George Adamou of the New York Red Bulls needed extra time to edge New York City FC's Chris (Didychrislito) Holly 3-2 on aggregate and win the US$20,000 eMLS Cup on Sunday.
Adamou earned $12,500 and esports bragging honours in the two-legged final, taking Game 2 by a 2-1 score on a 98th-minute winner after Game 1 ended at 1-1.
"It's such an unreal feeling," said Adamou, a rookie on the eMLS circuit.
Adamou was eighth in the standings going into the eMLS Cup. Holly was third.
Holly set up the New York derby decider with a three-goal comeback to defeat Atlanta United's Paulo Neto 3-2 in a semifinal thriller. Adamou had earlier edged LAFC's Martin (RemiMartinn) Oregel 1-0 to reach the final.
The eMLS Cup was originally scheduled for March 15 at SXSW in Austin, Texas, but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Playing the FIFA video game, competitors had to field an all-MLS team drawn from players on the 26 current rosters with no more than eight Team of the Season players. That meant a heavy dosage of Atlanta striker Josef Martinez and Toronto FC playmaker Alejandro Pozuelo. Whitecaps fullback Ali Adnan was also a popular choice.
The tournament, played remotely, was single-elimination until the two-legged final.
Martinez opened the scoring for the Red Bulls' Adamou in Game 1 of the final. NYCFC's Holly tied it up in the 57th minute on a Martinez penalty.
Martinez put NYCFC ahead in the 20th minute of Game 2 only to see Adamou come on strong in the second half with Pozuelo tying it up in the 65th minute. It finished 1-1 after regulation time.
NYCFC had several chances early in extra time but it was the Red Bulls that broke the deadlock with Diego Rossi's 98th-minute winner.
Toronto FC's Philip (PhilB94) Balke and Vancouver Whitecaps gamer Alex (Exraa) Gonzalez were beaten in the quarterfinals with Balke going down in a penalty shootout to Atlanta's Neto after seemingly being headed to a late comeback win.
It was a gut-wrenching exit for Balke, who had upset defending champion Cormac (Doolstra) Dooley of Nashville SC 2-1 on an 88th-minute penalty in the earlier knockout round.
That earned the TFC representative a quarterfinal date with second-seeded Neto, the Brazilian teenager who had beaten him in May en route to winning the eMLS Tournament Special along with Atlanta defender Franco Escobar.
Balke went ahead 2-1 in the 88th minute Sunday on a beautiful goal by Rossi, knocking in a low ranking cross. The TFC gamer appeared headed to the semifinals only to see Martinez, after a corner, tie it up for Atlanta from short range deep in stoppage time.
After scoreless extra time, Neto won the penalty shootout 4-2 with Rossi converting the decisive kick for the Atlanta gamer.
"Heartbreaker ... down to the wire," tweeted Balke.
Gonzalez was eliminated 2-1 by LAFC's Oregel. The Whitecaps gamer went ahead in the 20th minute via a Martinez goal before Pozuelo tied it up for LAFC in the 29th minute and notched the winner in the 76th.
The top 11 competitors in total season points after the first two eMLS events of the year (League Series One and Two) qualified directly for the final stage of the tournament, with the top four earning a first-round bye.
The four were Vancouver's Gonzalez, Atlanta's Neto, NYCFC's Holly and FC Cincinnati's Gordon (Fiddle) Thornsberry.
Thornsberry, the top seed after winning the League One and League Two events, was upset 4-3 in a quarterfinal penalty shootout by Adamou. It was a measure of revenge for the Red Bulls representative, who lost to Thornsberry in the League One final in Philadelphia.
Columbus Crew gamer Graham (Skamzz) Ellix, who survived four challengers Friday to win the 14-man Last Chance Qualifier Bracket, went out in the knockout round Sunday — beaten 2-1 by LAFC's Oregel.
Montreal Impact gamer Mehdi (Mehdibob) Benghalem exited in the first round of the qualifying bracket, beaten 2-0 by New England's John (JKO) Oliveira.
eMLS Cup Results
George Adamou (New York Red Bulls) 3 Christian (Aleksandur) Garcia (Sporting Kansas City) 0
Martin (RemiMartinn) Oregel (Los Angeles FC) 2 Graham (Skamzz) Ellix (Columbus Crew) 1
Philip (PhilB94) Balke (Toronto FC) 2 Cormac (Doolstra) Dooley (Nashville SC) 1
Giuseppe (Godfather) Guastella (Los Angeles FC) 2 Edgar (RCTID Thiago) Guerrero (Portland Timbers) 1
George Adamou (New York Red Bulls) 0 Gordon (Fiddle) Thornsberry (FC Cincinnati) 0 after extra time (Adamou wins 4-3 on penalty kicks)
Martin (RemiMartinn) Oregel (Los Angeles FC) 2 Alex (Exraa) Gonzalez (Vancouver Whitecaps) 1
Paulo Neto (Atlanta United) 2 Philip(PhilB94) Balke (Toronto FC) 2 after extra time (Neto wins 4-2 on penalty kicks)
Chris (Didychrislito) Holly 2 (New York City FC) Giuseppe (Godfather) Guastella (Los Angeles FC) 1
George Adamou (New York Red Bulls) 1 Martin (RemiMartinn) Oregel (Los Angeles FC) 0
Chris (Didychrislito) Holly (New York City FC) 3 Paulo Neto (Atlanta United) 2
George Adamou (New York Red Bulls) 1 Chris (Didychrislito) Holly (New York City FC) 1
Adamou 2 Holly 1 after extra time
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 28, 2020.
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press