Top People affected by USA missing the World Cup

Christian Pulisic

The young American forward is just 19 years of age and is currently starting with Borrusia Dortmund. This World Cup was the big opportunity for him to showcase himself to the world and the American audience, now he won’t have that chance. Many of the all-time greats had their teenage world cup where they showcased their talent and got the attention of the world. Pele made the World Cup at 17, Messi 18 and Ronaldo 18. These are the names Pulisic wants to be with and missing the World Cup is a huge hit to get that level.

Pulisic will lose his chance to make a name for himself on the world stage  (Image: Getty Images )

Pulisic was the best player on the field in the disaster versus Trinidad and Tobago and had been for the US throughout the qualifying phase. This was part of the problem, At many times during this qualifying phase, he seemed the only player trying to create and dribble to spaces. So while Pulisic is a once in a lifetime talent, he is still 19 and needs the team to help. He is still not at the level where he can carry a team by himself. Messi scored a hat trick to get his team in, Pulisic isn’t there yet.

It’s hard to remember this kid should still be in college if he was playing a more traditional American sport. Borrusia Dortmund is right now in pole position in the Bundesliga and the mix for the champions league and he is starting for them. It’s like a nineteen-year-old being a starter for the Cavs or Warriors. While all that is extremely impressive if he was part of probably any other country he would be a break out star you would see in every type of media on your daily basis.

The summer in Russia was a chance for that, to get his name in every American living room, get the big money sponsorship contract and become the face of American soccer. Put in mind he has already done what Landon Donovan never could. Get established in a top German side. Yet too many people believe Landon Donovan is far better and thatthere shouldn’t be a discussion. But at 19 he did what Donovan couldn’t in his whole career. It was Pulisic’s chance to be up there with the greats but now he will have to wait and continue being the unloved prodigy that he is.

FOX

The second person probably most affected by the USA missing the World Cup is Fox, the network TV channel, that paid $400 million to get the rights to show the World Cup in America. While the World Cup will get its viewers from the devoted soccer fans, it is a loss when a lot of the bandwagon USA fans don’t show up.

Every World Cup thousands and thousands of people become USA soccer fans that have not watch a single qualifying game. They love rooting for their country no matter the sport or occasion. Those people won’t be pumped to watch a Germany vs Argentina. They are asking for the USA and this world cup they won’t get it.

The nation will be in a grim state while the rest of the world takes part in the celebration. This world cup will have earlier kick-off times, than in 2014, and the USA won’t be in it. This presents a real challenge for Fox who will have to get people hyped to wake up early and watch Soccer to a base of people who don’t really like it.

Rooting for America has always brought in the viewers that don’t care about the sport and just want the Raw-Raw aspect of it. It will be a real surprised if Fox gets numbers anywhere near what ESPN got in 2014.

MLS and the USA development system

Third and the one that might be the most condemned by this disaster is the MLS and the development of their players. With the money that has been thrown into the system, which the numbers are in the billions, how have they failed to produce a decent crop of players that can survive the CONCACAF. The USA even without the rich traditions of soccer has the athletes and the money to easily qualify for every World Cup like they have the last thirty years. So the push that all these developmental programs were supposed to make turn out to be a regression. Now a team like Panama which the USA has always dominated is going to the World Cup.

Micheal Bradley quit Roma to go play in the MLS, which is a huge drop in Level (Image: Getty Images)

The other fact is the league many of the stars of recent years have left big teams in Europe to come play in the MLS for high paying contracts. So While those decisions did help Micheal Bradley and Dempsey be happy they have clearly affected the team. The level in the MLS is much lower than top leagues in Europe and even when you bring players that were succeeding overseas their form will drop if they are not playing the best.

It’s impossible to unlock a level they haven’t been practicing or playing at. As of right now, on the roster there are only five players are in Europe and the rest are in the MLS. This, in turn, made the USA team an MLS team which is nowhere good enough when it comes to the world stage.

Expect now most American players to not buy in the American system and do what Pulisic did and leave at a young age to continue your development. USA should be pushing these guys to get on the best teams possible in Europe and not on the focus on growing the MLS.

If the MLS truly had a good and organized development system than it should be producing enough players to support the local league but also have the best leave to the best league. The best example of this is Argentina and Brazil. They have thriving leagues locally and their National teams are full of players playing aboard in Europe. To be the best you have to have your players playing with the best, its that simple, and the USA has gotten away from that.

The sad, frustrating part is the USA has the money and the resources to so much better. This should be a wake-up sign for the whole league that they are not producing players. As of right now close to 50% of the league are foreigners. This to me shows clubs have to go out and get players to play at the level they want, meaning they aren’t producing it.

So while most people will criticize the coaches who have been there or the players simply not providing a fight when things weren’t going their way. I think this failure in qualification shows how far the USA is at development compared with countries with way less to work with. People keep saying America doesn’t have the players to compete, well maybe it is because we are not developing them. Teams like Germany and Spain developed their talent they are

Ultimately the saddest thing of all this is that the USA won’t have a chance to redeem themselves until another four years. So hopefully when that time comes the USA national team has made drastic changes and we see a competitive team again.

