This year’s Overwatch World Cup flipped the script in many ways. The “dominant” Team USA put up little resistance against Team UK, who went on a tear against not one, but two projected Grand Finalist teams before being knocked out of the race by South Korea. Even that game was closer than the three-peat champs may have liked – two of the four games played resulted in draws, and each win had to be ripped from the UK’s cold, dead hands. How did they do it? What made the UK a suddenly fearsome force?
To flip the script on you, dear reader, I’ll argue that the UK’s capability was not “suddenly” gained at all. It’s always been there, waiting for just the right moment. Sure, Cameron “Fusions” Bosworth was a revelation for Team UK – much like Miro had been for South Korea two years ago – but a main tank in this meta is only as good as his team allows him to be. As good as his main support allows him to be. As good as Harrison “Kruise” Pond allows him to be.
Across the Pond
Kruise is one of the oldest and most well-decorated names in the European Overwatch community. He played in his first tournament in October 2015, a full seven months before the game’s release. His efforts on WatchOut Gaming and Arcane eSports were… less than stellar, to say the least. In all, 12 community tournament appearances yielded three map wins. Yikes.
No doubt frustrated with his results so far, Kruise decided to join a team that had beaten him no less than three times at that point. Reunited was a squad of former FNATIC players looking to carve a new place for themselves in the Overwatch scene. There, he met future teammates Finley “Kyb” Adisi (Team UK) and Stefan “ONIGOD” Fiskerstrand (Toronto Esports), along with a variety of other well-known (and unfortunately less successful) teammates, like Hendrik-William “vallutaja” Kinks and player-turned-potential unionizer Thomas “Morte” Kerbusch.
The team was good, but never good enough. Five second place finishes (including a ridiculous 3-5, Bo9 loss against Cloud9 in May) were often the best Reunited could come by. The team pressed on regardless. Their consistent upper-half performances earned them a spot in the Overwatch Open and even APEX Season 1.
Wait, no, This Side of the Pond
After the struggles of Reunited, EUnited, and Orgless and Hungry, Kruise made his way to America. Toronto Esports signed Kruise in March 2018 as a replacement for Grant “moth” Espe, who had just been signed to the San Francisco Shock. Kruise immediately gelled with the squad, helping them to a second place finish in NA Contenders Season 1 against Fusion University, and a middle-of-the-pack finish in the season after that. TO also recently took first place at the BEAT Invitational, with the help of Jørgen “Decod” Myrlund, and are looking strong with some new blood – most notably Fusions, who signed a two-way contract with the Boston Uprising last week.
With months of consistently strong performance, Kruise and the rest of Toronto Esports squad were prospective OWL pickups from the get-go this off-season. Long-time main tank specialist Min-seob “Axxiom” Park was picked up by Boston in October, and Kelsey “Colourhex” Birse was signed to TO to give the Uprising exclusive signing rights when their chance opened up in the beginning of November. Joon-hwan “GuardiaN” Cho was picked up by Shanghai in late October as well.
And Back Again
Kruise, of course, made it into the Overwatch League in short order. On October 23rd, the Paris OWL team announced their (potentially) full roster. He stood just to the left, behind former LA Valiant star Terrence “SoOn” Tarlier.
STAND WITH US 🇪🇺 Here come our players for the #OWL2019 :
— Paris OWL (@OverwatchParis) October 23, 2018
For Kruise, this is the culmination of years of effort. Few can claim a longer or more difficult road to the Overwatch League at this point. It’s doubtful that few ever will again. All he has to do now is prove himself – you might think he already has, but in reality, this is just the beginning. The Overwatch League is the real proving ground, where players have to show the world that they deserve to be up on stage. This author thinks Kruise has what it takes. Now he has to convince everyone else.
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Featured Image Courtesy of Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment