For the last few weeks, everything’s been coming up roses for the Houston Outlaws. Many analysts predicted a 5-2 record for the squad in Stage 3 — and one of those presumed losses was to the San Francisco Shock, which came out as a win. With them and New York out of the way, the rest of the stage looked like easy pickings, with a stage playoff berth well within reach.
Week 3 in Review
Outlaws 3 – Eternal 1
Houston started the week off strong with a solid performance against the Paris Eternal. While Paris has struggled a bit recently, the two teams are fairly close in both the stage and season standings. The Outlaws maintained the upper hand for the majority of the match, taking Oasis handily and full-holding their second defense round on Paris. The wheels came off momentarily on Hollywood, where Houston only managed two points on attack and were dominated on defense. But the Outlaws pulled it back together on Dorado, holding the Eternal halfway through the map and taking the match 3-1.
Mayhem 3 – Outlaws 1
After their performance against Paris, most Outlaws fans were comfortable with facing Florida on Sunday. Ilios went as expected, with Houston maintaining the advantage for most of the map and taking a 2-0 victory. But that was where their breezy week ended. Florida came back with a vengeance on Paris, with Jeongwoo “sayaplayer” Ha breaking out his signature Widowmaker to blow through Houston’s defenses. The Outlaws began to rally on attack, but when they were forced onto a standard 3-3 composition, Florida easily regained the upper hand and took the map. Sayaplayer’s hitscan skills tore through Hollywood, and a tight defense (and unexpected Bastion pick) would give the Mayhem Gibraltar as well for a 3-1 match victory.
The only mercy the Outlaws received was former teammate Russell “FCTFCTN” Campbell and the Los Angeles Valiant immediately following up with an upset of the Vancouver Titans — if this loss couldn’t be struck from the record, at least it wasn’t the biggest news of the night.
Washington Justice (2-16)
A few days ago, this game seemed like one Houston wouldn’t so much ‘win’ as walk by and have handed to them. But the Justice looked like a brand new team last week against the London Spitfire. While Washington still lost, they held London to two map wins, experimented with compositions and showed more cohesive play. Both of these teams are known for streaky performance; it could just be a matter of who makes more mistakes for their opponents to exploit. If the Outlaws play like they did against Boston and Paris, this can be a handy win. However, if they have another bad game at the same time the Justice have another good one, it could be uncomfortably close.
Prediction: Outlaws 3-1 Justice
Toronto Defiant (7-10)
The Defiant — the team that handed Houston their very first loss of the season — have had a difficult stage. They took hard losses from both London and Paris, and just last week got soundly swept by the Guangzhou Charge. They’re the first team in OWL to switch from a single-language lineup to a mixed roster mid-season, and they’ve been struggling ever since. While they have a better overall record than Houston, their recent troubles could be exploited if the Outlaws come prepared.
Prediction: Outlaws 3-1 Defiant
Player to Watch: Jake “JAKE” Lyon
Jake‘s play on Sunday wasn’t as questionable as the heroes the team had him play. His Brigitte has improved, but it’s still not fantastic, and the Outlaws’ standard 3-3 play remains unimpressive at best. It’s not quite certain that the choice to run 3-3 led directly to their loss on Sunday; the Mayhem played better than they have in months, and had strong counters to Houston’s signature Sombra composition. But they’ll be playing on Eichenwalde in both matches this week, a map that strongly favors the traditional 3-3 strat. These matches are still very winnable by the team that took New York to the brink and outsmarted San Francisco. But the team that got taken apart by the Mayhem is another story. It remains to be seen which Outlaws will make it to the arena this week.
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