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Hungrybox wins GTX 2017 with clutch victory over Armada

The recipe for Juan “Hungrybox” Debiedma’s success against Adam “Armada” Lindgren is to stay within striking distance. Aggressive on game one, gain counter-pick advantage and win game five on Yoshi’s. The win at GTX 2017 marks Hungrybox’s third Grand Finals victory over Armada this year.

GTX- 2017 main stage. Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/vgbootcamp

Once again, Hungrybox adds another improbable championship run to his list of career achievements. In reality, it’s Hbox’s droid-like ability to stay calm in the frenzy that wins him tournaments. Over the years, he’s developed those late-game situations with rest setups and it’s what makes his Jigglypuff style so strong.

Correspondingly, Hungrybox has earned his title of most clutch player once again. Armada is a machine in today’s game, but even Armada is susceptible to nerves under pressure. Armada’s route to a championship is built on winning game one of a set. It allows him to get counter-pick advantage for a potential game five. At the same time, Hungrybox managed to get ahead in two separate sets with an aggressive game plan.

However, it wasn’t a blemish-free day for Hbox. Even with five set wins over Fox, Jason “Mew2King” Zimmerman got the best of him in the winners bracket, but Hbox didn’t drop a set the rest of the day. It’s no surprise considering two of his opponents have pocket Foxs specifically for Hungrybox’s Jugglypuff.

Shroomed earns a spot on The Summit

Another key point, DaJuan “Shroomed” McDaniel earning the Summit spot, giving it to the highest placing non-invite player. Shroomed had to out-place Johnny “S2J” Kim and Sami “DruggedFox” Muhanna, who both started in losers bracket.

Luckily, Shroomed didn’t have to win a set in top eight to qualify. He fell quickly to Armada and Zac “SFAT” Cordoni, losing 3-0 in both sets. S2J almost pulled off the upset over SFAT, 3-2, but that’s the closest any non-invite got to Shroomed. Early in pools, William “Leffen” Hjelte fell to Lovage in a best of three. That loss reverberated through the bracket and Shroomed turned that into a Summit invite.

Mew2King Improving against Armada

M2K in top eight. Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/vgbootcamp

M2K had arguably the second best day outside of Hungrybox. As M2K stated in a tweet, he was actually the only one to beat Hbox at GTX. A near win against Armada would’ve been his first in 2017, and only his third in the last three years.

Despite the numbers, M2K’s Marth had a better showing against Armada’s turnip strategy. He had both a game one advantage and a 2-1 lead, but couldn’t win on his counter-pick. Hungrybox has the mental advantage over Armada in those situations, M2K still struggles to win when the game is on the line.

Nonetheless, his pocket Fox pick against Hungrybox is starting to win at more than a .500 rate. In fact, M2K’s Fox seems to be having the most consistent success against the Puff lately. The problem for M2K has always been winning the second set, and Hungrybox has a more fluid game plan.

M2K is improving, but it’s still unlikely that he gets over the Armada mountain anytime soon. Joseph “Mango” Marquez and Hungrybox are still the only two players capable of beating Armada.

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Unicorns of Love entered the EU LCS in 2015

A brief, heart-breaking history of Unicorns of Love

With the 2017 EU LCS Regional Qualifiers finished, Europe has chosen three teams to represent them at the League of Legends World Championships, and the Unicorns of Love is not one of them. This seems to be their destiny. UOL is always good enough to be a contender, but never good enough to be the champion. They have always had a shot at Worlds, but never reached it. They have made it into the gauntlet thrice, and lost out all three times. Here is a brief look at how the Unicorns got here, and why it is so heart-breaking.

2015

Unicorns of Love qualified for the EU LCS in 2015

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Unicorns of Love entered the LCS in 2015 by defeating Millenium in the 2015 Spring Promotion tournament. UOL was promoted, while Millenium was relegated. Their roster included Kiss “Vizicsacsi” Tamás top, Berk “Gilius” Demir jungle, Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage mid, Pontus “Vardags” Dahlblom AD carry and Zdravets “Hylissang” Galabov support. After Millenium took a 2-0 lead, the Unicorns were able to reverse sweep the series, winning 3-2. This was the beginning of the Unicorns’ legacy as wildcards in the EU LCS.

Coming into the 2015 Spring Split, UOL replaced Gilius with a new jungler, Mateusz “Kikis” Szkudlarek. Kikis was known for his pocket picks in the jungle, such as Sion, Gnar or Shaco. In their debut split, UOL finished with a 9-9 record to secure fifth place and qualify for playoffs. PowerOfEvil was the only player in the league to be the weekly MVP more than once (weeks four and eight).

In Spring Playoffs, the Unicorns had to face fourth place, Gambit Gaming. UOL took them down 3-1, moving them into semifinals against number one seed SK Gaming. In a massive upset, UOL won that best-of-five 3-2. This win brought them to their first playoff finals within their first split, facing second seed Fnatic. The Unicorns took it all the way to five games, but fell short to finish in second place and tally 70 championship points.

UOL came into the 2015 Summer Split carrying momentum. They swapped Gilius back into the jungle role, while Kikis went to G2 (then Gamers2). In almost identical fashion, the Unicorns finished the split 9-9, but placed fourth. Gilius left the team going into playoffs, leaving Cho “H0R0” Jae-hwan as their starting jungler.

