Will the additions of Venom and Drazah improve the current run of form for the Thieves?
When 100 Thieves acquired the OpTic Gaming Los Angeles franchise slot, the competitive Call of Duty community quickly began to speculate on which players would be representing the franchise during the 2021 season. Thomas “TJHaLy” Haly, Kenny “Kenny” Williams, and 2016 world champion Austin “SlasheR” Liddicoat joined, and a few weeks later, Donovan “Temp” Laroda was confirmed as the fourth and final player.
Armed with a wealth of experience and explosive slaying power, expectations were extremely high for the team, and throughout the opening stage of the 2021 season, the Thieves were quick to find their feet towards the top of the league table, scoring just one loss at the hands of the Dallas Empire. Despite the strong start, the Thieves were dumped out of the winner’s bracket of the Stage One Major after the Los Angeles Guerrillas swept them aside in one of the most surprising results of the season so far. The team managed to defeat Toronto before OpTic Chicago sent them home with a shock top-six finish, a placement well below expectations.
Prior to the start of the Stage Two Major, the franchise announced that main assault rifle player SlasheR had been demoted to the bench in favour of substitute Zack “Drazah” Jordan in a move that was met with plenty of scepticism from players and fans. Although the change may be a surprising move, there’s every possibility that this particular change could be the catalyst for the Thieves to reverse its fortunes after an incredibly disappointing Stage Two.
Benching SlasheR: The Right Move?
Arguably one of the best assault rifle players in the world, deciding to drop the 2016 world champion can’t have been an easy decision to make. SlasheR has often been vocal about the switch to online competition due to the COVID-19 pandemic, even stating that he would retire from competition completely if the league continued online rather than make a return to LAN.
If SlasheR was to retire, it would be an immense loss of talent from the league given his incredible skill with an assault rifle and teambuilding qualities that often lead to championship success. While he remains on the bench, former OGLA slayer Drazah has some big shoes to fill ahead of the second Major tournament of the Black Ops Cold War season. During the Modern Warfare season, Drazah quickly showcased what he is capable of, scoring plenty of kills in quick succession to give his team control of the map or a specific objective.
Drazah’s promotion to the starting roster could be that burst of aggression that has often gone missing for the Thieves during key moments of matches, and leading the charge against TJHaLy has all the makings of a deadly partnership that could enable the LA Thieves to run the gauntlet of the loser’s bracket.
While the roster change did come out of the blue, SlasheR’s demotion from the starting four is a real statement of intent from the franchise that is in desperate need to find some form to avoid Stage Two becoming a total disaster.
Online Competition Has Benefitted Amateur Players
While the transition to online competition is nowhere near the same as competing in an offline environment, it has enabled plenty of new players to break into the upper echelons of Call of Duty esports and make a name for themselves. The likes of Luis “Fire” Rivera and Travis “Neptune” McLendon might have never got the chance to join a franchise if it wasn’t for the ability to prove themselves in online tournaments. Like the Paris Legion and Florida Mutineers, the Thieves has also recruited amateur talent in order to bolster its squad.
Prior to Drazah joining the roster, Carlos “Venom” Hernandez joined in place of Temp in a bid to inject a new lease of life into the team. While the addition has yet to yield the results that other franchises have seen with new blood in their team, it will only be a matter of time before Venom manages to find his feet amongst the best Call of Duty players in the world.
If the league didn’t switch to an online format, there’s little to no chance that SlasheR would have been demoted to the bench, but with exciting new talent able to join a team with just a few invites to a voice channel, it’s not exactly surprising to see franchises utilising the talent available in order to elevate their position in the league table.
Did The Guerrillas' Upturn In Form Influence A Change?
Los Angeles is the only city in the Call of Duty League that has two teams representing it, and at the start of the season, fans quickly sided with Matt “Nadeshot” Haag and the Thieves over a Guerrillas roster that has quietly gone about its business as it continues to reverse its fortunes from finishing last in the 2020 season.
The last two battles of Los Angeles have gone in favour of the Guerrillas, which has managed to sweep the Thieves aside twice in recent weeks. Not exactly a good look for a team expected to contend at the top of the table with the likes of Chicago, Atlanta, and Dallas. With the Guerrillas currently the best team based in LA, could two straight losses to its closest rivals sparked the calls for change?
There are several factors, including the reasons mentioned above, as to why the LA Thieves has decided to make a change. Going from a 4-1 win-to-loss record in Stage One to a 1-4 win-to-loss record in a matter of weeks is incredibly surprising considering the incredible amount of talent on the starting line-up. Something had to give way, and SlasheR’s demotion to the substitute’s bench was the change that was deemed necessary in order to bounce back after a poor run of form.
With this new mixture of youth and experience, there is every chance that the Thieves can make an incredible run from the first round of the loser’s bracket into the latter stages of the Stage Two Major, and if the team can manage that, then the LA Thieves are back on the road to success.
Images via LA Thieves | MLG | HCS