Heading into Week 20, times have been tough for the Houston Outlaws. Houston’s season has been slowly spiraling downward ever since their map five loss to Dallas Fuel back in April. Their 3-0 loss in Week 19 to the Philadelphia Fusion was yet another blow to team morale.
The Outlaws are in desperate need of a “pick-me-up” win in order to get their season back on track, but their opponent this week won’t make it easy on them.
The Opposition: Los Angeles Gladiators (5-5)
The Los Angeles Gladiators are coming into this match following a solid 3-1 victory against the Atlanta Reign last week. The win propelled them over Atlanta in the overall standings and set them up nicely to go 3-0 in Summer Showdown qualifiers, assuming they can take care of business versus the Outlaws on Saturday then the lowly Washington Justice next weekend.
There’s a REINHARDT on me in the backline!?
Of note from the Gladiators’ last game is the unique flank-Reinhardt strategy they employed against the Reign. The Glads played with main tank Roni “LhCloudy” Tiihonen on Reinhardt, but instead of positioning in the frontline, as usual, LhCloudy took massive flanks into the Reign’s backline with the German Crusader. Atlanta simply had no answer for the Glads’ all-out attack with the flank-Reinhardt. LA won both maps they played with LhCloudy flanking.
While they now lack the element of surprise they had against the Reign, the Gladiators still might pull out the flank-Reinhardt strat against Houston. It’s an extremely aggressive strat that forces teams to split their attention between the backline and frontline. It takes a great deal of team coordination to deal with, and that’s an area where the Outlaws have been struggling for much of this season. Perhaps the Gladiators will look to exploit this weakness and send LhCloudy on the flank once again.
An anticipated debut
The Gladiators announced the signing of Swedish Flex DPS Kevin “kevster” Persson this past Tuesday, much to the delight of those who had a chance to watch him compete in Contenders.
— Los Angeles Gladiators (@LAGladiators) June 16, 2020
Now that’s he’s officially signed on, kevster is set to make his first appearance this Saturday. The question is: where does he fit into the Gladiators’ lineup? There’s been speculation that he might take some of Ji-hyeok “birdring” Kim’s playtime given his prowess on hitscan heroes. However, there’s a good chance that kevster and birdring play alongside one another given each has a high level of flexibility.
The potential DPS duo of birdring and kevster presents yet another challenge for the Outlaws this weekend. Houston struggled mightily to keep Carpe in check last week when they played Fusion. Carpe finished the game with 27 final blows and only 12 deaths in 27 minutes of playtime as Tracer. Houston must concentrate on shutting down the opposing DPS players this match, lest they have a repeat of last Saturday.
Player to watch: LiNkzr
After voicing his frustration about his own performance last week, look for Flex DPS Jiri “LiNkzr” Masalin to come into this week’s match with extra motivation. It’s crucial for Houston that LiNkzr has a bounce-back game. He’ll be tasked with matching either birdring or kevster on the long-range hitscan role. With so much uncertainty surrounding the Outlaws at other positions such as Main Tank and Flex Support, they need consistency from key players like LiNkzr in order to succeed.
Match Prediction: 3-1 Gladiators
It’s difficult to see a world in which Houston takes this one. Comparing the Gladiators’ and Outlaws’ most recent performances shows two teams on two different trajectories. Houston lacks the necessary tools to overcome the firepower the Glads can throw at them. The Outlaws may be able to steal a map win on control or assault as they’ve done in the past, but it’ll likely be in a losing effort.
Featured Image Courtesy of the Blizzard Entertainment
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