For all the teams that played during opening weekend, the pressure was on, as the first matches of the season would define the trajectory of the league going forward. By all eyewitness accounts, the Dallas Opening Weekend was a smashing success. The crowd was wild, and the energy was high. However, the Dallas Fuel were unable to come up with a single victory for their crowd at Arlington Stadium.
The Fuel took 1-3 losses against both the LA Valiant and the San Francisco Shock. Though those scores seem disheartening, there’s a lot more to unpack than just the numbers.
Los Angeles Valiant 1-0-0
Going into their first match of the season, the Fuel appeared to have a lot of wind in their sails. With the homestand crowd cheering them on, they took Lijiang Tower with relative ease.
The rookie Contenders talent are the Fuel’s crown jewels. Crimzo simply did not miss shots on Baptiste, and saved many lives with some clutch Immortality Fields. With Doha playing Doomfist on Lijiang Night Market, Fuel simply plowed through Valiant’s ranks. In team fights that consisted of close-quarter brawls, the Fuel simply set Doha up for success and let him go to work, winning them the map and the early lead.
In subsequent maps, however, Dallas’ momentum began to break down. On Blizzard World, in particular, the Valiant’s tanks outclassed the Dallas Fuel. In a moment that defined the evening, McGravy dropped a massive D.Va bomb onto the heads of all six Fuel players. The Valiant’s ability to herd their opponents into the corner is a death sentence for anyone who goes up against them.
Looking to bring back their luck on map three, the Fuel brought back a dive comp, with Doha on his signature Sombra and Decay on Genji. Again, Dallas’ Contenders rookies showed some amazing performances. Gamsu performed admirably as Winston as well and was able to get several picks that were instrumental in taking the first point. However, as the match went on, it became clear that Decay was not getting as much value out of Genji as he wanted. Fuel wasted precious time before Decay was able to switch off, and ultimately they crumpled under KSP’s deadly aim.
On Junkertown, the final map, the same story played out. In the end, Fuel simply did not have an answer for KSP. For most of the match, the Valiant damage players were free to do as they pleased with the Dallas back line. KSP was able to farm heads on some truly ridiculous flanks, simply because he was properly backed up and no one could stop him. Though it was possible to defend against Valiant’s hitscan skills using shields and playing cover, Dallas had no way to truly eliminate the threat. Without anyone to take down KSP, it was only a matter of time before the rest of the Valiant were able to poke enough holes in their armor for him to shoot through.
Player of the Match: Doha
Decay and Doha have been an absolute powerhouse of a DPS combo. As the Overwatch meta has shifted, it seems Doomfist has fallen out of favor, but Doha proved he could still be more than deadly, especially on a tight map like Lijiang. On Horizon Lunar Colony, Doha proved he knew how to play smart as well, holding onto his EMP long enough to strike fear in the heart of the enemy Lucio. Doha knows how to make the Valiant play around him, and not the other way around.
San Francisco Shock 1-0-0
Going into Sunday, it became clear that the Dallas Fuel vs the San Francisco Shock was the strangest match of the weekend. After the loss to Valiant, Dallas fans didn’t have their hopes up for the fight against the defending OWL champions. However, this game showed a different side of the Fuel, one that looked a little more alive.
Dallas went toe-to-toe with San Francisco over and over again, winning the University stage of Oasis and taking the Shock to an intense overtime finish in City Center. Shock scraped by with a clutch Nanoboost onto Striker, eliminating Decay, who has been a deadly player for this season’s Fuel roster.
The following map on Eichenwalde, while not close, still demonstrated the talent that Decay and Doha were brought on for, with Crimzo and Closer looking like an incredibly strong support duo. Even Trill and Gamsu playing Reinhardt and Orisa respectively looked well put together, thwarted only by Sinatraa on Doomfist. Both teams on this map had an exceptionally fast first point, with strong holds by both teams on the last point inside the castle.
Horizon was the most interesting map of the night. With Doha on Junkrat, Note subbed in for Trill, and Decay on Widowmaker, Dallas played an ironclad defense. In a defining moment, when Shock looked to have finally won the first point, Decay rushed back on Tracer. With Crimzo and Closer backing him up, Decay proceeded to mow down the San Francisco Shock. Decay bought enough time for the remaining members of his team to rally, clean up and earn themselves a full hold.
Dallas’ Horizon attack strategy rests almost entirely on Doha’s Sombra, and the mind games he can play by simply running around while invisible. In the final 30 seconds of the map, Doha still hadn’t used his EMP once. Everyone in the arena knew he was waiting. This forced the Shock to essentially fight a 5 vs 6 battle. San Francisco’s Moth, playing Lucio, was forced to hide his Sound Barrier from the EMP, allowing Dallas to smash the other five members of the Shock before Moth could drop the beat.
Moving onto Havana, Dallas’ performance unfortunately took another turn for the worse. Dallas subbed Trill in again for Note, and managed to hold Shock down to the 15 second mark. However, Dallas’ downfall would again lie in the long sight lines that KSP used to decimate them the night before. By playing Trill instead of Note, Dallas did not have a D.Va player to fight against Striker’s Widowmaker. Once again, Dallas could not put any pressure on the enemy hitscan, and Striker was able to sit at long sightlines with no challenge. Shock full-held Dallas on the last map, ending the series.
Though the San Francisco Shock won the match 3-1, Dallas had several close moments. San Francisco came out victorious through better coordination, stronger threat identification, and exploiting Fuel’s biggest weakness: their inflexible roster. While Decay and Doha were absolute standout performances during this match, it fell to the tank line where problems arose. Havana exemplified this last point clearly. Striker switched to Widowmaker and abused Dallas’ lack of dive to simply sit from a distance and pick people off.
Despite all this, Dallas had clearly made some from their match against the Valiant to the match against the Shock. They played much cleaner; their mentality appeared to be in a better place. Dallas has some things to work on, but that doesn’t mean things aren’t looking positive for the team and its fans.
Player of the Match: Decay
Decay lit up Arlington Stadium on both days with plays that were both astounding and showed that he can compete with the top DPS in the league. Decay has the potential to dominate for the Fuel. His plays on Oasis were inspiring and kept them in the game every time it seemed they had lost the fight. With such a strong flex DPS in Doha backing him up, this team is sure to carry the Fuel as far as possible. It will be interesting to see in March when Hero Pools arrive and McCree is banned for the first week. However, there is no doubt that when he’s free to play him, Decay is a beast that should have any team facing the Fuel shaking in their seats.