Stage two has already reached week four and the grind for the playoffs begin now. This week of matches will make-or-break certain teams chances in a razor-thin race. Seven teams sit in contention of the last and final playoff spot with the Los Angeles Gladiators currently holding that three seed with a 4-2 record (17-0-7 set). The Seoul Dynasty enter the week undefeated but have a daunting week of matches ahead of them.
Seoul Dynasty Enter Death Week Undefeated
The Dynasty has a major opportunity (or the misfortune, based on who you ask) to secure their spot as the number one seed in stage two in week four. The two, stage one finalists, match up with the Dynasty this week and after a lackluster stage one for the Dynasty, it’s their chance to get back in the conversation of the best overall team.
Important to realize is the fact that the two losses to both the London Spitfire (4-0) and New York Excelsior (3-2), derailed the Dynasty’s stage one hopes and gave both teams momentum heading into the last few weeks. The Spitfire sweeping the Seoul Dynasty felt like a death blow at the time and could be something still hanging over their heads heading into week four. However, the Dynasty has returned to form and look stronger than ever. They’ve yet to be challenged.
In the same vein, the NYXL have the opportunity to overtake the Dynasty and regain their spot on the top of the standings. Both teams head into the week four matches with an impressive positive in-game differential. In stage two, the Dynasty and Excelsior have looked a few steps ahead of every other team. The classic match between these two teams in stage one sets the stage for another highly anticipated set.
Furthermore, the stage one champions, London Spitfire, need to keep pace with these teams and the three seed LA Gladiators. A win over the Dynasty would set them up nicely and keep them in the race for a one seed. The stage one shellacking of the Seoul Dynasty at the hands Hong “Gesture” Jae-hee and the Spitfire’s swarming team defense might give the advantage on paper, but let’s not pretend that was a one-off loss. GC Busan’s success over Lunatic-Hai dates back to Apex season four, but in light of Ryu “Ryujehong” Je-hong looking scary in the new meta, it feels like anyone’s game.
Los Angeles Gladiators vs. Houston Outlaws
Outside of the Dynasty, the matchup between the two upstart teams in stage two will be the marquee match of week four. The Gladiators have quickly redefined their play in stage two and the contributions of Baek “Fissure” Chan-hyung have completely changed every aspect of the Gladiators attack. In a short time playing in a starting lineup, Fissure is back to playing at an MVP type level and helping everyone around him. The Gladiators are playing with confidence and poise and it’s showing.
On the flip side, the Houston Outlaws have been sputtering. After a strong start to stage two, three straight losses before taking out the Florida Mayhem throws up some warning flags. Currently sitting at 3-3, matching their stage one loss total, a win over the Gladiators is essential. A loss here would knock them out of contention for a playoff spot and continue their fall down the overall standings. The addition of Russell “FCTFCTN” Campbell
It’s a total team effort during the losing streak for the Outlaws. The revolving door of support mains and the lack of explosiveness from both Jacob “JAKE” Lyon and Jiri “LiNkzr” Masalin is hurting the team. This team hasn’t had the same wrecking ball mentality since the start of stage two. It’s imperative that the Outlaws shut down a team like the Gladiators that is considered a real threat to take their playoff spot. The addition of Russell “FCTFCTN” Campbell will help give this team depth, but it, more importantly, needs its best players to be at their best here.
Philadelphia Fusion and Los Angeles Valiant Eye a 2-0 week
It’s no secret that the Dallas Fuel is going through a tumultuous time with the recent release of Felix “xQc” Lengyl and the wave of suspensions being handed down. It’s hard to think those players will have the same level of focus as they head into their week four matches. Fortunately for the Fusion, they face the Fuel to end week four and also play the winless Shanghai Dragons. At 3-3, the Fusion can sneak into that third seed with two sound wins this week.
Looking ahead, the Fusion who have caught their stride in stage two and found another solid projectile main in Josh “EQO” Corona, can position themselves nicely for the gauntlet in week five. Even two victories this week will only give them a small advantage against both Los Angeles teams to end-stage two. Any type of loss this week would essentially eliminate them from playoff contention.
Provided that the Fusion went 2-0 over these two teams in stage one, soundly beating the Dallas Fuel (4-0), but running into serious trouble with the Shanghai Dragons (3-2), it bodes well for them heading into matchup number two. It comes as no shock to see the Fusion back pushing for that third seed. No other player is making the constant improvements and tweaks to their game more than Jae-hyeok “Carpe” Lee. Carpe is turning in some of the most efficient Tracer performances on a nightly basis. He’s separated himself into the upper echelon. It’s even more important against lesser teams for Carpe to show up and make plays, as he’s done all of stage two.
As for the Valiant, they find themselves in a similar situation with even more of an upper hand before their week five matchup with the Fusion. The dominant effort last Thursday toppling the Outlaws 4-0, holding them to four total points throughout the match, set the Valiant back up to be in the hunt for that last spot. It hasn’t been the most majestic effort from the Valiant in stage two, struggling mightily against the Gladiators and Dynasty, but regardless they find themselves at 4-2 with four games to play.
Facing the lowly Mayhem (who got their first win last week over Dallas) and the Boston Uprising, who have had a real tough time adjusting in stage two. It’s a chance for the Valiant to have the ability to decide their own fate and not having to rely on game differential (as they did in stage one) going into week five. Even with the rough remaining schedule, the Valiant will need to win these two games against bottom four teams to give themselves the highest probability of getting the last playoff spot, barring a few Gladiator losses.
Featured photo via Seoul Dynasty Twitter