Philly enter the grand finals with fire in their hearts and something to prove.
With their victory over the Washington Justice, the Philadelphia Fusion have officially booked their ticket to South Korea for the Overwatch League grand finals. The team that failed to advance past the Florida Mayhem in the May Melee, the team that failed to capture both the Summer Showdown and the Countdown Cup titles, has shown a sixth gear.
Matching what looked to be the best Roadhog team in the world on their composition, the Philadelphia Fusion have shown proficiency at both meta compositions. If they continue this trend of improvement across the grand finals break, the Fusion are going to be a problem for the final four teams.
The Fusion has been chasing a carrot on a stick for the entirety of 2020. They were meant to advance in the May Melee - not the Florida Mayhem. They were supposed to capture the summer - not the Paris Eternal. Time and time again they come just inches away, and narrowly, victory escapes them, like chasing after a car in a dream, the Fusion has consistently been just out of reach. That feeling, that insatiable hunger, that desire to prove your doubters wrong, courses through the veins of each and every player on this team.
As seasoned as he is skilled, Lee "Carpe" Jae-hyeok is a toothless GOAT candidate. Know for being one of the most clutch players in the game, someone who can, at the snap of his fingers, snatch victory from the clutches of defeat, has nothing to show for it.
The young maestro, Kim "Alarm" Kyung-bo, dominated Overwatch's amateur division while touting the Fusion banner, and now he looks to the grand finals to compete for his full house. Picture the marquee; now presenting your Rookie of the Year, 2020 championship-winning, regular-season MVP candidate, Alarm.
Then you've got someone like Kim "Fury" Jun-ho who returns to South Korea as one of the few former Overwatch League champions. To chase that feeling, the gratification he felt in 2018 alongside the London Spitfire, that fire has to be roaring at this point, knowing he is this close from becoming the first person to win the Overwatch League twice.
Even looking at head coach Kim "KDG" Dong-gun and his disappointing showing with the Seoul Dynasty in 2019. This fresh start in "The City of Brotherly Love" took him from an overlooked coach to easily one of the top coaches in the league. Speaking of, he knows a thing or two about entering important matches as an underdog and freezing tyrants.
If changes to the metagame were to happen during the break between now and October, Philadelphia is unmoveable. They have passed each and every litmus test pointed their direction all season long. Lest we forget that the Fusion finished the regular season 24-2 with a +40 map differential, all within the rotating metagames that Hero Pools have given us. They, alongside the San Francisco Shock and the Shanghai Dragons, are the only teams to finish below five losses - but somehow the Fusion are viewed differently.
Look at what happened in their losers final match against the Washington Justice. Through their Cinderella run, the Justice looked to be the best Roadhog team in North America, the Fusion matched them and beat them at their own game. The Fusion were the first team to actually steal the tempo of the match away from the Justice. How? They began to ask Washington the questions. Philadelphia doubled-down on their Reaper and Sombra, then slipped and hit them with a double-sniper, and at that point, the Justice were noodle-legged. Jang "Decay" Gui-un found himself off his comfort pick of Zarya, Lee "TTuba" Ho-Sung scrambled back to his Pharah, and now the Justice were opting to mirror the Fusion on their compositions.
The Justice's momentum buckled under this new look Fusion.
The Fusion began this season on a high. Collecting individual talents from the world over, each of them and the team as a whole were looked at as the architects of the Shock's downfall, a super team built to manufacture trophies. To quote Carpe, "the Fusion were cocky." However, not for some flippant reason, but because they were confident, confident in their powerhouse of a roster, confident in their stellar coaching staff - the problem there wasn't the attitude, it was the balance. Admitting mistakes is a sign of maturity, however, growth comes in the form of results.
Even after planting the seed for their future success in the corpse of the San Francisco Shock, we all made excuses. Pause for a moment and really think about that. In a convincing victory over the defending 2019 Overwatch League champions, we waved them away. In the Shock Era, few teams have ever challenged San Francisco. Philadelphia did challenge them, even besting them - but we dismiss them with vapid narratives around their star players.
Carpe wasn't good in the GOATS metagame because he wasn't allowed to play the heroes he is known for. Kim "Fury" Jun-ho wasn't "benched". The Fusion have two world-class flex tank players, and God help us all if we have to hear another dull browbeating from a Kim "SADO" Su-min critic. Somehow, because they've never managed gold, their consistency is overlooked, and they enter the final four as underdogs - and they know it. That is a measurable fire that will propel them greater distances than we'd like to admit.
The Philadelphia Fusion have the weight of the world on their shoulders. They enter the final with their own expectations. They are the pride of Philadelphia, and will be tasked with one of the most difficult runs in Overwatch history if they aim to win it all. However bleak the Fusion's chances might seem on paper, they ride into South Korea on a tailwind of underdog hunger and ironclad results.
The Fusion missed in 2018, and they've missed their two chances this season, but that experience has to mean something. The ball is placed firmly in their court come October.
So, what's your move, Philly? Are you ready to take over?
Images via Blizzard Entertainment