For the legions of fans that keep coming back to cheer for Dallas Fuel, the team has always had a “hometown heroes” kind of vibe. For as many low points as Fuel fans experienced in 2019, the high points were some of the sweetest in Overwatch League history.
Perhaps most notably, Dallas hosted the first homestand of the Overwatch League, the first “home game” in the history of esports. That weekend, Dallas took a 4-0 victory over the Los Angeles Valiant to the tune of thousands of Texan cheers. That same night they went on to win the Battle for Texas against their crosstown rivals, the Houston Outlaws.
For whatever reason, the Dallas Fuel have captured the hearts and minds of esports enthusiasts across the nation. Fuel fans are a diehard group, and the Dallas Fuel organization is eager to honor their dedication. Mike “Hastr0” Rufail expressed in an October interview with the Dallas Morning News that the org intended to make changes for the 2020 season. The Fuel are working to give back to the fans who have supported them throughout the years.
#BurnBlue in 2019
The Dallas Fuel had a rough go of it in 2019. They started out in Stage 1 with a promising record, but were defeated just shy of the playoffs by the Boston Uprising. In April of 2019, Lucas “NotE” Meissner signed with the Fuel, right before the start of Stage 2. This stage served as the highlight of the season for the Fuel, as they qualified for the playoffs in 6th place with a 5-2 record. As Blizzard continued to wrestle with killing the GOATS meta, the Dallas Fuel insisted upon having a well-rounded approach to the game, preparing for when the Brigitte-focused gameplay came to a screeching halt.
It would take most of the season for that to happen, however, and Dallas’ performance flatlined towards the end of the season. They finished at 16 in Stage 3 and came in at 19 during Stage 4.
#PlayWithFire in 2020
Looking at the 2020 season, the Fuel have kept most of their roster, compared to other teams in the Overwatch League. The majority of the Boys in Blue will have the chance to try again. What this means in particular is that Fuel is a team of veteran players. Pongphop “Mickie” Rattanasangchod and captain Jonathan “HarryHook” Tejedor Rua have been with Fuel since the Inaugural Season. The complete list of returning players is as follows.
Tank: Pongphop “Mickie” Rattanasangchod
Support: Jonathan “HarryHook” Tejedor Rua
Damage: Dylan “aKm” Bignet
Support: Benjamin “uNKOE” Chevasson
Support: Wonsik “Closer” Jung
DPS: Zachary “ZachaREEE” Lombardo
Tank: Lucas NotE Meissner
Tank: Ashley “Trill” Powell
Over the course of the offseason, Dallas traded Minseok “OGE” Son to the Los Angeles Gladiators in exchange for Jang ”Decay” Gui-un. Additionally, they lost a veteran on par with Mickie and Harryhook in Timo “Taimou” Kettunen, who returned to Team Envy in January 2020. However, the Fuel also added to its roster Young-jin “Gamsu” Noh from the Shanghai Dragons, and Dong-ha “Doha“ Kim of Element Mystic.
The Dallas player roster was not alone in the shakeup this offseason. The coaching staff made a few roster changes of its own. Jayne stepped down from coaching in November to focus on content creation full time. The Fuel also parted ways with Julien “daemoN” Ducros, citing the need for “an assistant to focus on overall strategy.”
In December, Dallas signed Yong-Jin “Yong” Kim as an assistant coach. Yong, formerly of Element Mystic, has a track record of success with Overwatch Contenders.
The changes to the coaching staff may be the most significant part of Dallas Fuel’s potential success in 2020. This is for a few reasons. Firstly, Yong and Doha are experiencing something of an “Element Mystic reunion” in the Overwatch League. Though it’s unlikely others from Mystic will port over to Dallas Fuel, the experience that the two have in working together is invaluable.
Secondly, with the change in assistant staff, head coach Aaron “Aero” Atkins may have an opportunity to switch up his strategy. Aero has been criticized in the past for his approach to coaching Overwatch. It remains to be seen if Fuel will continue to invest in specialized coaches for each role, or to take a different approach with Yong on the team.
Players to Watch
Decay, Doha and Gamsu will be under a lot of scrutiny going into the 2020 season. Decay in particular is facing a lot of pressure to perform. Dallas is betting on a full season of Role Lock to allow Decay to shine on damage-dealing heroes.
Doha is facing his debut in the Overwatch League proper, after spending a year in the Overwatch Contenders scene. As the last player signing of the offseason and the fourth DPS to be added to the roster, fans may be wondering what he can bring to the table as an additional damage dealer.
Gamsu, by comparison, has very clear expectations from fans. Gamsu follows NotE from the Boston Uprising to Fuel. The two have experience working together and complementing each other’s play style. Having two tank players who are of a similar mind is essential to creating a united front line, something Dallas sorely needs.
Fuel vs. Valiant
The changes that Fuel has made during the offseason will be put to the test right off the bat. Their first match of the season is against the Los Angeles Valiant, who have their own set of significant offseason changes. Neither team had fantastic seasons in 2019. However, the outcome of that match may set the tone for Dallas going forward, and lay the foundation for the quality of their season.
Fuel vs. Shock
Facing last year’s champions is a daunting task for any Overwatch League team. The Shock have not had a very active offseason, and their players are still unequivocally formidable. However, Dallas’ performance against them could signal a dramatic change. Maybe, just maybe, if the Fuel come out victorious, fans can safely say there’s a new sheriff in town.
Keys to Success
The Dallas Fuel are still a very young team. Since its inception before the inaugural season, they have struggled with the immaturity of their players. The biggest need that the Fuel have right now is for someone to be a leader in-game. Of all the active players on the roster, Gamsu seems the one most suited to fill that role. However, as yet, fans have yet to see this in action.
Overwatch is a game in which cooler heads prevail. If the Dallas Fuel can master this above all else, they are in for a very exciting 2020.
“From Our Haus to Yours”