Shogun takes a look at Dappur's rollercoaster career

18:00, 25 Mar 2020

Rocket League is one of the fastest esports in the world. And while many think this only applies to the gameplay we see on our screens each weekend, it equally applies to the career trajectories of those involved. Chris “Dappur” Mendoza can tell you all about that: his journey had him lauded as one of the game’s brightest stars, to suffering a seemingly unstoppable tumble that saw him eliminated from the competitive scene entirely.

It’s been three years since Dappur’s Selfless Gaming almost defeated the World Champions Flipsid3 Tactics. Only a gut-wrenching Kuxir97 buzzer-beater - who’d go on to score the winner two minutes into overtime - dropping Selfless to the lower bracket. Yet even in defeat, this was seen as an announcement of their step up to the elite competition. Instead, this would be their peak.

The next day, Selfless were eliminated by Denial Esports. Dappur was not just completely invisible on the pitch, he wasn’t even on it instead of attending his graduation. This had been agreed upon with his team, but without their talisman, Selfless lacked the bite they’d enjoyed against F3. Denial dominated them in a 3-1 victory, leaving Selfless with a last-place finish in what would be their only World Championship appearance.

If anything, this defeat only made Dappur’s stock that much higher, proving exactly why Selfless needed him. He’d made himself one of the world’s most talked-about players with dazzling performances in the 1v1 scene, where he was considered by many to be North America’s best solo player and had the performances to prove it.

Despite his individual brilliance, every season since has seen Dappur spiral downwards. Season 4 was meant to be Selfless’ challenge for regional glory, although they flopped to a 1-6 league play record, narrowly avoiding relegation. The next season would see CLG (who’d signed the former Selfless Gaming players) barely improve to a 2-5 record, this time being dropped to Rocket League second tier.

CLG broke up soon after, as many relegated teams do, with its players determined to climb back to the top. Rocket League, young as it is, has already seen many star players drop off the pace, and any one of them can tell you just how difficult it is to catch back up. Once relegated from the RLCS, many simply give up their dream of playing the game professionally, especially with Rocket League’s previous, much more brutal, promotion system. But there is another response. To push harder than ever before. And while admirable, it can often be an equally ineffective route back to the top.

Timi Selfless Gaming
Dappur's former teammate, Timi "timi" Falodun

Dappur seemed destined to be just another one of those players who tried to make it back but couldn’t. His Season 6 was spent subbing for Rival Series team Splyce. In Season 7 he hit his lowest competitive point ever, slumping to a 13th place finish in the Rival Series’ open qualification tournament with a team called Triple Commit. It was the first time Dappur wouldn’t be registered at all in Rocket League’s premier events.

Yet such was Dappur’s 2017 mystique that people still believed he could play at the top level. Whenever roster moves were discussed, the inevitable response would crop up: “what if they brought in Dappur?”. So when he made it back to the Rival Series with his new team Afterthought, and new teammates Shock and Satthew, the talk began even more. People expected Afterthought to be Dappur’s audition for an RLCS spot at another team.

Season 8 ended up being anything but one man's audition. Afterthought ripped their opponents to shreds, posting a 7-2 record (Dappur’s first winning record since season 3) and landing themselves in 2nd place with a massive opportunity to promote to the RLCS that they’d take, comfortably securing promotion. In less than three months, Afterthought had gone from high level castaways, to open qualifier hopefuls to Rocket League’s top tier. They were rightfully rewarded with a Susquehanna Soniqs pickup in the offseason.

With SQ, Dappur has reinvented himself. Back in the Selfless Gaming days, he was expected to provide the spark that would enable his team to grab goals. Now he’s handed that pressure to budding superstar Shock, acting as the team’s foundation and orchestrating crossfield passes to Dappur and Satthew while ensuring the Soniqs defence is never exposed for longer than needed.

Since promotion, the Soniqs have not stopped. Predicted by their fellow pros at the start of the season to finish 10th and automatically relegate, they’ve defied expectations during the regular season with a 6-3 record, only losing to World Champions NRG Esports, former World Champions Cloud9, and former World Championship runner ups G2 Esports. This Saturday, they compete in the NA Regional Championship, with an opportunity to send themselves from unranked to unrivaled in just seven months of competitive play. This is, by far, Dappur’s biggest opportunity since Kuxir broke Selfless Gaming's spirit in 2017.

When Dappur lines up against NRG this weekend, it won’t be for redemption; he, Shock and Satthew have already achieved that. Instead, Soniqs will be just three victories away from proving that their predicted finish - 10th place - was simply a typo.

 

Images via Rocket League Flickr

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