TORONTO —Toronto FC is headed on the road. The Reds now face four consecutive away games — starting Wednesday at Minnesota United — as they attempt to get their MLS season back on track.
The stint away from BMO Field will mean a lot of time spent in hotel rooms. TFC’s players are no strangers to the need to keep themselves occupied thousands of kilometers from home — they made four trips to Mexico between preseason and the Concacaf Champions League earlier this year — and have one hobby in particular with which they while away the hours: the online video game Fortnite.
Ahead of the trip, Pro Soccer USA caught up with four of the team’s most prominent gamers — Alex Bono, Jay Chapman, Gregory van der Wiel and Chris Mavinga — to find out how Fortnite took hold in the TFC locker room and which one of them holds the title of the team’s best player with a controller.
PS USA: Are you still playing Fortnite?
CHAPMAN: “Yeah, yeah. All the time. Every day.”
BONO: “Oh yeah. I won’t disclose how often I play because it’ll get me in trouble in the coach’s office, but…”
MAVINGA: “Yeah, yeah, I still play it. I play only on iPad. Everybody asks me, ‘Why do you play on iPad?’ Because I’m not the guy to play very much video games. I don’t play video games. So when I play against players on PlayStation, they are very good for me. I play iPad. Nobody, or not a lot of people, are playing on iPad. With iPad, I think I’m the best player in the changing room because on iPad it’s difficult, with the buttons and making some crazy building. I play a lot of duels with my friend, (ex-NBA player) Kevin Séraphin. We play together and I think we are the best on the iPad.”
PS USA: Can you remember how you started playing?
VAN DER WIEL: “I still play Call of Duty, always, and the hype was Fortnite now. So I tried it and actually, it was a lot of fun. And then I came here and I remember the first trip on our training camp to Mexico, players were playing in their rooms. I joined the guys and just played sometimes.”
BONO: “My brother had come up to visit me and he said, ‘Do you have Fortnite?’ I said, ‘What the hell is Fortnite?’ He said it was like a free game that you download on your PS4. I’m like, ‘That’s pretty crazy. Whatever, I don’t know, I don’t really care.’ And he downloaded it and he’s like running around the outside of the island, playing the circle and stuff, and I’m like, ‘This game sucks.’ Then one of my other friends who was up visiting hopped on and he kind of jumped right into the action, and I was like, ‘Alright, I’ll give it a try.’ Jay happened to be hanging out at my apartment at that time and we just downloaded it a couple of weeks later. And we sat down, played it, got on with Jay… and then the addiction begins.”
PS USA: It seemed to pass a lot of time in Mexico.
BONO: “A lot of time (laughs). Passed a lot of time. It’s nice when you’re on the road and you really have nothing to do. Obviously, you shouldn’t be out running about the city and that sort of thing. You want to be relaxed and lay low. It’s perfect for when you’re laying in the room — there have been trips when Jay and I have gotten two TVs in our room to fit two systems, just so we can both play.”
CHAPMAN: “It’s definitely a way to kind of bond with teammates. We always bring it on the road and stuff like that, when we’re chilling in the hotel room. Instead of chilling by yourself or with a teammate, you’ve got three or four guys in there and we’re playing. It’s a good way to kind of take your mind off soccer for a little bit and just spend time your teammates.”
PS USA: Do you have to actually pack a PlayStation on road trips?
BONO: “Yeah… (laughs). That becomes troublesome at times. When you’re on a trip that’s in a good city and you’re kind of going around and you’re like, ‘Ah, do I really want to pack my PS4?’ And then last second, all of a sudden, you just throw it in your bag and you’re like, ‘Yeah, of course I’m bringing it.'”
It's honestly treason that you didn't bring fortnite to camp with you @Alex25Bono …
— Jay Chapman (@jaychappers) May 22, 2018
PS USA: Who is the best Fortnite player on the team?
MAVINGA: “I think Jay Chapman is the best.”
BONO: “I think Jay is, for sure. I don’t think anyone would say otherwise. If anyone says otherwise, they’re lying.”
VAN DER WIEL: “Jay. Jay, without a doubt (laughs).”
