FRISCO, Texas — 23 is a number that Ihab “i9ibbs” Abualneel does not want to forget any time soon. In fact, it continues to motivate him, as he prepares for the eMLS League Series Two tournament in Portland.
“I ended up finishing 23rd [in Philadelphia],” he said. “That’s been the number that I see written a lot around my house, especially in my man cave where I play FIFA. I put the number around my computer and monitor just to remind myself that I have to do a lot better in Portland.”
Abualneel even changed his gamer tag as a constant reminder of his first eMLS event as a member of FC Dallas.
“I made it GGs_23rd," he said. “I’m trying to stay motivated and remind myself that I’m better than what I put out there [in Series One].”
Abualneel’s preparation for Feb. 14’s event in Portland began as soon as he returned home from the tournament in Philadelphia back in January. Since then, he has kept a more stringent practice routine, including plenty of matches against other pro players.
“I’ve been practicing against Toronto’s player [PhilB94],” Abualneel said. “We scrimmage almost every day. They are really good games and I am playing him really well.”
After his trip to the City of Brotherly Love, Abualneel said he needed to focus more on the mental side of his game. He believes the past few weeks have left him in a much better place heading into the tournament than when he departed for the first event.
“Every game of FIFA is going to be different, that’s the problem, but you just need the confidence [in yourself],” he said. “Last time, I didn’t have the confidence going in but this time, I feel like I’m a lot more confident.”
Each player will play 12 games, with the top eight advancing to Saturday’s live-stream portion. Like the first tournament, the winner will receive a $7,500 cash prize on top of the bragging rights.
“I’ve been preparing, playing against pros and practicing the right way,” Abualneel said.
Another big part of his preparation includes advice from a friend, who Abualneel competed against a lot before making the switch from Xbox to PlayStation.
“What I have been doing is recording some of my games and sending [the footage] to him,” Abualneel said. “He’s just telling me, ‘Slow it down more.’ So, he is still giving me advice on how to play, which is something I didn’t have going into Philly.”
Series Two gives Abualneel a great chance to turn his fortunes around and prove to everyone just what he is capable of achieving.
“I just want to see that I can do it,” he said. “Everybody that I have talked to just keeps telling me, ‘You’re so much better than what happened in Philly.’ I'm hoping to put myself in a better position for [Austin in March]."