After a tough start to the stage, the Hangzhou Spark found their groove this week. With their victory over the Boston Uprising, they’ve established an even 1-1 record that they’ll no doubt look to improve. Hungry for a shot at playoffs and facing off against tough opponents as the stage progresses, the Spark will hit Week 3 looking to continue a steady climb up the rankings.
Boston Uprising (2-1)
The Uprising have been looking better and better since their recent changes, so the Spark would need to bring a competitive game to the table if they wanted to bring them down. To the surprise of many, Hangzhou took the opportunity to debut DPS player Shilong “Krystal” Cai, who stood out on the two maps he played. The two teams went the distance, forcing the match to a third round on map five. In the end, however, the Spark came out on top, earning a much needed 3-2 victory.
Player of the Week: Shilong “Krystal” Cai
Krystal made the most of his first time on the Overwatch League stage. Whether he was melting the Uprising as Bastion or shield-bashing his way to victory on Brigitte, he spent plenty of time lighting up the kill feed. It remains to be seen if the Spark decide to fully integrate him into the starting roster, especially considering ongoing rumors that the Uprising hope to pick him up. If Hangzhou opts to build around him, however, they might just have a young playmaker on their hands.
Opponent 1: Guangzhou Charge (0-4)
The scheduling odds have not been in Guangzhou’s favor this stage. After a surprising sweep at the hands of the Paris Eternal, they faced the San Francisco Shock twice in a row before taking on the Los Angeles Gladiators. As a result, they have yet to pick up a single map in stage 2. Facing what they no doubt consider an easier opponent in the Spark, the Charge will hit the stage hungry for a victory. Despite their record so far, the last thing Hangzhou wants to do is underestimate them.
For all of their struggles this stage, the Charge still have plenty of individual talent, particularly in their DPS lineup. As the meta slowly shifts and allows for new compositions, players like Jung-woo “Happy” Lee could see more opportunities to really shine. In order to ensure their victory, the Spark will need to go in prepared for anything. The Charge likely know that the Spark can beat them in a standard 3-3 matchup, so they could take the opportunity to try and trip up their opponent with some unusual compositions. As long as Hangzhou doesn’t get caught off guard, they should come out on top.
Prediction: Hangzhou wins 3-1
Opponent 2: San Francisco Shock (3-0)
After going head-to-head with the Vancouver Titans in Stage 1 finals, the Shock have claimed their place among the best teams in the league right now. The last time they played against the Spark, they pulled off a dominant 3-1 victory, and they’ve only gotten harder to beat since then. The Spark undoubtedly have their work cut out for them if they want to win this time around, but it would do wonders for their reputation if they can pull it off.
In their stage 1 matchup, San Francisco had the Spark’s number, easily reading their strategies and stopping them in their tracks. In order to avoid a repeat, Hangzhou needs to be able to adjust their plan without losing momentum. Beating a team as organized and mechanically gifted as the Shock comes down to weathering whatever strategy they throw out and meeting it head-on. If the Spark stay focused and motivated despite the odds, they can stop their opponent from outplaying them and get the headway they need.
Prediction: San Francisco wins 3-1
Player to Watch: Ho-jin “iDK” Park
As Hangzhou’s Lúcio specialist, iDK has proven a consistently strong part of the team’s core. The match against Boston gave him a chance to stand out even more, however, as many observers credit his performance on Lijiang Tower as game-changing for the Spark. Beyond next week giving him a chance to keep showing off, his matchups next week allow him to go up against the Charge’s Jung-yeon “Chara” Kim and the Shock’s Grant “moth” Espe. Chara has often stood out due to his aggressive, quick-thinking Lúcio play, while moth has developed a reputation for excellent game sense and a patient playstyle. Keep an eye on the support lines this week for some fascinating head-to-heads – no doubt, they’ll all be looking for some impressive boops.
The Hangzhou Spark take the stage on April 19, when they face the Guangzhou Charge. Be sure to tune in to see if they can keep up the momentum from last 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 the Hangzhou Spark.
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