The NYXL finally come home and experience the Big Apple energy.
What more can be said about the New York Excelsior at this point. Two-time Atlantic Division champions, two-time stage champions, and team of the 2018 MVP Sung-hyeon “JJoNak” Bang. As good as this team is, they never got the chance to play in their hometown during the 2018 Grand Finals at the Barclays Center. Since then, XL fans have been anticipating the arrival of their team, attending watch parties, buying from pop-up shops, and any other opportunity to celebrate the navy and red squad. Now, with new members Hong-joon “HOTBA” Choi, Dong-wook “BiaNcA” Kim, Seung-jun “WhoRU” Lee, and Chan-hee “Mandu” Kim, New York was finally able to give the XL the homecoming they deserved.
In a hard-fought match, NYXL took their first victory at home with a score of 3-1 against a surprisingly strong Spitfire. Main tank Dong-gyu “Mano” Kim, flex support JJoNak, and head coach Yeong-cheol “imt” Jeong spoke initially after their interview, with team manager Steven Kim providing the translation. Both players were still feeling the hype from their win and talked about how the crowd affected them.
Mano: “Yesterday I didn’t feel nervous, but today on the stage, I felt really nervous and excited with the fans cheering for me.”
JJoNak: “We had a rehearsal, I tried to imagine what it would be like with all the fans cheering for us. Today it's felt exactly how I imagined it on my walkout. I'm really happy to be playing for the New York fans”... “From the previous LA stadium, I could hear the crowd very quietly, but today I can just feel it in my whole body.”
Mano: “Same as JJoNak, even though it’s a soundproof headphone you can really hear the loud crowd in the stadium. But when we lose a team fight during the game, we can feel the fans being so quiet. I can feel the ups and downs."
JJoNak: “It’s my first time playing in a homestand. When London came in the crowd started booing and I thought 'Ooooh so that's how the homestands work'! It's really exciting to play at home, there's a big advantage for us."
What do HOTBA, WhoRU, and Mandu bring to the roster?
Mano – “We're just beginning, we put a lot of trust into HOTBA and WHORU and we're only going to get better throughout the season."
JJoNak – “HOTBA is a really good player, so I'm really excited to play with HOTBA. In terms of WHORU, he's a really aggressive player, and that really matches our style."
Imt – “Starting this season we have a roster of young players and older players. That kind of synergy where the young player learns from the older player and the older player teaches the younger player, that kind of rotation is positive. When he [Mandu] comes in he brings in a lot of positive effects for the team."
What is the team doing to stay on top personally and as a whole, and to finally take the championship?
Mano – “I’m never satisfied with my play. I always look for mistakes, try to fix the issues, and make progress through my practice."
JJoNak – “For a game like Overwatch, we need to keep practicing. We had a long break. Between the seasons I went to Korea and even there I kept practicing to maintain my feeling for the game."
Imt – “Starting from the basics, basic skills, practice. Anything we've been reluctant on having from the previous seasons, I’m going to add those resources, any data that the players need, that's what we're going to build up from this season, and that's going to be the results throughout the games."JJoNak was swapped out for HOTBA, and here he was asked two questions.
After your performance this match, how does it feel to be treated like royalty?
HOTBA – “The way I play, I showed a great performance. Here, the fans are acknowledging my great play, and that feels really good."
You're the only player who's been to the Grand Finals on the team. Does the team joke about that? Or is it something you don’t talk about?
HOTBA – “First of all, imt DOES make fun of me for losing in the Grand Finals. I do acknowledge I didn't do that well there. But I'm using that as a base experience I use for this team."
Images courtesy of Stewart Volland for Blizzard Entertainment