#4 Los Angeles Gladiators (6-1) vs #5 New York Excelsior (5-2)
Excelsior 3-0 Gladiators
The Los Angeles Gladiators faced off against the New York Excelsior in their first playoff appearance since their loss to the London Spitfire in the Inaugural Season Playoffs. The Excelsior lost two games this season, both at the hands of the Atlanta Reign. The Gladiators saw their first loss of Stage 2 in Week 5, when they played the Boston Uprising. This meant both teams were coming off a loss. The Gladiators came out in their familiar lineup; Jonas “Shaz” Suovaara, Benjamin “BigGoose” Isohanni playing support, Jun-woo “Void” Kang,Chang-hoon “rOar” Gye playing tank and João Pedro “Hydration” Goes Telles, Gui-un “Decay” Jang playing DPS.
Lijiang Tower: Excelsior 2-0 Gladiators
The first possession of the game went to the Excelsior after Void was demeched. However, the Gladiators found a kill on Dong-gyu “Mano” Kim early, and an ultimate-filled team fight began. Somehow the NYXL turned the fight around all without giving up any percentage on the point. LA flipped the point in overtime. Another close fight ensued, allowing the Gladiators to build percentage on the point. However, the Gladiators got cleared off the point and lost the first round.
After some fighting off the point, the brawl shifted that direction. Another long fight ensued, and New York eventually grabbed possession. In their pursuit, BigGoose was taken out quickly, and they needed to reset. Again in overtime, the Gladiators flipped the point, this time on the back of Void eating the Graviton Surge, and BigGoose turning his play around. LA pushed the NYXL towards their spawn, and made sure to fight far from the point. Twice they killed Mano early, and Yeon-kwan “Nenne” Jeong could not keep up with Decay on Zarya. Eventually, the Excelsior took the point, and the map.
King’s Row: Excelsior 3-2 Gladiators
The Gladiators began this map on attack. Their first effort was unsuccessful, as Nenne got three off of Mano’s Earthshatter. ROar fell early off of the Graviton Surge, and the Gladiators reset once again. The next fight saw LA take a tick, and they found Tae-hong “MekO” Kim and Mano. With just under a minute left, they secured the point. On their way to the checkpoint, a great Graviton Surge from Decay led to the Gladiators winning the fight, and continuing to push the payload. During a heated teamfight, rOar finally landed a successful Earthshatter, and they got to the point. The Gladiators rounded the final corner with one minute remaining, but they were not able to push it any further.
Los Angeles found the first kill, but were immediately punished when BigGoose fell. The Excelsior had over five minutes when the payload first started to roll out. Meko continually found his way behind the defenses of the Gladiators, often targeting rOar. Mano found four members with a huge shatter for the NYXL as they pushed the cart to the second point. With over four and a half minutes remaining, the Gladiators needed a miraculous hold to keep the Excelsior from game point. New York continued to bully rOar, and took the map.
Temple of Anubis: Excelsior 2-1 Gladiators
With their backs against the wall, the Gladiators went to Temple of Anubis. They began on attack, opting to let rOar play Winston. Meko was pushed out of his mech, but he was able to get back in. However, rOar had a big Primal Rage, and the Gladiators took Point A. Their initial attack failed, and they were forced to reset. Mano again found a huge Earthshatter to force LA back again. Winston came back for the Gladiators, but after an unsuccessful push, rOar switched back to Reinhardt. In what should have been the final fight, Void ate Nenne’s Graviton Surge, but the support players for the Gladiators fell and they were forced off the point. In Overtime, the story was the same, and the Gladiators got 58.5% on Point B.
The Gladiators again opted to let rOar play Winston, the hero he looked more comfortable on. The Gladiators began their defense strong, finding pick after pick, but after the Primal Rage, the Excelsior were able to rally and win the fight. Six minutes to get less than two ticks was what New York had to work with. The initial defense was won by the Gladiators, and a tense fight that almost saw New York win was pushed back. New York were 4% from taking the game, but big plays from Decay and Void kept the Gladiators dream alive a little bit longer. However, in the end the New York Excelsior were able to fight their way to the victory.
The Gladiators gave fans hope on the first point of Anubis. They won the fight and took Point A quickly. However, the Excelsior were simply the better team. Mano hit monster Earthshatters, their communication was impressive and their movement around the Graviton Surge was impeccable. NYXL fell back to what worked against the Gladiators in Stage 1; get the first kill onto rOar and win the fight. BigGoose was very up and down all game, and Shaz could not compete with last year’s MVP, Sung-hyeon “JJoNak” Bang. Void did well, eating two Graviton Surges. Decay continued to show why he is considered one of the best rookies this season, but it was not enough. Even after turning around their disastrous Stage 1, both fans and players will be disappointed that the stage ended here for the Los Angeles Gladiators.
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Featured Image Courtesy of the Los Angeles Gladiators
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