Summer Playoffs put UOL against Roccat first, who they defeated 3-2. The victory pushed them into an even tougher semifinals match-up versus an undefeated Fnatic. Getting skunked 3-0, UOL was forced into the third place match with H2K. A win here would send UOL to Worlds as Europe’s second seed, assuming Fnatic won in the finals. However, H2K crushed UOL in another 3-0, and Fnatic won the finals, sending UOL to their first EU LCS gauntlet.

Luckily, UOL’s 110 total championship points entitled them to a full bye in the Regional Qualifiers. Giants, Roccat and Origen would have to fight each other before meeting UOL in the final. Origen, a line-up that would go on to finish top four at the 2015 World Championships, made it to the gauntlet finals and took down UOL in a final 3-0. The Unicorns’ 2015 season would end there.

2016

Unicorns of Love replaced three starters for 2016

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Coming into 2016, Unicorns of Love decided to replace three of their five starters. Danil “Diamondprox” Reshetnikov and Pierre “Steelback” Medjaldi signed as their jungler and AD carry, previously of Gambit. Hampus “Fox” Myhre stepped into the mid lane from SK Gaming. Vizicsacsi and Hylissang remained UOL’s top and support.

UOL went through the 2016 Spring Split like past splits. They finished with a 10-8 record, showing strength against teams below them and weakness against teams above them. Most of their problems revolved around the jungle position. Starting in week three, Diamondprox had to leave Europe, due to visa issues. UOL borrowed Millenium’s jungler, Charly “Djoko” Guillard, as a temporary replacement. In week four UOL brought in Rudy “Rudy” Beltran, an unknown player, who was replaced in week seven by ex-H2K Jean-Victor “Loulex” Burgevin. These jungle player rotations hindered UOL’s ability to compete against more stable rosters.

This inconsistency came to a head in the Spring Playoffs when fourth seed Origen defeated the Unicorns 3-0 in the quarterfinals. UOL’s split ended in fifth-sixth, granting only 10 championship points. It was a disappointing placement that demanded change for the Summer Split.

In the mid-season, Unicorns of Love brought in two Korean imports to play jungle and AD carry. Kang “Move” Min-su came into the EU LCS after most recently playing for Gravity in North America. Kim “Veritas” Kyoung-min had played for Vortex, a North American Challenger team. UOL also signed Fabian “Exileh” Schubert, a mid laner with history on several European Challenger teams. Riot also changed the EU LCS regular season to a best-of-two format.

These changes did not seem to affect Unicorns’ consistency much. If anything, it hindered their performance. UOL finished the regular season Summer Split in sixth place with a 6-5-7 record. This line-up was clearly better than tenth through seventh places, but also a step below first through fifth. The Unicorns would go into playoffs as underdogs.

Once there, UOL was able to take down third seed Giants 3-1. Moving into semifinals, UOL had to face an undefeated G2. The Unicorns lost 3-1, which sent them into their second third place match against H2K. Winning 3-1, H2K pushed UOL into the Regional Qualifiers for the second year in a row.

With only 50 championship points, Unicorns of Love found themselves in a difficult position. Giants, Fnatic and Splyce stood in their way of going to Worlds. UOL defeated Giants and Fnatic 3-0, propelling them forward into the gauntlet finals again. 2016 looked like UOL’s redemption. Sadly, Splyce took the series 3-2, keeping the Unicorns out of Worlds for another year.

2017

Unicorns of Love signed Xerxe and Samux for 2017

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

This third year has been Unicorns of Love’s third opportunity to go to Worlds. In an off-season full of roster swaps, UOL made some questionable changes. Bringing in European veterans in Spring 2016 did not bring the success they wanted. Korean imports in Summer 2016 was not fruitful, either. For Spring 2017, the Unicorns brought in two low-profile Europeans, Andrei “Xerxe” Dragomir and Samuel “Samux” Fernández Fort. Xerxe had played for Dark Passage in the TCL, but could not participate in the International Wildcard Qualifiers, due to his age. Samux had played once in the LCS in 2012, but was quickly relegated. He only played in the Challenger Series after that.

Riot further changed the EU LCS format to have two groups that play best-of-threes each week. This format seemed to suit UOL, as they finished the Spring Split in first place for Group B with an 11-2 record. Topping their group afforded UOL a first round bye in the playoffs. They were met by Group A’s second seed, Misfits, who the Unicorns defeated 3-1 to qualify for the finals. This was their first playoff finals over five EU LCS splits. They met defending champions G2 and lost 3-1. UOL was granted 70 championship points.

For the first time since entering the LCS, Unicorns of Love did not change their roster between splits. The team seemed confident coming into the Summer Split with Vizicsacsi, Xerxe, Exileh, Samux and Hylissang. But the summer regular season was slightly worse than spring, mostly due to problems surrounding Exileh and the mid lane. UOL put up a 9-4 record, placing second in Group B behind H2K, based on game score.

Quarterfinals did not look to be much of a problem, as the Unicorns would face Group A’s third seed, Misfits. Unfortunately, UOL could not take a single game, and lost 0-3, ending their playoff run earlier than expected. UOL’s 90 total championship points put them behind Misfits and Fnatic. Unicorns would go to their third straight regional gauntlet.

The Unicorns sat in the second notch of the Regional Qualifiers, after H2K versus Splyce, but before Fnatic. H2K took the victory over Splyce, which meant they could face UOL in a critical moment, once again. In a nail-biter series, H2K secured the 3-2 win, spoiling the Unicorns’ chances of representing Europe at Worlds this year.

2018

 

What will Unicorns of Love do in 2018?

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

What will Unicorns of Love do between now and the 2018 season? Every member of this roster has shown promise in 2017. Vizicsacsi and Hylissang have been with this team since their induction in 2015. Coach Fabian “Sheepy” Mallant and manager-mascot Romain Bigeard have been staples, as well. Xerxe and Samux have solidified themselves as LCS talents. Exileh may have had a rough Summer Split, but his high points are unquestionable.

Like splits past, Riot has already announced major changes to the EU LCS format for 2018. The LCS will be split into four domestic leagues with a greater league running parallel. UOL has claimed their slot in Berlin, as reported by ESPN, with Roccat and Schalke 04. The current two-group format has treated the Unicorns well during the regular season. Maybe this update will too.

Regardless, the pink-and-white have made their mark on the EU LCS since joining in 2015. Despite falling short of Worlds year after year, UOL has cemented itself as a top contender in the regular season, playoffs and the gauntlet. European teams fear this organization as a competitor, because they know that UOL is destined for greatness. 2015 may not have been their year. 2016 may have been rocky. 2017 may have been heart-breaking. But who knows what 2018 may bring? Will falling short remain Unicorns of Love’s legacy, or will Love finally conquer?


Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr

Names, dates, etc.: Leaguepedia

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Redbull Gods and Gatekeepers: A fresh new idea with mixed results

Melee’s at a stage in its development where trying new things is not only fresh and new but necessary. Singles tournaments are great, but the audience needs something to keep them interested aside from singles. Crew tournaments could be that outlet.

Jason “Mew2King” Zimmerman showed us the potential of teams and how different compositions can work.

Yes, the M2K team was absolutely stacked: Shroomed, Duck, and Zhu create a rather tough opponent, but that wasn’t the main story coming out of Gods and Gatekeepers. No, the main story was the emergence of possibly the bigger underdog of the entire tournament.

Team SFAT. Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/redbullesports

Zac “SFAT” Cordoni passed up depth in favor of teaming with his best bud and doubles partner Kevin “PPU” Toy. Now those two are incredible players, but the addition of Army and Ryan Ford was seemingly their downfall. Logic would say the best team is deep and not relying on any one person or strategy (hence why M2K’s team won), but that’s the exact strategy SFAT employed to reach the Grand Finals in WINNERS.

Here’s how they did it:

According to the rules, if a set extends to a game five, it’s no longer a one-vs-one match and turns into a doubles match to decide the winner. The key for team SFAT was: by any means necessary, force other teams into a game five. Considering SFAT and PPU make up the best team in the world it seemed to be a solid strategy.

For this reason, SFAT’s team was able to pull off upset after upset and fall into winners finals and eventually grand finals. Two game five wins over Daniel “ChuDat” Rodriguez and Justin “Wizzrobe” Hallett’s teams propelled them to a second face finish. The struggles came when they got behind 2-0 in the set early and had to win out with bad matchups.

Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/redbullesports

However, M2K’s team, despite falling to Wizzrobe’s squad, didn’t have to rely on strategy. The four players on the team knew all it took was winning the individual matchups. Yes, teams could compete with them, but the overall talent was clearly a step above the rest of the competition.

The Upsets

However, the crew battles did something that no tournament has done in quite a long time. It evened the Melee playing field. It was a nice change of pace to see names not usually in the spotlight making huge plays.

Ice warming up. Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/redbullesports

 

The inspiring Marth play from Medz to upset team Mango 3-0. The doubles performance from ChuDat’s Ice Climbers and Weston “Westballz” Dennis to take out Leffen. Each of the top seeds fell in the first round – that’s something that has never happened in singles.

A team comprised of two fringe top-50 players almost won the entire event. Regardless of your opinion of the tournament format, there’s no denying it presented a myriad of surprising and fun results. I hope to see more of these types of tournaments in the future.


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Hungrybox busts out of his slump amid controversial and wild top 8

Shine 2017 was a microcosm of the year it’s been for Smash. It ended with a struggling Juan “Hungrybox” Debiedma breaking out of his slump and beating Jospeh “Mango” Marquez’s new found Falco. Prior to that matchup, the Sunday afternoon was filled with bedlam and plenty of controversies. It was a good time for everyone not named MattDotZeb or Leffen.

ChuDat and Leffen in set one. Photo via twitch.tv/vgbootcamp

The Controller Controversy

Now some might think the University of Central Florida (UCF) played a major role in a decision made by the Shine tournament organizers on Sunday. That was unfortunately not the case. In fact, all the controversy that has dominated the headlines comes from a new mod from the 20xx team that was made legal before the event started.

If you haven’t heard, William “Leffen” Hjelte lost an extremely close set to Daniel “ChuDat” Rodriguz in the top 8, but according to the tournament rules, the set had to be replayed because the Universal Controller Fix (UCF) was turned off during the set. It was a complete oversight by the Shine crew, but one that isn’t completely shocking considering this is one of the first events to run with UCF on during play.

