Little To Separate Both Sides
Both these sides have plenty to prove going into the regular season of Overwatch 2022. The previous season was one of massive disappointment, but also one of great learning. It gave both these sides an idea of where they stand and what they should go to get to the competency of the top sides.
Both sides finished with an identical win-loss record (1-15), and were next to each other on the points table – Spitfire 18th and Titans 19th. So in terms of strengths and history, there is little separating these two. So it’s a contest of equals.
Last month, Spitfires were in the news for all the wrong reasons. At the centre of the storm was one of their support players Owen “Prov1de” who parted ways with the team after they mutually came to an agreement.
It is alleged Prov1de sent explicit messages and pictures to a 16-year-old player in 2019, which amounts to a code of conduct violation. It hasn’t gone down well with the team even more so because this is the second time he has had to leave an Overwatch League team due to a scandal.
In 2020, he wed dropped by the LA Valiant after screenshots emerged in which he’d used racial slurs. Although at the time, his apology was accepted, leading to him being cleared. Prov1de’s stint has barely lasted six months after he was signed last November in an attempt to restructure the team following a poor 2021 season. Only Olivier “Admiral” Vahar remains as part of the roster from last year, but the management’s quest to find new support players persists.
SparkR and Shaw will be key to their plans going forward. Either player is capable of wielding a mean Sojourn, and providing the team with a boost they could do with. Flex support Admiral has been announced as the side’s annual promotion from British Hurricane, and will be joined by Landon McGee, their last-minute addition. They’re both untested, but have plenty of potential.
Vancouver Knights have completely rehashed their roster. This includes DPS players Jiri “LiNkzr” Masalin, Dalton Bennyhoff, and Kim “Teru” Min-ki, as well as tanks Moon “ChangSik” Chang-sik and Nathan “frdwnr” Goebel and supports Anthony “Fire” King and Randal “Roolf” Stark.
A little bit of a peek into their history tells you the organisation has had the propensity to rehash their line-ups. They did so in the middle of the 2020 season too, when their entire roster of Korean players were released, and a host of Overwatch contenders talents were signed.
Some players like Roolf and Dalton became key players during this transition. So for them to pick up the pieces and start afresh once again could take a lot out of them.
Paris Eternal haven’t had the best of times in the build-up to Overwatch 2022. After an 8-8 win-loss record in the regular season, they kept faith in the majority of their roster leading into the year. And while they had a bit of momentum to speak of thanks to the strong finish last season, eerily similar frailties were on display when San Francisco Shock got the better of them 3-0 in their opening match.
The best of three format allows teams a little bit of a leeway for slow starts, and Eternal were 2-0 down after the first game. In the second, they fought tooth and nail to try and stage a comeback, but were eventually pipped 3-2. This meant they had to go all out in the third to try and salvage something.
This isn’t like your conventional best of three where two games won means the match is sealed. It’s on aggregate points, and Eternal had a massive job to do in the third – which they ultimately couldn’t.
What should worry the Eternal is that they weren’t in the contest at any stage. This was one-sided domination from start to finish. Eternal have just one option going into their second game against Florida Mayhem: forget the defeat to Shock, act like it never happened and start afresh. That, however, is easier said than done.
A diverse squad with different ideologies, cultures, strategies and of course personalities can sometimes be a fine concoction; at other times proved to be a bit of a hindrance. So far, Florida Mayhem seem to have acclimatised well, with their roster playing in sync and looking good as one cohesive unit. To that extent, much of their headaches during the season could purely remain on the tactical front.
Of course, the luck of the draw ensured a slightly easier game first up, but the true test of cohesion will only come when they are up against better teams. Call it luck or whatever, it’s unlikely they will be pushed to the limit by Eternal.
Rather, this is another opportunity for them to feel their way into the competition on the back of a confident opening win. This is their opportunity to open up a gap. The more the running sides do early on, the less pressure they’ll put on themselves heading into the mid-season.
Dallas Fuel are among the A Listers, having form, pedigree and personnel all at once. This was evident last year when they made an inspired run to finish second in the league standings overall among 20 teams.
Their 11-5 win-loss record vaulted them to the top of the West Standings. Having sustained that kind of domination through the season, they made one excellent run to the winners’ final at the 2021 playoffs, where they eventually lost to Shanghai Dragons, the eventual champions. Upon reflection, they’d admit there was no shame in losing to a champion team like the Dragons.
This now brings us to 2022. How will they fare? Can they continue their good show? This season, their fifth overall, they will start with a new roster and a new home base. They’re the favourites going into this match.
The team has a distinct Korean presence this season, with players and coaches being signed from there. These include seasoned hitters like Taehun “Edison” Kim, who was part of Atlanta Reign last year. Then there’s Hyeon-seok “ChiYo” Han who is coming off a successful campaign with O2 Blast from the Korean Championship. Then there is Rookie damage dealer Min-seo “guriyo” Kang. In short, it’s as formidable as a line-up can get.
But when you gain something, you also tend to lose something. Dallas Fuel have had to part ways with a couple of key contenders, including assistant coach Yong-jin “Yong” Kim, who has had to return to South Korea to comply with his mandatory military service requirements.
He will be replaced by former player Kim “Rascal” Dong-jun. The team also felt hurt after the sudden loss of player Jung “Xzi” Ki-hyo, who retired last year on health grounds, after suffering from complications from scoliosis.
There are two ways of looking at Washington Justice. Last year, they finished 10th among 20 teams. The pessimists would say it was a poor run, a middling season. The optimists would look at it as one that was their best finish in three seasons, and so it ought to have been a massive improvement.
All said, this year promises to be a breakout year. In 2021, they showed plenty of promise, but their inability to close out games under pressure came back to haunt them. They were out of the May Melee Qualifiers 4-0 but missed out on the playoffs.
In the regular season playoffs too, they endured a similar fate, finishing last in the West region for the Countdown Cup.
One thing’s for sure: no one is under an illusion that this is a champion team with a champion roster. Yes, they’re an improving team and one that can push to be in the top eight. Fans need to keep their expectations realistic about the team’s chances.
They have a new assistant coach in Jung “Tydolla” Seung-min, in addition to the existing assistant coach Park “Chhilhwa” Min-hyung and head coach Seungjun “Sup7eme” Han. While all-star Tank Junho “Fury” Kim is back with Philadelphia Fusion, the side has Kim “Mag” Tae-sung, who is one of the best in the tank role.
The addition Shin “Kalios” Woo-yeol, who played for the Boston Uprising in 2018 and floated around on Contenders teams until he was picked up by the New York Excelsior in 2021, adds more heft to their line-up.
The Outlaws are trying to move up from the mid-table. Last season’s regular split saw them finish fifth in the West standings, and an overall eighth, with 11 wins and five losses. This season, having made a few tweaks to their roster, they can realistically aspire for a playoff berth.
Their opponents Toronto Defiant were 11th overall, just about managing to scrape through more wins than losses. In terms of form and advantage, Houston are the darlings of the bookmakers for this one
It’s been four years that he played as the team’s flex DPS player. This season he returns in a different role. Although they didn’t make it through to the playoffs last year, Danteh’s exceptional play on heroes like Sombra and Echo helped them finish fourth in the Western Play-Ins.
The rest of the roster looks different. Joining Danteh as the DPS players are Pelican, who comes in from Atlanta Reign, and MER1T, the hitscan specialist from O2 Blast in the Korean Championship. Then there are Lastro and Ir1s who join the support line up from Toronto Defiant and Reign respectively.
Defiant have tried to fix way too many things, at times bordering on knee-jerk reactions at the slightest sign of things not going their way. After the 2020 season, they parted ways with 10 of their players at a time when the season was drastically impacted by the pandemic. Last year they parted with as many as eight players – all in one day.
This year too, they’ve opted for a complete overhaul. The only difference is this time around, they bring together some valuable reagents in the OWL. With DPS Heesu, Finale, and ALTHOUGH, tanks HOTBA and MuZe, and supports Twilight and CH0RONG, the Defiant may have put together a roster that is finally capable of delivering the results they desire. Only time will tell if the winds of change are here.
|Overwatch League 2022 Information|
|Teams||Houston Outlaws vs Toronto Defiant, Dallas Fuel vs Washington Justice, Florida Mayhem vs Paris Eternal, Vancouver Titans vs London Spitfire|
|Time||Sunday, May 8 at 3.00 PM EST onwards|
|How to watch||Official Twitch channel|
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With an interest in strategy and mathematics, applying that to sports writing was the natural progression. A writer at night and the founder of a gaming company, Nikhil’s previous experience includes working with ESPN for five years. His specialization includes soccer, basketball, tennis, and esports betting. Email: [email protected]More info on Nikhil Kalro
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