Throughout the season, The Game Haus will preview the week ahead for each team in the Overwatch League. These team previews make sure that readers can catch up on last week’s matches and prepare for the week ahead. With the Hangzhou Spark’s league debut looming, it’s time to take a look at their very first matchups.
Opponent 1: Shanghai Dragons (0-0-0)
The Spark face a very different team than the one with a notorious 0-40 record. During the offseason, the Dragon replaced nearly their entire roster, as well as a good chunk of their coaching staff. News coming out of their practice room paints a much more cohesive and positive picture. The Dragons appear committed to wiping the slate clean and starting off strong. As such the Spark can’t underestimate them.
Unfortunately, the Dragons abruptly find themselves one player short just as the season begins. Eui-seok “Fearless” Lee, the team’s only main tank specialist, requested to return home to South Korea for health reasons. Presumably, flex tanks Se-yeon “Geguri” Kim and Jun-hwan “GuardiaN” Jo will fill the role, though DPS player Young-jin “YOUNGJIN” Jin also has experience playing tanks. Losing Fearless this close to the beginning of the season no doubt throws a wrench in Shanghai’s plans. The Spark can take advantage of that to nab their first win.
This match provides a vital chance for Hangzhou to make a strong first impression in the league. Insiders have noted the team’s potential as a force to be reckoned with, and opening day is where they answer the hype. Neither team knows exactly what they’ll face in their first showdown of the season. All they can do is build off of the preparations they’ve made so far. Despite the uncertainty, Hangzhou’s solid roster and Shanghai’s need to compensate for Fearless’s absence should allow the Spark to win the day.
Prediction: Hangzhou wins 3-1
Fun Fact of the Week
Hangzhou support player Ho-jin “iDK” Park and Shanghai DPS player Min-seong “diem” Bae are former teammates, having played together on Chinese Contenders team Lucky Future Zenith. Over the course of the season, iDK will face several other LFZ alumni – Joon “Erster” Jeong now plays on the Atlanta Reign, while Min-hyuk “Michelle” Choi and Min-seo “Marve1” Hwang both play on the Seoul Dynasty.
Opponent 2: Los Angeles Valiant (0-0-0)
As far as second ever opponents go, the Los Angeles Valiant are no joke. With the league’s second-best map record for Season 1 and a stage championship under their belt, they’ll be looking to expand on their strong showing. Most of the Valiant’s Season 1 roster returns to the stage, giving them a heavy advantage over teams who haven’t yet developed the same synergy. In short, the Valiant head back into the Overwatch League as a team to beat.
When the Spark take them on, they’ll either be riding high after their first win or nursing the wound of their first loss. In either case, they can’t dwell on it if they want to take on Los Angeles fully prepared. This will no doubt be a hard-fought match, especially on the front line. The Valiant boast a powerful tank duo in Pan-seung “Fate” Koo and Indy “SPACE” Halpern, bolstered by new pickup Dae-kuk “KuKi” Kim. Fortunately, Hangzhou’s tank line is shaping up as a force of its own. World Cup star Xu “guxue” Qiulin and established tank duo Da-un “NoSmite” Jeong and Sung-wook “Ria” Park create a strong core to face off against the Valiant’s. If Hangzhou can harness that power, they’ll give Los Angeles a run for their money.
Expect an exciting game here. The Spark will try and continue establishing themselves in their first week, while the Valiant want to prove that they can still count themselves among the league’s top teams. However, the Valiant’s familiarity with each other and the stage gives them the edge this week, and they’ll likely come out on top.
Prediction: Los Angeles wins 3-2
Player to Watch: Xu “guxue” Qiulin
Undoubtedly Hangzhou’s most anticipated player, guxue makes his Overwatch League debut this week. His aggressive main tanking served Team China well during the World Cup, and his presence on the team is frequently cited as a reason people expect the Spark to perform well. As exciting as it is to finally see him take the stage again, it’ll be even more interesting to see how Hangzhou facilitates his playstyle.
Aggressive main tanks can be difficult to organize a team around. The Los Angeles Gladiators pulled it off to fantastic effect during Season 1, giving Chan-hyung “Fissure” Baek the backup he needed to play his way. On the other hand, the Philadelphia Fusion had trouble integrating Joona “fragi” Laine’s playstyle, which led to them favoring Su-min “SADO” Kim once he became eligible to play. This week provides a first look at how Hangzhou handles guxue so far, paving the way for what to expect moving forward. If they give their rising star free rein to play how he plays best, he’ll be a sight to behold this week.
The action kicks off for the Spark on February 14 with their match against the Shanghai Dragons. Be sure to tune in and start the season off 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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