It’s hard not to notice Gerso Fernandes when he’s on the pitch for Sporting Kansas City. A native of Guinea-Bissau who plied his trade in Portugal from the time he was a teenager up until he made the jump to the U.S. in 2017, Gerso boasts the kind of game-changing pace that stick out among professional athletes. In fact, his speed isn’t just noticed by fans; it led to him earning the honor of being named the fastest player in MLS in FIFA 21.
MLS revealed a number of distinctions among its players in the game, which hits consoles on Oct. 6, in a Twitch stream last week. This included giving Gerso his player card, with his eyes locked on his Pace rating. It was the highest mark in the league, although on first glance, he thought it was a little lower than he deserved.
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) September 16, 2020
Still, Gerso is happy with how his ability to turn on the jets is viewed by the folks at EA Sports, even if he’s not exactly the most frequent video game player on earth. Uproxx Sports caught up with Gerso before last Saturday’s game against FC Dallas to discuss FIFA, why he’s not a big gamer, this MLS season, and his first year as a father.
I’ve been told you’re not a huge gamer, is that correct?
Yeah, just because I didn’t grow up having video games. I grew up more playing soccer, obviously, playing hide-and-seek with my friends, so I didn’t really know video games and all that stuff. Then when I had the chance to buy the video games and play them, I tried, but I wasn’t good at it, so I decided to just not play as much.
Ah, so how often do you play FIFA?
Now I don’t play it at all. I used to — my first year, when I started playing for Sporting, I bought a PS4 for my apartment and I used to play after practice a couple times. I wasn’t that good, but I would play friends sometimes. But then, eventually, I met my wife, we started dating, and my life has changed and video games just weren’t part of my life anymore.
How popular is FIFA in the Kansas City locker room?
Oh it’s very popular. I would say probably me and some other guys that are already dads and have kids — which would be like four or five — that don’t play. But the rest of the young guys, all of them play a lot, and they usually do competitions when we are in preseason, the players, and I love that, they take it serious.
We got a video of your reaction when you learned you were the fastest dude in MLS, same pace as Raheem Sterling, Mo Salah, Leroy Sane, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. But it seemed like you weren’t quite happy with what your rating was, why was that?
[laughs] This is funny, so we have the GPS that monitors everything we do in the game. And that GPS, I don’t know if it’s very accurate, but it gives you your top speed in the game — if it’s only just one sprint where you went very fast, it will give you that top speed. We were playing in one of the games, my top speed was very close to Alphonso Davies’ top speed, like a week before the German league had games saying he was the fastest player and they showed his speed in the game, and my top speed in one of the games was pretty close. It was still behind it, but it was pretty close. So that’s why I was like, 93, maybe I can get a little closer to Alphonso Davies [ed. note — Davies’ pace in the FIFA 21 is 96]. But I’m happy with 93, no doubt.
Still, guys like Sterling, Salah, Sane, that’s not bad company to keep.
Not at all, not at all. I was excited for sure.
Are these ratings something that players talk about among themselves?
Mostly when they come out and everybody’s like … yeah, some of my teammates were pretty sad and not happy with their ratings, and some of them were joking and congratulated me about being the fastest player in MLS. So yeah, that’s we do talk about it and joke about it when someone has a bad rating and we think they should have a little better. We talk about it, we make fun of some of them, and it’s fun.
Would love to pick your brain about this MLS season a bit. First, you’re in first in the West, coming off a win this week, what’s the vibe around the team?
— Sporting KC (@SportingKC) March 1, 2020
It’s good. Being in first place means that your team’s gonna be good and you’ve gotta be playing good, and all of that’s happening for us and that’s why we’re at the place we are. The vibe is good, but everybody knows you’ve gotta be working very hard to stay in first place, because there’s a lot of good teams and if you stop working and don’t care, you can easily get in trouble, or someone can easily pass you in your position.
You’re an experienced team with a manager who knows what needs to happen in order to win. As a group, do you talk about winning MLS Cup and Supporters Shield, or is it more “we’re gonna take this one game at a time”?
The main goal is eventually to win Supporters Shield and MLS Cup, that’s why we work so hard and try to play the best that we can. But during the season, we try to take one game at a time, because we cannot be thinking of winning the MLS Cup and Supporters Shield if you don’t get ready for the games you have during the season. So we take one game at a time knowing what is our biggest goal.
I wanna ask you about Gianluca Busio. There is so much excitement over him from soccer fans, can I get your thoughts on him as someone who sees him every day?
Oh yeah, definitely. You’ve been hearing about him, all good things, and I would agree with all of it. Busi’s an exciting player, he has a lot of quality, and for his age, already playing and playing so, so well, he doesn’t even look like he’s 18 when he plays. And the quality and confidence he has, he has the potential to be a very, very good player, and he knows it, and he works for it, so hopefully he just keeps being as humble as he is right now and I think he will reach his top level one day.
To talk about you a little, this is your fourth year in MLS. What did you think about the league when you first joined KC and how has that opinion changed over the years?
When I first got here, it was so different, quite honestly, from Portugal. Not in a bad way, but just different. Since then, it’s now been four years, the best years of my career have been spent with Sporting Kansas City in MLS, so I’m really happy I accepted the challenge to play for Sporting Kansas City in 2017 and everything has been good so far. I’m glad for that. I think the league keeps growing and growing and has a lot of potential.
How has Kansas City been as an adopted home? As I was doing some research, I came across a story that said after you joined the team, you Googled “Where Is Kansas City?” because you wanted to get to learn about a place that you weren’t too familiar with.
Well, when you’re from Portugal and Europe, a lot of cities and states you hear people talking about are New York, Miami, Chicago, all those big, fancy cities. You never heard about Kansas City. So I was kind of curious about it, so I went to search where was Kansas City, and I saw it was right in the middle of the United States, and I went, “Well, if it’s right in the middle, then something special’s gotta be there.” And everything ended up well — I love Kansas City, it’s a nice city, nice state, and the people here are very nice.
Great football culture in that city, too. I know people in that city love the sport.
Yeah, definitely. We have awesome supporters for Sporting Kansas City and sports in general. But from a soccer perspective, it was way better than I thought when I first moved here. Eventually the stadium will need more capacity because people are getting more involved and liking it more.
And how’s this season been for you? Have to imagine it’s been something else between MLS Is Back, and now playing in home stadiums during everything going on right now.
I think overall, with everything that’s happened this year, everybody has had to adapt to whatever happens at the moment. Overall, I’m happy to be able to keep playing soccer and just running around. It was MLS Is Back, now we have the season, but I think overall, I’m just happy to have the chance to keep playing soccer.
Would love to know what your experience was like during MLS Is Back, because SKC was down there for quite a while.
Yeah, definitely. Well, I’m not gonna lie, it wasn’t easy for me and I know for a lot of other of my teammates. But we tried to make the best of MLS Is Back, and we were in first place in the group phase then we lost against Philadelphia. But overall, it was a good experience.
To end, I know you have a son who turned 1 a few months back. How’s this year been for you away from the pitch, as we’re in such a hectic time but you’re also trying to raising a youngster?
It’s been good, especially with practice in the morning and having the opportunity to be free most of the time. I feel like I’m blessed to have pretty much every afternoon after practice with my son, and to see him grow and play with him and just being part of his life for most of the day, which, not a lot of people can do that, so I’m really happy and thankful that I have the style of life that allows me to spend a lot of time with my son.