Teams make some final impressions before The Major.
Europe and North America finished their final Grids of the Winter Split, and North America is now halfway through the third Regional. With teams offering fans a final look at their form before beginning the biggest event of the season in a few short weeks, there were plenty of exciting games from both regions.
Because there were three competitions going on, there are going to be a few games left that are still worth a watch! So let's get into the top five matches of the week.
5) North America Regional Losers Round 1 - 72PC vs Kansas City Pioneers
This series wasn't clean. It was messy, it was scrappy, but it was definitely entertaining. With the KC Pioneers having some major struggles against lower-ranked teams lately, it looked like 72PC would pile on the misery. Jumping out to a 2-0 lead, 72PC was in firm control of the series. The Pioneers weren't finished, though, as they would take the next two games in overtime to give themselves a chance in Game 5.
The Pioneers would score both of their goals in the first thirty-three seconds, and it would be a scrappy fight to keep that lead through the rest of the game. While 72PC were able to make it 2-1, it wasn't enough. The Pioneers completed the reverse sweep despite several touches throughout the series that seemed to hurt them more than help. The Pioneers would fall out of the tournament in the next series, but were able to provide one more exciting series before leaving the bracket.
4) European Grid Semifinals - Giants Gaming vs Team Vitality
This series started out as a shootout, with Vitality taking Game 1 by five goals, and the Giants taking Game 2 by four. After this explosive start, the teams really got a feel for each other, and the rest of the series all stayed within one goal victory margins. Although the Giants won Game 3 in overtime, Vitality, with their lives on the line, would run the table to pick up a birth in the finals against Team BDS. Vitality have struggled lately, compared to the expectations fans and themselves have set for them, but this was a strong showcase from Vitality just in time for the Major.
@ChicagoRL shows up big at the RLCS X Games!
3) North America Regional Winners Round 2 - G2 Esports vs eUnited
It is always exhilarating to watch the underdogs challenge some of the top teams in the region. Even though eUnited have been consistently in the mix throughout RLCS X, many wins against top teams have eluded them. This was a chance for them to change that, but G2 came through when it mattered most. The teams split the first two games, and eUnited even managed to win Game 3 for a 2-1 series lead. Game 4 looked destined for overtime, but with less than thirty seconds left, Reed "Chicago" Wilen capitalised on an open opportunity to take the lead. With the series down to its fifth and final match, G2's quality showed, as they took a dominating 4-1 win to secure the series. G2 have been dominating the Grid, but the ability to sneak out wins like this when they aren't looking their best is going to be big if they plan on making a deep run in the Regional.
eUnited's strong showing here would be for naught as they would end up falling to Loco in their first match in the losers bracket. eUnited have been an exciting team to watch, though, even if they sit lower than tenth place. They have shown the ability to compete against top teams, and if they still manage a spot in the Major, will definitely be a dark horse for an upset or two.
2) North America Grid Quarterfinals - Team Envy vs Spacestation Gaming
There is nothing like watching a nail-biter between two of the best teams in the region. Team Envy have been in complete control of the Winter Split, and although SSG has been floundering a bit compared to their Fall Split dominance, they still look to be in the mix for the Major trophy. These are two of the top four teams in NA, and it certainly looked like it here. None of the games were blowouts, showing just how well these teams matchup. Although SSG would only manage the win after taking the series the distance, they showed flashes of brilliance on their way to the series victory. For example, they limited Envy to only three shots in Game 2. The highest-scoring game was Game 4, as Envy managed a 4-3 win in overtime courtesy of a massive dunk from Massimo "Atomic" Franceschi. These teams are surely going to be high on everyone's watchlist once the Major rolls around.
1) European Grid Finals - Team Vitality vs Team BDS
What better way for Vitality to return to form than a Game 7 thriller against the most dominant team in Europe? Things looked to be going swimmingly for Vitality as they were able to win Games 2-4 straight, giving them a 3-1 lead. In that three-game stretch, BDS only managed to score one goal. That would signal the end of Vitality's wins for the week, however, as BDS would basically do the same to them over the final three games. With BDS outscoring Vitality 8-2 over the final three games, the best team in Europe reminded everyone to never count them out.
Even though Vitality lost this series, fans should be optimistic about their chances heading into the Major. It will still be a tough road to a championship, but Vitality are at least looking better this week than the past few. Meanwhile, add another trophy to BDS' cabinet. Or, actually, build a new cabinet. The old one is probably getting full.
Images via @TeamBDS | @RLEsports