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Overwatch League Recap: Hangzhou Spark vs. Houston Outlaws

Outlaws 3-1 Spark

The Hangzhou Spark headed into Week 2 off of the momentum of a successful first week, and they hoped to keep that energy alive. For most observers, it seemed like a straightforward matchup – they would start the week by facing the Houston Outlaws, who appeared to be struggling after losses to the Toronto Defiant and Boston Uprising. The Spark, in comparison, looked organized, deadly, and ready to take on the league. It seemed like a no-brainer.

But it was far from the easy match that most fans expected. In keeping with a week of absolutely bizarre upsets, the Outlaws finally took their first win of the season, pulling out a clean 3-1 victory over the Spark.

Busan: Houston 2-0 Hangzhou

Courtesy of Gamepedia.

Houston rolled out strong on Sanctuary, allowing their players to flex onto the heroes they’re best known for. Jiri “LiNkzr” Masalin returned to form on Widowmaker, bolstering the fight with crucial picks throughout the round. Hangzhou appeared unprepared for the deadly sniping, and struggled to gain even temporary control of the point. Houston made it through with little resistance, and took the map.

The Outlaws’ dominant performance continued on MEKA Base. Austin “Muma” Wilmot demonstrated the practice he’s put in on Wrecking Ball, leading the way as Houston held control of the point. Despite the Spark’s best efforts, the Outlaws pushed them back again and again, breezing through the round. Houston held full control of MEKA Base, and took the map 2-0.

King’s Row: Houston 5-4 Hangzhou

Outlaws off-tank Alexandre “SPREE” Vanhomwegen and Spark main tank Xu “guxue” Qiulin joined the fight in the dark streets of King’s Row, subbing in for LiNkzr and Da-un “NoSmite” Jeong respectively. On their first offense, Houston easily pushed through the first point, leaving them ready to take on the long push to the end. Hangzhou was able to regroup shortly after, however, giving the Outlaws far more resistance to deal with. A standout performance from Kyeong-bo “GodsB” Kim on Zarya led the way in the Spark’s defense, slowing Houston down even as they managed to work through the map. Eventually, however, the Outlaws did manage to break through, finishing the map with a little under a minute remaining.

The Spark’s offense proved much more formidable at first. They quickly shattered the Outlaws’ first defense, clearing point A without a second thought. The onslaught continued through point B, with practically nothing stopping the Spark from rolling on. Houston managed to slow them down a bit on the last push, refusing to go down without a fight. Ultimately, however, guxue’s timely shatters led the way, and the Spark completed the map with a bigger time bank.

Despite having little time to spare, the Outlaws proved ready to take on their second offense. They made the most of their time bank, plowing through point A and pushing the payload well towards point B. However, a notorious Self Destruct from Seong-wook “Ria” Park stopped them in their tracks, wiping out the tank line and giving the rest of the team space to clean up. The payload stopped shortly before point B.

Houston kept their momentum going into their second defense. They managed to hold point A into overtime before another timely Self Destruct from Ria broke through, giving the Spark the edge they needed to start their last-second push. They didn’t get very far, however – a perfectly-timed Earthshatter-Self Destruct combo from Muma and SPREE made short work of them. Houston took the map, and headed to halftime with a 2-0 lead.

Temple of Anubis: Houston 4-3 Hangzhou

Hangzhou started their third map on defense. Some interesting rotations in the beginning left both teams unsure of each other, and they held together in a stalemate while the clock ticked down. Eventually, however, the Outlaws took advantage of some overextensions on the Spark’s side, shoving their way through and taking point A. Houston moved quickly towards point B, punishing Hangzhou for every misstep as they tried to regroup. The Outlaws quickly finished out the map.

The Spark responded by changing things up on offense. With GodsB on Pharah and Hyeong-Geun “Revenge” An on Soldier: 76, Hangzhou took the Outlaws off-guard, poking holes in their defense and taking point A with ease. Point B gave them a bit more trouble, as Houston had an easier time regrouping for the defense. In the end, however, a well-timed Graviton Surge held the Outlaws off the point, leaving them helpless as the Spark completed the map.

Hangzhou ran the same DPS-heavy composition for their second offense, which somehow still managed to surprise Houston. Once again, they swarmed the Outlaws in terms of sheer damage, pushing them back and claiming the first point. Unfortunately, the time bank proved the enemy, and the Spark couldn’t keep up the momentum. Houston stopped them in their tracks, keeping point B firmly out of reach.

On their second offense, Houston played a clever game with Hangzhou’s supports. By baiting them with their rotations, they forced the entire backline out of position and eliminated them, giving the Outlaws plenty of room to take point A. That was all they needed to push through, playing quickly and methodically to split up the Spark. Houston claimed the first tick on point B, and took the map 4-3.

Dorado: Hangzhou 1-0 Houston

Courtesy of Gamepedia.

With the series lost and nothing more to lose, Hangzhou opted to play aggressively for their last showdown. From the beginning, they forced Houston as close to spawn as they could, refusing to budge. Although the Outlaws eventually made it past the first choke point, massive Earthshatters from NoSmite halted their progress again and again. Even when it seemed that Houston might take the first point, the Spark burst back in once more, as if sending a last-minute message that they still won’t be ignored.

Keeping up the ferocity, Hangzhou blasted through their round on offense. In an inspiring push that could only have served them well if they had demonstrated it from the beginning, the Spark moved through the streets of Dorado as if Houston wasn’t even there. In a quick final map, Hangzhou took Dorado, preventing an outright 4-0 loss.

The Win Streak Ends

Hangzhou’s loss to the Outlaws marks the end of a solid winning streak. In a week full of upset victories, this comes as less of a surprise than it could have. It’s difficult to determine what exactly revitalized Houston, as they came onto the stage looking very different than they have so far. The Spark can only brush themselves off, learn from their mistakes, and keep on moving forward. If there’s one thing to learn from this match, and from this weekend in general, it’s that anything is possible in the Overwatch League.

The Hangzhou Spark return to the stage on February 24, when they take on the London Spitfire. Tune in to see how they regain their footing!

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Follow Darby on Twitter @soundchecck! She is happy to talk about anything she’s written! You can also get in touch with her on Discord (soundchecck#7242).

Featured image courtesy of the Hangzhou Spark.

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