Too early in the year, you say?
Well, this version of MLS Cup is actually known as the E-MLS Cup. It takes place at the PAX East video game convention in downtown Boston on Saturday and Oliveira, the Revolution’s professional video gamer, is competing along with entrants from Major League Soccer’s 23 other clubs.
Oliveira comes from Oak Bluff, Mass. but you can find him online using the screen name JKO1707. He is a junior at University of Massachusetts-Boston studying communications and, as the Q&A down below shows, playing EA Sports FIFA 19 on the PlayStation is a big part of his life.
Pro Soccer USA caught up with Oliveira ahead of E-MLS Cup to learn more about him and his life as a professional video gamer.
What was your introduction to the FIFA video games?
It was a long time ago, maybe FIFA 2000 or ’99. My aunt’s boyfriend at the time had the game for PlayStation and he brought it over to my house. I remember looking at it, drooling, and him being like, “Wanna play?”
The rest is history.
Do you like to play soccer and follow the game in real life, too, or are you strictly a gamer?
Well, I’m Brazilian, so the stereotype runs strong in my veins. My dad played soccer growing up in Brazil so I grew up listening to his stories about training with players who went on to be professionals so obviously I grew up wanting to play. I’ve honestly loved soccer for as long as I can remember. Playing FIFA is just an extension of that.
What position did you play growing up?
Besides the New England Revolution, what teams do you follow?
Santos, from Brazil. It’s Pele’s team. They also had Robinho and Neymar. I started watching Brazilian soccer in the 2000s when Santos was on a run.
Were you always an incredible FIFA player? When did you really take off?
When I started playing, it was against the computer because it was in the days of dial-up and there was no internet connection. I’d play career mode and build up my team. As soon as they introduced playing online, things changed.
I had this competitive edge and I brought the way I play on the real soccer field to the virtual field. I want to show you, through my hand-eye coordination, that I know more soccer than you.
I played against friends growing up and I was always the guy NO ONE wanted to play against. Yeah, I’m just that good.
Really? Seems like a lot of people would jump at the chance to challenge a pro.
Well, a lot of people do on Twitter or they’ll message me through PlayStation. I took more challenges before I signed with the Revolution. In the past, I’d play them online and beat them. Then I would beat them in a rematch.
The thing is, people have grudges now. The fact that I’m a pro makes the games we play “a thing.”
Now I don’t want to take too much time away from competitive games.
I do have four or five good friends that’ll come over and play but eventually they’ll just say “OK, John is better, we don’t want to play anymore.”
What’s it like to be a Pro in the FIFA video game community?
Honestly, the professional FIFA video game community is a lot bigger than it thinks it is. So many people online and you can see, on Twitter especially, how big it all is. A lot of players have that they’re pros in their bios.
I really like going to events especially and meeting up with people. It’s just us nerds, hanging out, playing FIFA all the time. It feels normal.
Do professional video gamers have to practice?
Of course you need to practice, especially after signing with an organization that’s bigger than you. You’re also playing with money on the line. I do my due diligence by scouting the opposition and thinking of different formations to use.
Take us through a day in the life of John Oliveira, professional gamer.
I wake up. I go to the gym. I go to class. I come home. I do chores. I hop on FIFA. I check Twitch to see who’s streaming. I put on some background noise/music, then I start to play. I’m not a menu guy. I’m not a transfer market guy. I just do what I need to do to play games.
Seems straightforward, any kind of a regiment?
I hold myself accountable in games. I keep track of how many goals I score, my current winning streak. It helps a lot if you keep a consistent mentality.
Wow, you sound a little bit like Brad Friedel, bringing up mentality. Do you get frustrated year to year, as EA Sports releases new versions of the game with slight updates and changes?
Honestly, that’s the biggest hurdle. Content creators make little changes every year, but as a professional you play so long and you’re playing over a continuous time span and you start to notice every little flaw in the game that isn’t how it used to be.
You have to push that to the back of your mind – any time a guy isn’t touching the ball like he should or a pass isn’t going in the angle that it should – just keep it in the back of your mind. And don’t even get me started on the server issues. I deal with the servers on a day to day basis.
Yes, the whole FIFA video gaming community is in agreement about all this.
What’s your longest consecutive streak of playing?
Maybe eight to 10 hours.
What’s your longest winning streak?
I’ve gone 40-0 in a weekend league a few times.
What’s the most goals you’ve scored in a single game?
I beat a guy 41-0, I even took a screenshot.
Wow, there’s no mercy rule?
I mean, it was against a real person. At least I hope it was a real person and not a dog sitting there playing. I don’t know, I guess he just didn’t want to quit. I do whatever I have to do, though. I boosted my player stats.
What’s your style of play in FIFA 19? Are you a total trickster or do you keep it realistic?
It’s really a mix. If you ask my peers in the professional gamer community they’ll say I do tricks and flicks and stuff like that.
I’ve got that Brazilian flair, remember. It comes out naturally on the field and it comes out naturally in the game. But to be really successful at FIFA, you have to be strategic with passing and decision-making. It mirrors the real world, in that respect.
Does anyone give you a hard time about playing too many video games?
Yeah, they do. Back in FIFA 17, before I got signed by the Revolution and went to my first event, people definitely gave me slack. My girlfriend didn’t like spending her whole weekend watching me play FIFA. My parents didn’t really get it either.
But now that I’m signed, and traveling, and going to events they’re more on board. They’re in tune with the E-sports community. I try to justify it to myself that I’m just a nerd and not an a-hole when it’s the weekend and my girlfriend wants to go out but I say no so I can play 20 games of FIFA.
Do you get FIFA 19 withdrawals?
Of course. After dedicating so much time to playing the game, any time away is weird at the beginning. I guess it depends what I occupy my time with when I’m not playing. But when you come back and play, it can be really relaxing.
Do you play any other video games?
No, FIFA takes up all my video game time. I know Fortnite is huge but I’ve never gotten into it. I used to play other games like Crash Bandicoot, Metal Gear, Call of Duty.
What would happen if everyone said, ‘you know what, forget PlayStation, we’re switching to X-Box’?
If everyone switched to X-Box, it would change things a little bit but it wouldn’t be too crazy. I could totally handle it.
What’s your goal for E-MLS Cup?
Definitely to make the playoffs, but I’m here to win it. I’m here to make it to the final and win. That said, you have to just take it one half at a time.
Do you have any thoughts on team composition? Which Revolution players will you pick?
You have to have two members of the squad you represent in your team, plus one other MLS player. I will be picking New England Revolution right back Andrew Farrell and the team’s newcomer, Edgar Castillo. For a league player it will likely be one of Tim Howard, Zlatan Ibrahimovic or Romain Alessandrini.
Are there any overlooked strategies in FIFA?
I wouldn’t say there’s an overlooked strategy. You can do research and find out the most meta things to do, but if you play regularly you’ll figure it out quickly.
It’s all about mentality. You have to be calm, keep a cool head, make sure your heart rate doesn’t get too high. And also, you have to keep yourself accountable. You have to control only what you can control.
Wow, there you go again, sounding like Revolution head coach Brad Friedel.