The Hangzhou Spark came out of Week 3 with a 2-2 record, keeping things even for the time being. Despite falling to the San Francisco Shock, people have noted that they’re becoming more organized and showing glimmers of potential against the tougher teams in the league. This week, the Spark hit the road, heading to Texas to take part in the Dallas Fuel Homestand. If they find the edge they need this weekend, they could very well find themselves a playoffs spot this stage.
Guangzhou Charge (1-5)
The Spark and the Charge fought hard, hoping to prove themselves the stronger of the two electric teams. Both teams excelled on defense especially, forcing the attacker to scrap hard for any footing. The series came to a fifth map, but the Spark ultimately came out on top. However, the match proved more notable for the Charge, who finally broke their map loss streak and eventually rode that momentum to their first win of the stage over the Atlanta Reign.
San Francisco Shock (5-0)
The Shock came into week 3 looking just as dominant as ever, and the Spark couldn’t do much to slow them down. Despite the scoreline, however, the Spark put up a good fight, forcing the Shock to work for their wins on Lijiang Tower and Paris, especially. San Francisco took a 4-0 victory, but Hangzhou attracted some attention for what many called an improved performance.
Player of the Week: Kyeong-bo “GodsB” Kim
It’s not much of an exaggeration to say GodsB won the Spark quite a few of their team fights this week. His patient Zarya play took the heat off of his team’s flashier playmakers, enabling them to do what they do best. He also showed off a knack for using his Graviton Surge to keep his opponents where he needed them, as opposed to using it to set up ultimate combos.
Most notably, he caught the Guangzhou Charge in a high-ground grav on Watchpoint: Gibraltar, allowing his team to finish the map uncontested. GodsB’s team-focused playstyle has cemented him as part of the Hangzhou core, and this week gave him a chance to show off why.
Opponent 1: Chengdu Hunters (2-2)
The Hunters have captured hearts with their unconventional Hero picks, and they’ve shown that, for the most part, they can make those Hero picks work. However, it seems that other teams are starting to see through the surprise factor. Both the Shanghai Dragons and the Los Angeles Gladiators seemed to have the Hunters’ number in their recent matchups, pulling 3-1 victories. If the Spark avoid getting caught off-guard, they could follow suit.
The good news for Hangzhou is that they have time to prepare for Chengdu’s unusual compositions. At this point, the Spark know that the Hunters will likely run a Wrecking Ball, a Pharah, and an emergency Torbjörn here and there. Chengdu might keep things interesting on stage, but they’re not nearly as unpredictable as they were in Stage 1. If Hangzhou goes in ready to counter some more eccentric Hero choices, they can come out on top.
Prediction: Hangzhou wins 3-2
Opponent 2: Paris Eternal (2-2)
Early-stage changes to the Eternal’s starting lineup put them in a position to have a better run in Stage 2. They’ve faltered a bit since then, however, falling to the Dallas Fuel and fighting harder than some might expect for their win over the Florida Mayhem. They had a bye week during week 3, putting them at a slight advantage due to their chance to focus on their weekend games in Dallas. They’ll start off with an arguably more difficult match against the London Spitfire, meaning that their sights are likely more set on defeating Hangzhou.
Paris still tends to lean into the 3-3 composition they know best, although they’ve moved away from relying on it. Though Hangzhou’s 3-3 has improved over the season, they’ll still most likely struggle if the fight comes down to mirror compositions. Instead, their ticket to win over Paris is to force them into compositions they struggle on. The Eternal do their best when they control the pace of the fight; if the Spark can take that advantage from them, it’ll give them plenty of room to make the big plays they need.
Prediction: Hangzhou wins 2-1
Player to Watch: Cai “Krystal” Shilong
Bringing Krystal into the fold has done wonders for the Spark so far. The DPS player comfortably flexes between standard damage dealers and support whenever he needs to, and he excels on both. For both of Hangzhou’s matches this weekend, Krystal’s skill and flexibility could be just what the team needs. He could give the Spark the same surprise factor that previously gave Chengdu the edge, while he could prove a disruption to any plans the Eternal have. If Hangzhou enables him, he could make some major plays; in any case, he always keeps things interesting when he’s on the stage.
The Spark make their Texas debut on April 27, when they take on the Chengdu Hunters. Be sure to tune in to see if they can kick off the Homestand Weekend with a bang.
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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