The Hangzhou Spark struggled to find their footing in the first week of Stage 2, falling to the Vancouver Titans in their only match of the week. With a difficult stage ahead of them, they need to regroup quickly and take on their Week 2 match with clear heads and plenty of energy. It’s time to take a look at the week ahead and see if the Spark can get back on track.
Vancouver Titans (1-0)
The Titans continue to look downright dominant, and few fans expected the Spark to take them down. Still, Hangzhou didn’t go down without a fight. With strong showings on King’s Row and Watchpoint: Gibraltar, they stood up to Vancouver throughout the series, leading to a hard fight. Casters noted that while the Spark might have the advantage in terms of individual talent, Vancouver certainly has the stronger synergy, and it showed. The Titans can regroup and stabilize in ways that few other teams can match, and that teamwork gave them the edge in the end. Vancouver closed out the series with a 4-0 victory over the Spark.
Player of the Week: Seong-wook “Ria” Park
Though Ria only joined the fray mid-way through the series, he proved a consistent force for the second half. His Self Destructs enabled a few crucial team fights, while his balance between aggression and restraint meshes well with his team’s playstyle. Ria established himself as part of the Spark’s core during Stage 1, and his performance this week indicated that fans can expect to see much more of him in the season ahead.
Opponent: Boston Uprising (2-0)
The Uprising have shattered predictions so far this season. Despite several roster shuffles, a touch of trade drama between stages, and general low expectations from their audience, they’ve weathered every storm thrown their way, making it to Stage 1 playoffs and starting Stage 2 off strong. The Spark will need to ensure they don’t underestimate their opponents this week, or they risk adding yet another reverse-sweep victory to the Uprising’s record.
Boston is becoming more and more difficult to bet against – they’ve done an excellent job integrating new pickup Richard “rCk” Kanerva into the fold, creating a solid team with plenty of potential for another playoffs run. Still, as impressive as their reverse-sweep record is, their tendency to go to map five indicates that they’re not unbeatable. Here, the Spark can gain an edge if they enable their star players as best they can.
Building their strategies around major playmakers like Ria, Xu “guxue” Qiulin and Ho-jin “iDK” Park allows for those players to do what they do best. If the Spark can give those players a chance to shine, they’ll ensure that their strongest players win the crucial head-to-head matchups against their Boston counterparts.
Prediction: Boston wins 3-2
Player to Watch: Sang-hyun “SASIN” Song
The Spark quietly picked up SASIN in the beginning of the season, giving him plenty of time to mesh with the team before he debuted against the Titans. Though they eventually swapped him out for Ria’s more consistent D.Va play, SASIN still stood out quite a bit on Pharah, hinting that he might see some more play time in the future. If both Hangzhou and Boston utilize DPS heroes this week, SASIN will go up against Kelsey “Colourhex” Birse, a flexible player whose Widowmaker captured plenty of attention last week. The resulting DPS showdown will definitely be worth keeping an eye on.
The Spark return to the stage on April 12, when they take on the Boston Uprising. Tune in to see if they can deliver the Uprising’s first loss of the stage.
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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