In short, Leffen noticed that the UCF was off and went through the necessary channels to field his complaint. His complaint was heard and despite losing the set, the Shine organizers decided to replay the entire set – a decision that has since rocked the Smash community.

Unfortunately for ChuDat, this oversight was at the expense of his tournament placing. It not only erased one of the more exciting sets of 2017 but actively changed the results. Opinions aside, mistakes happen and though it was a pretty glaring omission, Chu decided to play the set out. And let’s remember, these players aren’t playing for fun. If it’s in the rules it must be handled accordingly.

S2J after beating Shroomed 3-0. Photo via twitch.tv/vgbootcamp

The Curse is broken

Changing the subject, let’s talk about the play at this event. Aside from a flurry of second round upsets, the emergence of Johnny “S2J” Kim was the real story. It’s not only that S2J was able to do the seemingly impossible, but the fact that he did it in the most impressive way imaginable.

Moreover, most people will walk away from this tournament remembering the image of S2J landing the knee on Yoshi’s Island top platform to finally beat Jason “Mew2King” Zimmerman. A week prior, I watched in amazement as S2J ran circles around Professor Pro in Europe. At Shine, that intense, mesmerizing speed showed up again and pushed S2J to his best major result ever.

It was a dazzling display of follow-ups, tech chases, and staying one step ahead of his opponents based off of his reaction timings. It was one of those moments where the sheer amazement of what a person was able to accomplish in the game boiled to the surface. The ending of the “curse” got one of the best crowd receptions all year and for good reason.

Hungrybox the slump buster

Finally, after a month of avoiding Hungrybox, the world got to see what character decision Mango would make in the matchup. Obviously, Mango has made a consorted effort to stick with the bird, but not having to face Hungrybox seemingly played into the decision. At Shine, all those questions were answered.

In light of Hungrybox struggling against the likes of Justin “Plup” McGrath and losing to M2K’s Fox, it was unclear when he would make his turn back into a top three. Any knowledgeable Smash fan would realize it was only a matter of time. It took a more conservative and focused effort but Hungrybox finally got back to his place on the pedestal.

On the other hand, Mango’s had another strong August. The return to Falco pushed that along, but with no Adam “Armada” Lindgren waiting in the shadows and a slumping Hungrybox, Mango had a little easier time maneuvering through the bracket. The first real test for his Falco finally presented itself: Hungrybox’s Jigglypuff.

Now conventionally, Falco hypothetically wins the Jigglypuff matchup. But, as we all know, Hungrybox has elevated Puff outside the modern meta-game. It no longer becomes a Jigglypuff matchup when facing the experience and skill of Hungrybox. Most pros, including Armada, believe Fox should be the pick for Mango, but others opinions have never influenced Mango before.

Mango stuck to his principles and didn’t switch off Falco until desperation time. At that point, it was too little too late, but there was more success in that matchup for Mango than with Falco. Mango didn’t do necessarily a bad job with Falco, but the limitations in Falco’s grab game and kill-setups were apparent. It was an important win for Hungrybox to get him back on the right track and should present Mango with another tough decision in their next meeting.


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Super Smash Bros Melee Evo 2017 odds

Evolution 2017 takes place next weekend in Las Vegas, Nevada, and in classic Vegas fashion I’m here to present the odds for Super Smash Brothers Melee. Of the 1,493 entrances, one of these players on the list below will be Evo champion. Will it be a past champion or a new name that takes the title?

9/4 Adam “Armada” Lindgren

It’s been a long time since anyone other than Armada was the favorite heading into an event. The two-time Evo champion is still amid the best year of his career. For Armada, he’s already accomplished the Melee gauntlet of tournament wins in his career. The lone achievement missing from his mantle is a third Evo title, or the “threevo.”

The 2017 tournament will be his second chance to obtain the illustrious third title that Hungrybox ripped out of his grasp in 2016. Armada will be focused and prepared. It will take an inhuman effort, like Hungrybox last year to take out Armada.

13/5 Juan “Hungrybox” Debiedma

Armada is the favorite, but Hungrybox has the most recent major victory between the two of them. Smash N’ Splash 3 presented another game five set and like Evo 2016, Hungrybox edged him out. If anything, Hungrybox will have the most momentum of any player. With the recent win and the fact that he’s a returning champion, Hungrybox must feel a wave of confidence.

The key match will not be with Armada, but with Mango. The play of Mango’s Fox could be a potential hurdle en route to another championship.

Armada and Hbox, Evo 2016. Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/evo2k

15/5 Joseph “Mango” Marquez

Mango has had two disappointing Evo performances in the last two years. After scraping out two Evo titles previously, much was expected of him the last couple of years and in both instances Hungrybox ended his run. It was a despairing couple of losses due to the anticipation of the “threevo,” which is a title not many fighting game players hold.

The reality is that Mango still has another Evo run inside him. His talents still show up, not as often as in previous years, but the potential to win is there. This aspect makes Mango such a dangerous player heading into this weekend.

