Last week proved wildly unpredictable for the Overwatch League, with several teams pulling off massive upsets. Unfortunately for the Hangzhou Spark, this translated into a difficult week. The Spark come out of Week 2 winless, abruptly dropping from the top of the standings to the middle of the pack. They don’t have time to dwell on their losses, though, as they’ll face some fearsome opponents in Week 3 as well. Can they pull themselves back into a contending spot in the league? That all depends on how they handle the challenges ahead.
Houston Outlaws (1-3)
After such a strong first week, many people considered Week 2 a fairly easy run for the Spark. High expectations made it that much more surprising when the Houston Outlaws showed up in full and took them down. Despite an otherwise sluggish season from Houston so far, they provided a dominant performance on Busan and Temple of Anubis, picking apart the Spark’s mistakes and punishing them every time. Though Hangzhou took Dorado with ease and put up much more of a fight on King’s Row, the Outlaws were generally able to outplay them. Houston took a 3-1 victory over the Spark.
London Spitfire (2-2)
Hangzhou didn’t fare much better against the London Spitfire, who finally got their groove back after a difficult first week. Faced with a team that seems to have returned to their season 1 form, the Spark struggled to gain any advantage, leading to quick Spitfire victories on Ilios and Horizon Lunar Colony. They did give London more trouble on Numbani, and pulled off another Dorado victory, preventing an all-out shutout. However, the Overwatch League’s reigning champions seem to have worked out their problems, and the Spark weren’t ready to face that. The London Spitfire took a 3-1 victory.
Player of the Week: Kyeong-bo “GodsB” Kim
GodsB’s flexibility between off-tank and DPS roles continues to serve the Spark well, and he often stands out no matter what position he’s playing. This week, he gave the Outlaws a fair deal of trouble by breaking out Pharah, and also appeared more than comfortable on Zarya when Hangzhou defaulted to a 3-3 composition. GodsB is quickly establishing himself among the Spark’s core players. If he continues to improve throughout the season, he could become one of the team’s most renowned players.
Opponent 1: San Francisco Shock (1-2)
Despite their record, the Shock have had a solid start to their season. Many consider them to be one of the strongest teams in the league in terms of sheer individual talent. With the formerly suspended Min-Ki “Viol2t” Park free to play again, San Francisco is back to their full strength. Even after losses to the Vancouver Titans and the Los Angeles Gladiators, they’ve shown that they’re a team who will never go down without a fight. Hangzhou can expect to face a strong, organized team that’s hungry for victory, and they need to answer that with the same energy.
Beyond talent alone, the Shock have several players with a strong mind for the game. Support player Grant “moth” Espe has demonstrated a particular talent for reading the team fight and responding just in time. Their most recent match also saw Jay “sinatraa” Won quickly figuring out the Titans’ mind games and playing a few of his own. After being notably outplayed by the Outlaws on Temple of Anubis last week, the Spark need to make sure something similar doesn’t happen again. In order to stand strong against the Shock, they’ll need to keep their cards close and play smart, avoiding giving away strategies early enough for their opponent to figure them out. San Francisco will be a difficult opponent to take down, but if Hangzhou can read the fight just as well, they’ll stand a chance.
Prediction: San Francisco wins 3-1
Opponent 2: Los Angeles Gladiators (1-2)
The Gladiators ride in the same boat as the Shock in terms of record and performance. Despite their most recent loss to the Paris Eternal, they did pull of a win and a draw, demonstrating that they won’t get rolled over by one of the highest-performing expansion teams in the league. This week also marks the eighteenth birthday of their highly anticipated DPS pickup, Gui-un “Decay” Jang. Regardless of whether they bring Decay out this week, his eligibility gives the Gladiators more room to work with than what they’ve had with Riku “Ripa” Toivanen suspended and Aaron “Bischu” Kim sick.
The Spark have proven ready and able to flex compositions so far, but they need to be prepared for similar tactics from the Gladiators. A talented and experienced roster, bolstered by the flexibility of Lane “Surefour” Roberts, often allows the Gladiators to succeed with some unusual strategies. Although the two teams seem fairly evenly matched in terms of individual talent, Los Angeles’ unpredictability frequently works out for them. In order to gain the edge, Hangzhou should hit the stage ready to understand and counter whatever the Gladiators throw at them.
Prediction: Los Angeles wins 3-2
Player to Watch: Da-un “NoSmite” Jeong
Whether it’s his familiarity with his fellow X6 alumni or his willingness to play a variety of tanks, NoSmite has been seeing plenty of playtime as Hangzhou’s main tank. His one-to-one matchups this week should be particularly interesting, as he faces down some talented main tanks. In particular, seeing him go up against Chang-hoon “rOar” Gye of the Los Angeles Gladiators should prove especially entertaining. Keep an eye on NoSmite this week to see how he takes on these head-to-head fights.
Bonus Player to Watch: Sang-hyun “SASIN” Song
SASIN has been hanging out among the Hangzhou players for a while now, but the Spark officially announced his addition to the roster last week. Described as an off-tank/DPS flex, SASIN is best known for his time with Korean Contenders team Foxes, where he specialized in projectile heroes.
With some talented off-tank and DPS players already representing Hangzhou, it remains to be seen just where SASIN will fit in. He could potentially be a development project for the Spark, building his skills off-stage and subbing in as needed. As Hangzhou’s first pickup since they announced their official roster, though, he’s definitely worth keeping an eye out for.
The Spark’s season continues on February 28, when they face the San Francisco Shock. Tune in to see what they pull off this week!
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 Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment.
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