CHAPMAN: “I know Bones said me (laughs). I’ve probably played the most. I’ve kind of caught on to it the most, so I would say myself. There’s a few guys that are good. [Tosaint Ricketts] is good. Bones is good — he kind of has stretches where he doesn’t play for a while so he kind of goes back down, but he’s pretty good. Jozy [Altidore]’s pretty good. When he first started he wasn’t very good and then he got injured and was playing a lot. He’s pretty good. We’re all decent players. We usually play most days for at least a couple of hours, for sure.”
PS USA: And the worst?
BONO: “Jozy used to be and then he got injured and he shot up the rankings. Maybe Jordan. Jordan Hamilton, maybe. Don’t tell him I said that, though. Actually — Nick Hagglund’s the worst. Nick Hagglund’s the worst, for sure. He’s got a kid now, so he doesn’t really play that often. And he’s got an Xbox and no one likes Xbox players. He’s not the best. I would say I’m top three or four.”
CHAPMAN: “I haven’t played with him, but from what I’ve heard Nick Hagglund is probably the worst. But I don’t think he’s played the most because obviously he just had a kid, so he hasn’t had much time. I’d probably say Nick Hagglund, but I can’t be sure because I haven’t seen him play.”
VAN DER WIEL: “I’m not sure about that. I’m not the best. I’m trying — I like the game, but like I said, I’m not as good as Jay. I’m struggling for my victories. I might be the worst. The level is quite high in the team.”
MAVINGA: “Gregory van der Wiel. He’s the worst player. I think he’s the worst. We tried to play together, but no. I can’t play with him. I tried many times. When I win I make a screenshot — I say, ‘You see? I win. When I play with you, I always lose. I think you are the worst.'”
PS USA: Has playing Fortnite helped you bond as teammates?
VAN DER WIEL: “Definitely. Like in Europe, I remember sitting in my room all day watching movies and series’. But here I really connected and came out of my room into other players’ rooms and played Nintendo even — I got old-school games, and Fortnite. That really created some bonding, I think.”
BONO: “Yeah. I mean, Greg van der Wiel came in and he played it and so we were like, oh yeah, you know, we’re playing. It’s a way to kind of keep in contact with your teammates and hang out with them — digitally hang out with them when you’re not at the training ground. It’s just kind of a fun thing and you know, you have strategies and that sort of thing. In no way am I trying to say it helps your soccer ability but it’s definitely a fun game and it’s a good partnering tool.”
CHAPMAN: “There was a lot of downtime [in Mexico]. You could either be watching TV or stuff like that or you could be playing Fortnite. It’s a team game essentially. There’s a lot of coordination and stuff like that which obviously has nothing to do with soccer, but you can have a lot of fun and it can definitely bring you closer with your teammates. With Greg, he was new and obviously we welcome everyone here, but that was something we could do off the field with him, which was nice to get a little bit closer with him. It’s definitely brought us a little bit closer. We’re a close team as it is — as everyone knows, that’s been one of the best things about this team — but it’s definitely helped for sure.”
MAVINGA: “Yes, it helps a lot. But the most important is on the field. If you’re good, it’s easy to be good with the team. We know Gregory van der Wiel has a lot of experience, has played for a lot of great teams in Europe, so for me it was easy (for him) to be a player in this team.”
PS USA: Could we see a TFC Fortnite stream in the future?
CHAPMAN: “We’ve actually talked about it, to be honest with you. I know Gregory van der Wiel, he’s been kind of talking about it. I think he bought a PC for Fortnite, which a lot of the better players play on. He’s been talking about actually streaming. I think he has before, so he’s been asking me to kind of get on there with him. In the future, maybe we’ll go on Twitch or something like that and maybe start a stream with a couple of guys and see how that goes. It’d be cool.”
VAN DER WIEL: “I told Jay, ‘You have to stream on YouTube, man.’ Nowadays YouTube is huge. You can create an audience, you can create your name as a brand. People — children — make six figures, seven figures playing Fortnite, it’s real. I’m not saying he’s going to do it but if you enjoy it and you’re good at it, why not? People would like to see… at least, with soccer players they like to get to know them better. NBA players are playing too, and why not soccer players? Just stream, have fun. I told him. I’m gonna stream as well. I might stream with Jay together. But like I said, I’m not the best — I told that already to people. I just like playing, so don’t… ‘Eh, you’re not very good!’ Yeah, I know, I told you before!”