6/1 Jason “Mew2King” Zimmerman

M2K is the one of the top four that has failed to win an Evo. Historically, Evo has been M2K’s worst major of the year. Some of his worst career performances have taken place at Evo. He’s never made it past a fifth-place finish. It’ll be another difficult year to break through for M2K, especially if Leffen plays up to par.

6/1 William “Leffen” Hjelte

Leffen is the wildcard once again. Recently, he’s given Armada some trouble and has pushed players like Hungrybox to their limits. Leffen rarely wins the tournament, but on any given day he’s capable of beating anyone. There’s not many players with the matchup prowess and understanding of Leffen.

18/1 Justin “Plup” McGrath

Plup is coming off a third-place finish at Evo 2016. A performance in which he took out Mango. Well, guess what? Plup will play Mango and his tournament success could ride on that matchup and if he can rewrite the history between him and Hungrybox.

25/1 Zac “SFAT” Cordoni

SFAT has cooled off a bit in 2017 after a breakout 2016, but the Fox player still has enough winnable matchups to get him over the top. SFAT avoids his problem matchups in M2K and Armada and will get ChuDat, Hungrybox and Mango. All players he’s had mild success against. If he can somehow get a win over a couple of these players, he could carry that momentum into the top 8.

30/1 Weston “Westballz” Dennis

The return of the extreme punish heavy Westballz has seemingly returned in 2017. The defense is still there, but now he’s starting to hit harder again with his Falco. He matches up with Leffen, who he has had close sets with in the past, but could run into some problems down the line.

30/1 Jeff “Axe” Williamson

Axe will have his hands full with Wizzrobe and Armada in bracket. He’ll have to play extremely well to have a shot at top 8 winners. The secret advantage Axe possesses is having the raucous Arizona crowd, which is in close proximity to the Vegas area, cheering for him.  Let’s see if Axe has the Evo main stage magic once again.

35/1 Justin “Wizzrobe” Hallett

Wizzrobe could be the one underdog to place your money on this weekend. It feels like a matter of time before he has another breakout performance. He can compete with the upper echelon players and he’s starting to win more of the 50-50 matchups. Wizzrobe now has the tournament experience necessary and is a threat to win an Evo.

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Featured image courtesy of twitch.tv/evo2k

A Series of Unfortunate Events – Maikelele

Maikel “Maikelele” Bill is a long-time professional Counter-Strike player. The storied pro comes from one of the Esport’s many homes in Sweden, and has recently joined rising stars and fellow countrymen on Red Reserve. For newer viewers unfamiliar with Maikelele, he has had a number of ups and downs throughout his career, finding himself in tough situations on multiple occasions. This article retells the Maikelele story.

NiP Era

After strong performances both offline and online with Team Orbit in early 2014, the Swede landed himself on the world-famous Ninjas in Pyjamas team. With the legendary lineup, he would open up with second place finishes at the major Dreamhack Winter as well as the X-Games. The team would go on to win their next event at ASUS Rog Winter before bombing out of the Pantamera Challenge. However, it came as a shock to many when Maikelele was cut from the team despite being a top performer at many of the events they attended.

Kinguin Era

Kinguin earned top 8 at ESL One Cologne. [Source: ESL]

Maikelele had nowhere to go. With the other top Swedish side Fnatic starting to garner results, it looked as if it was back to square one, but he had other ideas.

Teaming up with fellow castaway Adil “ScreaM” Benrlitom of Belgium, the two decided to form one of CS:GO’s first memorable international teams. Backed by the organization Kinguin, the team originally acquired Alexander “SKYTTEN” Carlsson, Ricardo “fox” Pacheco and Håvard “rain” Nygaard. Before quickly switching out SKYTTEN in favor of Dennis “Dennis” Edman for added firepower. The team saw instant results and earned legend status by reaching the quarter-finals of ESL One Cologne 2015.

Following the achievement, they won a tournament called Gaming Paradise. The irony is that the event turned out to be a total disaster. Plagued with player illnesses, delays and lack of funds to pay winning players. However, despite that, the international team still made a statement beating out Natus Vincere in the final. It was saddening for Maikelele that the win was rarely recognized due to the overshadowing issues.

 G2/FaZe Era

During their time together, the squad had accumulated a large following. This had caught the attention of the G2 owner who subsequently decided to pick the team up. They played the Dreamhack Cluj-Napoca major and had perhaps their best ever performance. The team was just a few rounds short of defeating eventual winners Team EnVyUs in the semi-finals. A heart-breaking loss but nonetheless a tournament to remember.

The continued rise to success attracted further attention, this time by Call of Duty titans FaZe Clan. It is rumored that the group of YouTubers paid big bucks for the CSGO team. The initial results weren’t great with the team finishing joint last at both IEM Katowice and MLG Columbus. This led to Maikelele’s second removal, this time from the team he had created from the ground up.

NiP/Dignitas

With his future uncertain, Maikelele decided to help out his former team NiP during their fifth, Jacob “pyth” Mourujärvi, absence. During this time the Ninjas gave Maikelele what they never could before. A premiere tournament win, they beat the French iteration of G2 convincingly in the grand final. He played three more events with the team and earned one more top four finish. However, the spot was only temporary and Pyth returned a month later.

