FC Cincinnati are two-for-two in eMLS this year after thanks to another impressive effort from Fiddle (Gordon Thornsberry), who defeated Atlanta United's Paulo Neto in the final of eMLS League Series Two presented by Coca Cola and PlayStation.
Fiddle's place in the final was far from assured, as he survived a semifinal full of twists, but he showed his mettle to pick up a 2-0 win in a meeting of the two highest-ranked eMLS players in the world. With the two League Series trophies in hand, Fiddle will now look to become eMLS's second consecutive treble winner, and heads to eMLS Cup on March 21 as the clear favorite.
Though Neto — ranked No. 11 in the latest FIFA 20 Global Series Rankings — applied the initial early pressure in the final, he was done in by none other than Josef Martinez, with Fiddle executing a terrific volley in the 21st minute after starting the final on the back foot.
Fiddle, ranked No. 24 in the world, settled in after the opener and and defended well against Neto, the top seed heading into the live stream and the most dominant player of the tournament so far. Fiddle then iced the game in the second half with a composed finish, cutting inside with Ronaldo and curling the ball home from the top of the area.
Though Paulo Neto ultimately couldn't take home the title, the tournament represented a major step forward for the Brazilian teenager, who was the high-profile signing of the 2020 eMLS season as Atlanta look to make a splash in the gaming world. League Series Two also featured a memorable run from the hometown player, Portland's RCTID Thiago, as well as a hard-fought El Trafico showdown. You can watch the best moments below, and you can scroll down for recaps of all the games:
RemiMartinn (LAFC) 1, GODFATHER (LA Galaxy) 0
The first matchup of the night offered up a tantalizing El Trafico matchup between a pro FIFA veteran in the LA Galaxy's GODFATHER and an eMLS newcomer in LAFC's Remi Martinn.
Unlike recent all-L.A. matchups on the field, this on-screen derby was a slow-paced affair, with few chances for either side in the opening frame. RemiMartinn ramped up the pressure in the second half and was rewarded in the 78th minute, using Ruud Guillit to rip home a shot from just inside the box and win the game.
Fiddle (FC Cincinnati) 2, Didychrislito (New York City FC) 0
A battle between two of the highest-rated players on the eMLS circuit didn't disappoint.
Fiddle showed the lethal instincts that won him the League Series One trophy with a barrage late in the second half, scoring twice in the final 10 minutes to take a commanding lead, first with Brazilian legend Ronaldo and then with Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo.
Didychrislito, the 2019 eChampions League winner, created some danger early in the second half and looked like he might get right back in the game, but Fiddle ultimately settled in and was able to deny his opposite number any meaningful possession as he comfortably saw out his first game of the final stage.
Paulo Neto (Atlanta United) 2, PhilB94 (Toronto FC) 1
The matchup between No. 1 seed Paulo Neto and No. 8 seed PhilB94 provided a shock right off the bat, but the Atlanta United man recovered to top his Toronto FC counterpart 2-1.
PhilB94 took advantage of an early mistake to find the net using none other than an Atlanta player, Josef Martinez, and held Neto at bay throughout the first half. However, Neto came into the game more in the second half, and found the equalizer with a strong effort thanks to the Brazilian Ronaldo.
Neto looked to have the go-ahead goal in the 103rd minute of extra time, but a glitch with PhilB94's controller saw the effort ruled out and a pause in the action as the on-site crew worked to resolves the issue. However, the Brazilian wouldn't be denied, leaving it until the 119th minute before hammering home the winning goal with Cristiano Ronaldo.
RCTID Thiago (Portland Timbers) 2, BITW7 (Chicago Fire FC) 1
The final quarterfinal matchup of the evening saw the hometown hero in action as Timbers mascot Timber Joey fired up crowd, who proved to be essential in the most thrilling match of the semifinals. Thiago ended up taking the win, but only after an improbable comeback capped by an audacious set piece goal.
BITW7 had to weather some early pressure, but defended well on the back foot and kept it scoreless through halftime. The second half was a bit more back and forth, and came to a head in a wild sequence that kicked off 10 minutes from time when BITW7 looked to have a winner through a left-footed Leo Messi finish.
However, the crowd stuck by their man and Thiago found the net in the 85th minute through Portuguese legend Eusebio with a spectacular finish. With stoppage time all but elapsed, Thiago then won a free kick right on the arc. But instead of going for goal, the Timbers man once again turned to Eusebio to chip in a ball for compatriot Cristiano Ronaldo to head home and send the crowd into wild celebrations.
Fiddle (FC Cincinnati) 2, RemiMartinn (LAFC) 2 [4-3 on PKs]
It took a penalty shootout to decide one one of the games of the tournament, with Fiddle ultimately keeping his title defense alive thanks to some heroics in the final round of the shootout.
The two competitors provided a terrific first half, with both scoring great goals to keep things level at one going into the break. The game really heated up in the second half, though with RemiMartinn first equalizing, then seemingly finding a winner in the 88th minute. This caused Fiddle to visibly react, angrily getting out of chair after the ball hit the back of the net.
However, the FCC man didn't let the moment faze him, going back down the field and equalizing in injury time to send the match to extra time. A tense, scoreless 30 minutes led to a shootout, where Fiddle pulled out a victory by denying RemiMartinn on his fifth attempt before converting his own. And for all the recrimination during play, the two only left the stage after some warm postgame handshakes.
Paulo Neto (Atlanta United) 3, RCTID Thiago (Portland Timbers) 0
Atlanta United's Paulo Neto turned in one of the performances of the night as he ended RCTID Thiago's run in front of his hometown crowd, putting together an outstanding attacking performance in the biggest victory of the night heading into the final.
Neto had Thiago his heels from the opening whistle, slicing through the Portland defense with Cristiano Ronaldo to open the scoring in his first attack of the game, then taking advantage of a kind bounce to find the net with the same player a few attacks later in the 18th minute.
RCTID Thiago was able to keep the lead to two through the first half, but the Five Stripes player kept his foot on the gas in the second half and put the game out of reach when he put away a rebound with Ruud Guillit midway through the period.