivating for all of us,” Roberts said. “When you’re away in Los Angeles, it does feel like a virtual thing. Once you’re here playing in front of people and they’re grabbing your shoulders and thanking you, something does change.

“We’re excited to move here full time.”

Roberts noted that the Fusion have started plans to build a state-of-the-art esports arena in the city. It would be the first of its kind.

“We are adamant about coming here as soon as we can,” he said. “We’re gearing up. We’re working on our own arena, which will be a step up from what people have seen in North America for esports. We’re very much gearing up for a move to Philly.” 

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