After becoming a free agent again, Maikelele again created an international lineup, this time under Team Dignitas. Joining him for the second time would be Fox and Joakim “jkaem” Myrbostad, alongside former NiP coach Faruk “Pita” Pita, and North player Ruben “RUBINO” Villarroel. But thunder would strike twice. After just five competitive matches together, the team would drop him and Pita from the squad.

Current Stance

This brings us to the current moment in which Maikelele has found himself on up and coming Swedish lineup Red Reserve. The organization recently made its foray into esports with a European Call of Duty team. Originally signed as a substitute, Maikelele quickly improved results, winning them a small online tournament and helping them take second place at the GeForce Cup. Following the results, the team decided to sign him permanently.

Maikelele has had such a tumultuous career, however, I believe that he plays his best Counter-Strike when he’s having fun. Back in the loose style of NiP, he had the freedom to take the shots he wanted to play. He had fun making top eight at a major with the first successful international lineup in CSGO. And now he’ll have fun nurturing young Swedish stars.

You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles. Feature image courtesy of Dreamhack.

Mother’s Day Mango Wins Again at Royal Flush 2017

Mother’s Day Mango is one of the story lines you’d have to see to believe. Similarly to the Armada and Mango playing in Genesis Grand Finals, it felt like Joseph “Mango” Marquez was destined to win his fourth straight Mother’s Day tournament no matter what. Losers bracket Mango is one thing, but Mother’s Day Mango is the water of a broken dam coming down the hill.

Mango and Armada. Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/VGbootcamp

As for the Royal Flush Grand Finals, it was one for the ages and one we won’t forget watching anytime soon. It not only halted the most dominant six month stretch in Melee history coming from Adam “Armada” Lindgren, but also might have jump started Mango after a rough start to 2017. It was the strongest, most disciplined Mango performance since The Big House 6.

Mango’s 2017 has been filled with inconsistencies. One bad loss in the last couple months almost guaranteed a tilted Mango heading into losers bracket. His struggles with Daniel “ChuDat” Rodriguez have been well documented, but despite an early loss to Armada, Mango stayed focused and kept improving as the tournament went on.

Mothers Day Mango Winning Streak Moves to Four

The most peculiar stat coming out of Mango’s Royal Flush win was that it was his fourth straight Mother’s Day victory. Dating back to 2014 where he beat Juan “Hungrybox” DeBiemda to win Get On My Level. He continued the streak with a win at Press Start in 2015 and Dreamhack Austin in 2016.

Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/VGbootcamp

It’s remarkable what Mango has been able to accomplish on the day honoring mothers. In fact, his own mother is looked at as one of the moms of Melee. Snugaloo, as she’s known on twitter, is a rabid Mango supporter and won’t back down from anyone if they call her son out. Is this special bond driving Mango towards major success? YES.

Breaking Down Grand Finals

Regardless of the phenomena, Mango clearly made the proper adjustments mentally and physically to win Royal Flush. First off, the Fox pick, moving away from Falco, proved to be the right choice. Mango has been faithful to Falco since the start of 2017, but the inconsistent results show it might not be the best choice for him. Secondly, he had a more conservative game plan while still finding ways to be the aggressor.

Additionally, it was good to see Mango play more of a laser game, especially against Armada. He also did a great job of making it back to the stage and making Armada win more neutral exchanges which Mango had the clear advantage in. The most glaring improvement was Mango’s mental game.

In the grand finals set, Mango entered the last stock at a deficit in nearly every game. His more conservative game plan allowed him to chip away at Armada’s Peach, but more importantly he never got down on himself. Mango has struggled in the past to make comebacks against Armada, but today it looked like an entirely different player.

Finally, Mango found more creative ways to KO Armada. The laser game coupled with his run away style till about 60% led to the kill setups with Fox’s up-air. Mango used Peach’s weight to his advantage and linked plenty of aerials into up-air combo finishers, often times below 100% which is not the norm against Armada.

The question now is if Mango can replicate this performance? This win is sure to build up plenty of confidence within Mango, but let’s see if he can avoid complacency. The hope is we see Mother’s Day Mango make an appearance on other days.

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The Rising Stars of Super Smash Bros Melee

The field of Melee players is growing stronger year-by-year. The strength of the middle tier of players has improved the entire scene, and now relatively unknown players are starting to push the top-20 and forcing their name into the conversation.

For example, Sami “DruggedFox” Muhanna has become a premier player and a perennially top-10 player in Melee. For years, DruggedFox was known for being talented and knowledgeable, but with the uptick in his tournament appearances, his true skill is starting to show.

Justin “Wizzrobe” Hallett is another great example. He always had the hand speed but just needed more experience. He’s now looked at as

Photo courtesy of http://wiki.teamliquid.net/smash/File:KJH.jpg

a top-10 player in the game.

Even more examples include players like Edgar “N0ne” Sheleby, who’s pushing the limits of his character, along with James “Duck” Ma and James “Swedish Delight” Liu, who have also exploded into the top-15. All of these players made huge waves in the last year.

I looked through the rest of the top-100 and tried to pinpoint certain players with similar breakout performances with strong wins against top players. I came up with four names that are clearly on their way up. These names are familiar to Melee fans, but are somewhat unknown entities to the standard Smash community.

