By Zane Bhansali

After winning two consecutive"Call of Duty World Championship" rings in 2015 and 2016, Jordan "JKap" Kaplan's victory lap was all but scheduled for 2017.

Instead, the champ suffered low tournament finishes, heartbreaking losses, and messy roster trades. But now that he's assembled a new team and identified a new game to conquer, JKap is ready to move beyond the past.

"I just want to get back on top," JKap told Cheddar Sports. "I've been competitive my entire life. I had a younger brother and I would never let him beat me in anything. I'm just super competitive."

JKap got the chance to put that competitive nature to the test last weekend at the "Call of Duty World League Las Vegas Open" with his new team, eUnited. As the first tournament featuring Call of Duty's newest edition, Black Ops 4, the event served as unconquered territory for a group of teams looking to prove themselves.

EUnited began its stint in Vegas in exceptional fashion, easily dispatching pool play opponents with an ease that belied their lack of experience playing together. While JKap has encountered his fair share of talented teams, it's been years since he's experienced the kind of pressure that results from having something to prove ー both to fans and himself. "The change is definitely different," he said.

"I feel like there's more hunger on this team, more motivation to win and get to that top level. Teaming with guys like this, which I haven't done in years now ... it's kind of refreshing to see that energy and that passion to win."

For some, eUnited's start was almost too easy ー robbed as it was of the marquee matchup against JKap's former squad Luminosity Gaming, who had formerly been placed in the same group.

Fans were clamoring for a grudge match to kick off the event after JKap's unceremonious dismissal from Luminosity earlier this year, a fracture that drew criticism from high-profile figures like 100 Thieves founder and ex-star player Matthew "Nadeshot" Haag.

But JKap isn't dwelling on the the skirmish with his former team. "I don't really have a huge vendetta, I guess, anymore," he said. "When I first got dropped [from Luminosity] I was really pissed off about it. That's kind of fallen off because I like my new team so much, even more than I thought I would going into it, to be honest."

JKap isn't letting the dispute color his relationship with his old teammates, either.

"That whole team has a lot of raw talent," he said of the current Luminosity roster. "So far it kind of seems like they haven't put it together as well as other teams have, but with how much talent they have on that roster, those are guys you can just never count out. It's not a huge vendetta match like I think people may think it is."

Despite the change in pool matchups, fans hoping for JKap's showdown with his old team had their wishes fulfilled in the end. After a loss to tournament favorites Optic Gaming in the winners bracket, eUnited found themselves facing Luminosity with their tournament lives in the balance. Luminosity may have talent in spades, but the victory went to a determined and coordinated eUnited, which then carried its momentum to a victory over a surging Splyce roster for a rematch with Optic in the grand finals.

The finals may have been a 3-0 sweep for Optic, but the score doesn't reflect the intensity of the match. The series kicked off with a heartbreaking first map that saw eUnited unable to close out a game that was almost won ー leaving the players close to tears. But after ten years in Call of Duty, JKap isn't the sort of player to dwell on the momentary setbacks.

"Even my bad decisions ... I may have made a bad roster decision, but then that led to a good roster with my next team," he said.

That certainly seems to be the case with eUnited. Second place may not have been the goal, but it's an auspicious beginning for the young team ー and a strong reaffirmation for teams with an eye focused on building for the future.

"I don't really have a decision I regret," said JKap. "I like the way my career's played out so far. The fact that I can do this for a living ... to be an esports athlete and be as successful as I have, it's a dream come true."