In the four years he’s been working in sales for the Philadelphia Union, Evan Slabicki has built a bit of a reputation for his gaming skills around the office.
Enough that when the United Soccer League launched a Rocket League competition, he was approached about being the representative for Philadelphia Union II.
“Everyone definitely knows me as one of the gamers in the office,” Slabicki said in a phone interview Tuesday. “But I definitely had to jump back in and start practicing because I hadn’t played Rocket League in a while.”
Slabicki’s first opponent in the competition that kicked off last week was Toronto FC II goalkeeper Kevin Silva, a Bethlehem, Pa. native.
“It’s funny (playing against a pro soccer player) because I would never be able to compete on a soccer field with him,” he said.
Slabicki won the first game 2-0 and tonight will be going up against San Diego Loyal Chairman Andrew Vassiliadis in another match in the group stage of the competition. He’ll face Phoenix Rising on Thursday. The top two finishers in group play will advance to the knockouts.
The competitors range from Rocket League national champion Chris Ashley, competing for Greenville Triumph, to current players like Silva and office staff like Slabicki, who in true Philly fashion is considered an underdog.
“I feel like an underdog because the USL ranked me as the last place team in their first power rankings,” he said. “So it’ll leave some of the pressure off of actually playing the first couple of games. I don’t feel stressed because I know how underestimated I might be.”
The competition has 32 teams represented from both the USL Championship and USL League One and each team has chosen a charity to support. The Union chose CityTeam Chester, which has been quite active since the shutdown supporting local families and individuals facing food insecurity and other challenges.
“We’re serving hot meals in to-go containers, providing curb side pre-packed groceries for households facing sudden food insecurity, and providing vital essentials for babies like diapers and formula,” Executive Director Kwinn Tucker wrote in a recent email update. “What’s more, we are working hand-in-hand with our partners and local food banks, to see how else we can help people during this critical time when our help and services are needed now more than ever.”
Slabicki is a Ewing, N.J. native who played soccer in high school at Princeton Day School and is a graduate of York College of Pennsylvania. When he dreamed of working in pro sports — he initially worked in minor league baseball before landing a job with the Union in 2016 — he never imagined getting to play for the badge “driving around in a rocket car.”
“It’s a lot of fun and it’s for a good cause,” Slabicki said.
Tonight’s Rocket League match between Union II and San Diego Loyal will be broadcast live on ESPN3 at 8 p.m.