Kalindi “KJH” Henderson

The Michigan Fox main has made strides each of the last three years. He’s shown clear improvement in certain areas and has the ability to compete with the top-20. If anything, his start to 2017 has been very telling. Wins over the aforementioned Swedish Delight and Duck have him off to a hot start.

Furthermore, KJH has a tournament win under his belt (Fight Pitt 7) and his strongest showing ever at a super major (13th at Genesis 4). But even with the nice start, he has serious matchup issues he’ll need to work on. He is 1-11 against Fox players in the last two years. If he figures out the mirror matchup, watch out.

Justin “Syrox” Burroughs

The rise of Syrox has been well documented, with him showing up on Jospeh “Mang0” Marquez’s infamous stream and being in the public eye as of late. His talent is undeniable as he has big wins over a litany of top-20 players (wins over Westballz, Lucky, and N0ne in 2017).

Additionally, Syrox’s placings are starting to rise at tournaments. Despite his low Evo 2016 and Genesis 3 placings (65th in both), he’s starting to creep into top-20’s at larger tournaments (3rd at Flatiron 2). His month in Southern California has shown his ceiling is extremely high but he needs to add more tournament experience and learn floatie matchups.

Jack “Crush” Hoyt

The most apathetic player in Smash (or so it seems) looks to be anything but that in 2017. The Fox main who has always been a dominating force within the New England region is off to a strong start to the year. After a solid finish at BEAST 7, he looks like a prime candidate to make the jump this year.

He’s already off to a 25-8 start against top 100 players in 2017 after only getting 14 wins against the top 100 all of last year. He’s always had the skill set to be one of the better Fox players, but hasn’t been able to travel out-of-state much. More consistent attendance at tournaments are already starting to pay off from him early on.

Griffin “Captain Faceroll” Williams

The first on-Fox main on the list and a player who has been steadily rising in Southern California for the last year. It feels like only a matter of time before Faceroll gets a marquee win over a top-20 player at a major.

Any player that can roll into a region like Southern California and have the kind of success Faceroll had last year has to be brimming with talent. He has good numbers against the players near his skill level but has only a few wins against players above him. If he can add in more mixups and improve on an already solid edge guard game with Sheik, he can be a real threat to the top-20 in 2017.

Honorable mentions: Slox, Drunk Sloth, and Squid


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Plup’s Luigi Pleases the Crowd at CEO: Dreamland; Mew2King Takes Home Top Prizes

The CEO: Dreamland win for Jason “Mew2King” Zimmerman was impressive. He beat top seeded Juan “Hungrybox” DeBiedma, overcoming a 2-4 2017 record against Hbox. The bounce back win was a great story, but it took a back seat to the rise of Luigi.

The last month for Justin “Plup” McGrath was not spent playing Melee. Plup, being a top-10 player, spent the last couple weeks traveling across South Korea and focusing on anything but Melee. In his first tournament back, the readiness and performance was in question. Then, late Saturday night, Plup sent out this tweet:

In light of this tweet, Plup took to the CEO ballroom floor and proceeded to turn heads with a character most people would say couldn’t win a major. Plup’s Luigi was assumed a gimmick when the day started, but no one was thinking that at the end of the day.

Furthermore, Plup took out Michael “Nintendude” Brancato and Sami “DruggedFox” Muhanna, proving early on his Luigi was for real. He made it into a winners semifinal at a major by going all Luigi. It’s a rare sight seeing Luigi anywhere near Top 8. Stephen “Abate” Abate was the first Luigi to make a deep run at The Big House 5 where he almost brought the venue down with his win over Johnny “S2J” Kim (the invisible celing set). The play of Ben “Luigikid” Tolan making deep runs at SSS, and Eduardo “Eddy Mexico” Lucatero Rincon help legitimize Luigi with strong wins in Southern California.

The best part is Plup has no recorded tournament sets with Luigi, so in his first try he finished fifth. He gave the eventual champion, M2K, a ride before the inevitable readjustments coming from M2K’s counter pick of Marth from Sheik.

SFAT Loses the Runback

SFAT and M2K. Photo courtesy of YouTube.com/vgbootcamp

It’s rarer than rare to see a performance similar to Zac “SFAT” Cordoni’s at CEO: Dreamland. The only other player with similar results that come to mind is William “Leffen” Hjelte who has beaten multiple gods before he was considered one himself. SFAT is slowly developing those next level mind games to be able to compete with the likes of M2K and Hungrybox.

Despite a 2-16 lifetime record against M2K for SFAT, he entered grand finals up 3-2 in sets against a player who’s absolutely had his number. All signs pointed to SFAT winning his first major with Gods in attendance. But, as history has shown us before, never count out any of the Gods to get the reset win in grand finals.

M2K, who lost in game 5 against SFAT in winners finals, made key adjustments and played better on Final Destination. Two of the best players statistically on Final Destination played four games on the flat stage. The count was 2-2, but M2K took back stage control and forced his will on SFAT’s Fox.

Unfortunately, SFAT ran into M2K who has historically had his number. The southern California Fox main is creeping into the title conversation. He’s real close to breaking the ceiling, but M2K wasn’t going to let that happen at CEO: Dreamland.

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