Austin FC’s not just getting ready for the 2021 MLS season; it’s prepping for the 2021 eMLS season as well. And the Club’s found its player: 25-year-old John Garcia, better known in eSports circles as xbLeU.
“It’s exciting to have a team that believes in you and is willing to have you represent them,” Garcia said, acknowledging the unique honor of being Austin FC’s eMLS player in such a historic year for the Club. “Being selected to represent Austin FC is giving me a boost of confidence I’ll take into the season.”
Garcia’s been actively playing FIFA since 2009, and signed on to be part of the LA Galaxy’s eMLS team in 2019. Hailing from Riverside, California, he’s already put together an impressive gaming resume, with wins in the FIFA 17 Man City eSports Cup, the Galaxy’s FIFA 18 tournament, LAFC's 2019 Gaming Scouting Tournament, and the ESL FIFA 20 PS4 Pro For a Day tournament.
He notes that a recent run of good showings in regional tournaments is a sign that he’s ready to step into the next level that eMLS competition represents.
FIFA wasn’t Garcia’s first video game, he confesses, but it’s the one he’s gravitated to as he became more interested in video games. While he’s a soccer fan, and he plays the occasional pickup match, he’s never played organized soccer, developing his soccer-playing philosophy purely from what he’s learned playing FIFA.
He notes that his playing style has evolved from more of the possession-heavy, short-passing game that was in vogue when he was first learning the game — at a time where Spain’s national team and Barcelona were making tiki-taka popular — to a more direct style. “You have to play more direct and attack efficiently,” Garcia notes.”If you attack too slowly, then people will get numbers back, and then it's impossible to score.”
Garcia became Austin FC’s rep by winning a play-in tournament to get to the finals, and then playing in the elite competition for those vying to be Austin FC’s 2021 eMLS representative. They all played with customized teams they constructed from the considerable pool of FIFA players.
His successful tournament included a match in which he was down 3-1 in the 70th minute and was able to get it back to 4-4 by match’s end, relying on his skill, reflexes, and deploying top-rated FIFA player Lionel Messi as much as he could.
He notes he’s gotten better through practice, of course, but also recognizing what’s effective play vs. what’s not. “A lot of people don’t realize they’re making mistakes, so they can’t fix them,” Garcia advises. “And that’s a huge part of becoming better.”
One common example he notes is when players stay in full sprints heading toward goal. Garcia notes that what’s gained in speed is lost in control. “A lot of people like to just hold sprint without realizing that just makes it really easy to take the ball off you, because it’s so ridiculously far away from you.” Garcia counsels players to use passes rather than dribbling to advance the ball up the field, as well as exhibiting patience.
While he’s waiting for the new season to start, he’s looking to stay in game shape by entering additional tournaments, in order to play more opponents who challenge him.
“The level of competition has increased significantly over the years,” he said of eMLS. “People talk about wanting to win it, but it’s gotten to where it’s harder to be disappointed by finishing top four or even top eight. But to win out, that’s a goal for everyone.”