Three Teams That Could Make A Statement At The First NA Major
After three regionals, the teams have been set for the first North American Major of the season. Looking back at the season thus far, it is easy to say that this event is up for grabs. NRG, Spacestation Gaming, Team Envy, and the Kansas City Pioneers are the only teams to make it to a finals for the regionals, but the Grid has shown that none of these teams are out of it yet. With a massive amount of circuit points available for the teams, these three teams will be looking to prove they have what it takes to be an elite team in North America.
Rogue failed to make it into the semifinals of any of this season's first three regionals, but they have proven they can compete against the top teams time and time again. In the most recent example, Rogue made it to the finals of the ASTRONAUTS Star Circuit against Spacestation Gaming after beating both the Kansas City Pioneers and the Peeps 3-1 earlier in their bracket run. Rogue are top 8 in the current circuit point rankings, and they need to show they are more than just a team on the brink. They finished 3rd-4th in the Grid in four out of the nine weeks, but failed to advance any further. If this team can start clicking when it matters most, they might break into the top tier of teams in NA rather than floating around top ten. Many of the teams around them are very beatable for this roster, but it will come down to execution.
Leonardo "Turinturo" Wilson has fit in very well with the team. Even if the results haven't been perfect, this seems to be the best Rogue squad the league has seen in a while. Along with this, young prodigy Jason "firstkiller" Corral has continued his development and become a force to be reckoned with. Cameron "Kronovi" Bills is often said to provide simply "experience" in the scene, but his own mechanical ability shouldn't be underrated. As the team progresses throughout the season, this team should only get better. All three of these players can come through when it matters. Even if they have failed to take a tournament win, they have proven they can compete every week. Making a statement here would make up for their lack of circuit points earned earlier in the split as well as provide confidence for fans moving forward.
Kansas City Pioneers
One of the most exciting storylines of the season is the Pioneers run from only being top sixteen in most power rankings to top four in circuit points has set them up for an incredible run at the first major. All three players have had breakouts in their right, with rising fan favourite Landon "BeastMode" Konerman taking the scene by storm. While they have had an incredible run through the season so far, their recent result in the ASTRONAUT Star Circuit might be worrying after losing 1-3 against Rogue and proceeding to be swept by Spacestation Gaming without scoring a goal. While they are still asserting themselves in the scene, this event would be a major step forward for showing them they are an elite team as well as being able to bounce back from a tough loss. It would be hard to doubt this team too much after taking Team Envy to a Game 7 in the third regional.
When asked about when this team began to break out and prove they were ready to compete with the best teams in the region, Sami "Hazmat" Malhas said, "I really think the breakout moment was the Week 3 Grid sweep over G2. While we had some wins before that, it was tight matches against middle ground teams, but taking on G2 with such a dominant performance not only showed the world what we could do, but showed our players what they could do. Their performance is so often based on their confidence that a win like that went a long way for the crew."
His casting partner, @kend0slice described what makes this team special is that it, "exudes a character of maturity in approaching their growth more so than any other team. It is this maturity, their unrelenting pursuit of excellence, and their undaunted mentality in the face of outside doubt and criticism that has enabled them to snowball that confidence through this first season."
It may be odd to say that NRG needs to make a statement in this Major. They have already shown they are an elite team by winning the second regional, and finishing second overall in circuit points before the first Major; their elite play has been inconsistent. In the most recent regional, they failed to make it past the quarterfinals, getting swept by the eventual champions Team Envy. In that series, they only scored three goals over the course of almost eighteen minutes of game time. However, they've won the previous two weeks of the Grid, and made it the finals in the two before that. They can consistently put up deep runs in these brackets, but the fact that sometimes they seem to fall apart can be concerning. Remember for NRG though, falling apart is "only" a quarterfinals.
This team could easily be in the running once the World Championship comes around. Their individual quality is nearly unmatched, so the expectations are much higher. If they can show up here, it should only further establish them as one of the best in the world. The scrutiny on this team is higher because they have such a large fanbase and the fact they expect themselves to win every week, so it will be important to see how they handle the pressure in the first Major of the season.
Images via Liquipedia