Overwatch League season 2 will be kicking off in just 10 days. For the LA Valiant, their first match will take place two days later on Feb. 16. They’ve got an eventful season ahead of them with plenty of matches to reinforce their dominance from season 1, as well as their very own homestand. Until then, here’s everything you need to know about what has happened and what might happen for the winged defenders of Los Angeles.
A Recap of Last Season
For those who didn’t watch the inaugural season, or just want a bit of a refresher, here’s a quick overview of how the LA Valiant fared last year. They gave a decent performance in stage 1, ending at 4th place with seven wins to three losses. Despite their decency, they did not participate in the title matches. Stage 1 also saw a coaching change. The original head coach Henry “Cuddles” Coxall was replaced with Byung-chul “Moon” Moon.
Unfortunately, stage 2 would not go as well for them as they would finish much lower in 8th place. Their win-loss record was 4-6 with, once again, no appearance in the stage championship matches. However, stage 2 was also when assistant coach Warsi Faraaz “Stoop” Waris and DPS Jun-hyeok “Bunny” Chae were picked up.
Able to gain some steam, they ended stage 3 with a similar outcome to stage 1, but slightly better. They came out with a win-loss record of 7-3 and were able to claim 3rd place. This stage they were also able to take 3rd-4th place in the title matches along with their rivals the LA Gladiators. Many roster switches also happened during this time period.
The Valiant traded support Benjamin “Unkoe” Chevasson for the Dallas Fuel’s support Scott “Custa” Kennedy. Along with Custa, three new players, DPS Kyle “KSF” Frandanisa, flex player Finnbjörn “Finnsi” Jónasson and Min-chul “Izayaki” Kim, were brought on. For drops, both flex player Kang-jae “Envy” Lee and DPS Ted “Silkthread” Wang were released from the team. On top of that, DPS Christopher “GrimReality” Schaefer left his role as DPS in favor of becoming an assistant coach.
The improvement didn’t stop at stage 3, and the LA Valiant continued to show up. They boasted a 9-1 win-loss record and fell in at an even higher 2nd place in stage 4. On top of that, they also secured 1st place during the title matches. The Valiant had made a comeback spanning the whole season and were able to grab themselves a spot in the playoffs. They put up a good fight throughout, however it was not enough to win the gold. The LA Valiant went home sitting at 3rd-4th place with the New York Excelsior.
Who is returning?
Head Coach – Byung-chul “Moon” Moon
Assistant Coach – Warsi Faraaz “Stoop” Waris
DPS – Brady “Agilities” Girardi
DPS – Jun-hyeok “Bunny” Chae
DPS – Kyle “KSF” Frandanisa
Tank – Pan-seung “Fate” Koo
Tank – Indy “Space” Halpern
Support/DPS – Young-seo “Kariv” Park
Support – Scott “Custa” Kennedy
Support – Min-chul “Izayaki” Kim
The complete and detailed list of the LA Valiant’s roster changes during the off-season can be found here, but here’s the rundown.
The current group of returning members may seem a bit empty when taking into account all of the drops made during the off-season. While that holds some truth, many of the core players are still here to fight. In the DPS line up, big names such as Agilities, Bunny and KariV stayed with the team. They were some of the most key factors to the Valiant’s success in season 1, with Agilities making huge strides in improvement, and Bunny’s unwavering consistency. Even KariV, who flexed between support and DPS, put in major work whenever he was put in as a DPS. Among the tanks, two of the best in the whole league still remain on the team. Fate is regarded as one of the best main tanks in league, specifically known for his rock solid Reinhardt. There is also Space who plays not only his signature D.Va, but off-tank in general at the highest level in Overwatch League.
The Valiant were able to hold on to star support Custa, who took on the role of team captain when he was traded. Custa is an S-tier shotcaller, which leaves him as an invaluable resource to a team as changed up as the Valiant. Creating synergy will be important with this new roster, and he will be a major factor in that. Mid-season pick up Izayaki, while his past results may not speak for it, is an extremely consistent flex support, and will surely pull his weight.
Moving on to the coaches, this is where the biggest hole was left. Out of a team of several coaching members, only two remain. Thankfully, they are are two extremely capable coaches. Moon, being the head coach, was an undeniably instrumental factor in the Valiant’s success last season. Although there isn’t much to say about Stoop, there’s nothing bad to say either. The current coach line up should be enough for the Valiant to stay successful.
Who was brought on?
The only person brought onto the team in all of the off-season was Seoul Dynasty main tank Dae-kuk “KuKi” Kim. He came into the Overwatch League from the KR Contenders team MVP Space. His main heroes are Winston, Reinhardt and Orisa. He is another case, like Izayaki, where his results don’t reflect all that well on him as a player. Rest assured, he wasn’t brought onto the team for no reason. It does leave some speculation as to how much playtime he will see this season, though.
Above is the LA Valiant’s full schedule for the season, but here are some highlights to be on the lookout for. Stage 1 has a notable match in their bout versus the New York Excelsior, the only team to finish above them in the overall season last year. In stage 2 they take on their biggest rivals the LA Gladiators for the first time in the season, as well as a match against another highly regarded team in the Seoul Dynasty.
Coming into the second half of the season, the Valiant will get yet another taste of top tier competition when they go head to head versus the London Spitfire at the end of stage 3. Stage 4 should be their most eventful stage with not only another match against the Dynasty, but also their own homestand event. They will be taking on both the San Francisco Shock and the LA Gladiators in order to prove who reigns supreme in California.
A Match to Watch
Easily their most anticipated match will be that against the LA Gladiators during the LA Valiant Homestand. Throughout season 1 the Valiant and the Gladiators took turns being seen as the strongest Californian team. A match specifically set up to show who the title truly belongs to will be one that everyone is going to want to see the results of. On top of that, it seems some notable names in the community have put the Gladiators above the Valiant on their pre-season power rankings. The Valiant have not only expectations to uphold, but also some to possibly shatter.
A Player to Watch
An obvious must-have for any good Overwatch team is an off-tank that properly balances offense and defense while also being mechanically superior to his enemy counterparts. This description fits Space to a tee. He was oppressive throughout season 1, and with all of this time between seasons to work and improve with his team, he will surely come back as even more of a force to be reckoned with.
The Steps to Success
One may think that since the LA Valiant have already made it to playoffs and ended well in the overall rankings once, they can do it again. This would be more true if they hadn’t switched up their roster to the extent that they did. There is no way to know how big of an impact all of these player and staff drops will have on their performance just yet. What’s important for them is integrating their new player pick-ups from mid-season and off-season as best as they can into the team and get them to the level of cohesion that the old roster had.
In regards to the coaching drops, no new pick-ups were made to fill in the holes. Hopefully the current coaching duo is enough to have the same impact as the old group did. As mentioned above, though, Moon is an extremely capable coach. He and Stoop may be all the Valiant need in terms of coaches for success in the coming season.
Overwatch League will be returning on Feb. 14, so be sure to tune in at twitch.tv/overwatchleague!
Featured image courtesy of Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment
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