These teams have proved they can compete at the top, but this finals match had big implications.
In one of the most exciting Regional Finals of the season, Envy faced off against the rising Kansas City Pioneers. The intensity of the series cannot be understated with all seven games only being decided by a single goal. Heading into this series, both teams had already secured their ticket to the Major, but making it to this match should give fans a reason to believe both can make a deep run in the upcoming tournament. They have different reasons for valuing their Regional run, but they are both important regarding the futures of these teams.
Envy were the ones who ended up taking the series in an intense Game 7 with zero seconds left. This win secured their spot as the number one seed heading into the Major, but it didn't feel like this team would be able to make a deep playoff run. They struggled in their 1-3 loss to G2, and squeaked by their eventual finals opponents in the KC Pioneers 3-2. Pierre "Turbopolsa" Silfver was unable to make much of an impact throughout their series, and Massimo "Atomic" Franceschi had a few mechanical gaffes, including some poorly timed backflips that gave opponents free goals.
The talent of this roster is undeniable when everyone is playing their best, but what is really impressive is that Nick "mist" Costello was able to carry the load while Atomic and Turbopolsa found their form. In the pre-series analyst desk, a discussion was held about mist being one of the top three players in the region. That kind of special talent is crucial for a roster that wants to make an impact at the Major. Mist's consistent ability to perform to that level is what allowed his teammates to find their form. Although their road to the playoffs wasn't perfect, they came out swinging against the best in the region. They swept NRG 3-0, only allowing three goals through the series, and eliminated G2 with a scoreline of 4-2. Out of those six matches, they scored at least three goals in four of them.
It's difficult ever to doubt Turbopolsa and the mechanically gifted players of Atomic and mist. They were constantly bordering around the top of NA, but in the previous Regionals, they had been swept by NRG in the semifinals and finals. They also failed to make it past the quarterfinals of The Grid in three of their last four weeks. After falling short several times, this run was enough to get everyone firing again, and it should scare anyone they have to face. This win secured the number one seed for Envy, and they look like they will be able to capitalise on that.
Kansas City Pioneers
The Pioneers have been one of the hottest teams in NA, especially considering their rankings when the season began. Many analysts had ranked the new squad around sixteenth in their regional rankings. Before this match versus Envy, they had already secured a spot in the Major, but showcasing how well they can play in their run to the finals locked in a top-four spot. Top four! That is higher than NA staples like G2 and Rogue, teams that no one had as low as Kansas City in the preseason.
Nobody doubts that Kansas City can play with the top teams in the scene now, but before this run, nobody talked about them to the level they deserved. It started in Week 1 of The Grid when KC took G2, the eventual Week 1 winners, to a Game 5. It was a small statement since it was only in the Group Stage of The Grid, but an important one nonetheless - the Pioneers were here to play.
Throughout the season, the Pioneers were one of the most improved teams in the scene. All three of the players on this squad have seen their stock's soar as they have had collectively and individually impressive performances. John "Johnnyboi_i" MacDonald, during the third Regional event, described Jalen "rapid" Parker as one of the breakout players of the season. His playmaking ability has taken a step forward this year and has been crucial to Kansas City's rise to prominence. Johnnyboi_i continued his praise for the team, explaining Landon "BeastMode" Konerman as "definitely the best rookie of the split." He also listed Michael "Memory" Moss as one of the most underrated players in the scene. His control of the midfield play and his clinical finishing were cornerstones to the Pioneer's spot in the finals.
The breakout of all three of these players for the Pioneers has developed them into a collective threat. They've all had great individual moments, and their team organisation has become better and better throughout the season. Before this match, they had beaten Spacestation Gaming in recent weeks twice as well as taking down G2. Despite their ability to compete with and even beat teams at the top of the leaderboard, the recognition for this team was lacking. But it all changed when this team proved themselves on their run to the finals. From top sixteen in North America to Regional finalists, the Pioneers are ready to make their mark. As James "Jamesbot" Villar said, "the Pioneers are going to be a staple of North American Rocket League moving forward in this year.
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