After many, many weeks of waiting, the Los Angeles Gladiators are (officially) back in action. Last weekend, four Pacific West teams participated in friendly matches that allowed DPS players to show off their skills on Echo. The Gladiators squared up against the Los Angeles Valiant in another iconic Battle for LA. Though they lost the first map, the Gladiators ultimately won the series (and the Torbjorn 1v1 – which is what counts). After losing a Map 5 series against the Vancouver Titans, the Gladiators have sat dangerously close to the bottom of the standings ever since. The Pacific division has struggled the hardest amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The Chinese teams hadn’t even played their first games until this morning. For the Gladiators, they will be playing their second and third matches since the season’s begun, and they have two tough opponents ahead of them.
San Francisco Shock (1-0)
It is a truth universally acknowledged that the San Francisco Shock are one of, if not the, best teams in the Overwatch League. The Shock currently sits at second place in the standings, despite not playing since February. Much like the Gladiators, it has been quite some time since fans have seen these boys hit the stage. However, unlike the Gladiators, the Shock won their first game with ease. While the Gladiators managed to give the Vancouver Titans a run for their money, the Shock will be a much harder nut to crack.
Under head coach Park “Crusty” Dae-hee’s guidance, the San Francisco Shock are like a well-oiled machine. The players all work well together, no matter who is subbing in or out. Even their latest addition, Lee “ANS” Seonchang has stepped up to the plate. In the Shock’s friendly game against the Seoul Dynasty last weekend, ANS proved himself to be an excellent addition to the roster. His aggressive playstyle meshes incredibly well with the rest of his teammates, and there is a good chance that fans might see him going into this matchup, especially since Widowmaker is back.
The Gladiator’s Chances
The Gladiators have a strong support line in Benjamin “BigGoose” Isohanni and Jonas “Shaz” Suovaara, but the rest of their lineup remains questionable. Mainly because they have not had many opportunities to prove themselves. Although Roni “LhCloudy” Tilhonen and Son “OGE” Min-seok did well against the Titans, the Shock’s tank-line is a lot stronger. Indy “SPACE” Halpern is an incredible off-tank in his own right, Choi “ChoiHyoBin” Hyo-bin is on another level. Space will also be going up against his former Team USA teammates Grant “Moth” Espe, Jay “Sinatraa” Won, and Matthew “super” DeLisi.
A star-studded roster, the Shock will present the Gladiators with a challenge at every turn. The Gladiators DPS line will especially have a tough time considering that both Jason “Jaru” White and Chris “MirroR” Trịnh are both rookies. Even though Kim “Birdring” Ji-hyeok is a seasoned veteran, this DPS lineup might not be enough. However, the Gladiators have just as much heart and drive as the Shock. The Gladiators also have more on the line going into this series. The Los Angeles Gladiators currently sit at 19th place in the overall standings. This game against the Shock will be a true test of the team that David “dpei” Pei has assembled, and fans are hopeful that the Gladiators will put up a good fight, at the very least.
Player to watch: Shaz
Despite being the all-time healing record holder, Shaz is often underappreciated by fans and analysts alike. The Finnish flex support is an incredible Zenyatta, and after this morning’s Chinese Overwatch matches, there is a good chance that Zen might make a return in the West this weekend. Even if he doesn’t, Shaz is still an incredible Ana and Moira player who is more than capable of handling whatever the Shock throws at him. With his partner in crime at his side, Shaz is sure to make some amazing plays no matter which hero he is on.
Prediction: Shock wins 3-1
Seoul Dynasty (0-0)
During the offseason, the Seoul Dynasty made a lot of changes. Yang “tobi” Jin-mo is the only remaining member of the original Dynasty roster. After losing Ryu “Ryujehong” Jehong to the Vancouver Titans, the Dynasty added Kim “Creative” Young-wan and former London Spitfire flex support Choi “Bdosin” Seung-tae to their roster. Bdosin was not the only Spitfire pickup that the Seoul Dynasty made. They also acquired Park “Profit” Joon-yeong and Hong “Gesture” Jae-hee. With three of the Spitfire’s core players from their inaugural roster now on the Dynasty, fans are curious as to how the new Dynasty will work.
As a whole, the London Spitfire struggled hard last season after becoming the 2018 Grand Champions. The roster often looked lost, which is not a good thing if one is running GOATS. GOATS is all about team cohesion and unity; if one player is caught out of place, the team will fall like dominoes. GOATS was not the Spitfire’s meta, but it was not the meta for most teams last season. Having a fresh start on the Seoul Dynasty might just be what these players need to return to their former glory. During their friendly match against the Shock last weekend, the Dynasty looked rough. However, this might say more about how strong the Shock are than the Dynasty overall. With the friendly match being their only game of the season so far, it is difficult to not take stock in some of the misplays that Seoul made. Out of the Gladiator’s two matches this weekend, this one appears to be more winnable, and fans are hoping to see some incredible gameplay from both teams.
Player to watch: Birdring
It’s a no-brainer that Birdring is the player to watch for this series. Going up against his former London Spitfire teammates will be interesting to watch on many levels. Failing to meet expectations put a lot of pressure on the team, and rumors of internal struggles between Birdring and the rest of his teammates swirled around the Blizzard Arena towards the end of the season. Unlike his former teammates, Birdring wanted to stay in Los Angeles and found his new home on the Gladiators. Historically, games between the Gladiators and Dynasty have always been intense. With this added storyline of former teammates facing off, the stakes will be even higher for both teams going into this game. The new Seoul Dynasty want to prove themselves in their first match of the season, and Birdring will want to establish that he is an excellent pickup for the Gladiators. Despite his immense talent, Birdring, unfortunately, is an inconsistent player. Hopefully, the long break has been good for Birdring and the rest of the Gladiators. They’ll have to bring their A-Game for this series if they want to start finally moving up in the standings.
Prediction: Gladiators win 3-1
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