Overwatch League Stage 3 is here, as the Houston Outlaws squared off Friday night against a motivated New York Excelsior. The NYXL come off a strong stage playoff showing in which the team fell at the hands of the dominant Vancouver Titans. The Outlaws have looked lost and listless as of late, but can they get the GOAT off their back and play like the team from Season 1? Here’s a look at the Houston Outlaws vs. New York Excelsior from Week 1, Stage 3.
The Starting Lineups
Map 1: Houston 2-1 Over New York on Ilios
New York opened aggressively on Ilios, with Seonghyun “Jjonak” Bang immediately removing two Outlaws players off the map. NYXL captured the point and wrangled control of the board in quick fashion. Looking to spawn camp and stay aggressive, New York moved forward past the point and looked to trap a flailing Houston. Jake “Jake” Lyon attempted a Rally as Brigitte to help push Houston onto the point, but it was too little too late. New York took the first point of Ilios with almost no resistance.
The Excelsior once more took an aggressive stance as the second point of Ilios began, taking a commanding capture lead. It appeared as though Houston was falling back into old habits, but managed to stack a full set of ultimate attacks. Austin “Muma” Wilmot activated Primal Rage and pushed the NYXL back, allowing his team to clean up and take the point, finally showing signs of life. The two teams would trade back and forth, but Houston secured the point and the second map on the back of Muma’s aggression with Winston.
With Lighthouse as the third map, Houston looked to make a statement. The Outlaws returned to a traditional GOATS composition to mirror New York’s own composition, taking the capture point immediately. Jiri “Linkzr” Masalin helped push past the NYXL, scoring two kills with Zarya and forcing New York back to their side of the map. Dong-Gyu “Mano” Kim would counter the pressure with a well-timed Earthshatter, allowing New York to take the point and catch their breath. Mano would continue to be a terror for Houston throughout the night, with 6 ultimate stuns on Lighthouse alone and many more to come.
However, New York lost track of their momentum and allowed Houston to take back control of the point. Somehow, Houston found themselves up 1-0 over the NYXL, one of the best teams in the league. Could it last?
Map 2: New York 2-1 Over Houston on Lunar Horizon
Lunar Horizon opened with Houston on attack and losing a support early in Daniel “Bonk” Pierce. Boink’s Mercy — a rare pick these days — does no good to the team dead, even if Jake’s Pharah was holding New York back. Linkzr helped create some space and capture part of the point after switching to Widowmaker, but New York countered by killing the Houston supports. NYXL got the point under control off a few key Mano kills and Muma’s Wrecking Ball being hacked at the worst possible time. Houston pushed onto the point with no time remaining, but it wasn’t enough as Houston was held to no points thanks to Mano and his excellent Reinhardt play.
Jake switched to Junkrat at the start of their defense, giving everyone Season 1 flashbacks. New York continued the time warp by opening their composition on attack with Tracer and Genji. Houston attempted to play defensively, with Muma on the shield-tossing Orisa and attempting to hunker down on the point. The Excelsior would bide their time, save their ultimate attacks, and eventually force Houston off the point. New York would take Lunar Horizon 1-0, tying the series up at the half.
Map 3: Houston 4-3 Over New York on Numbani
Houston would continue to show aggression in their compositions, coming out on Numbani with Doomfist, Pharah and Sombra. NYXL’s attack team was more traditional, with a GOATS composition flexing with Ana and McCree. Early on the NYXL failed to have an answer for Jake’s aerial assault with Pharah, setting up an early Sombra EMP by Dante “Danteh” Cruz. New York was able to step up onto the first capture point on the back of excellent Zenyatta play by Jjonak, pushing the Outlaws back and taking the point.
Houston’s composition for the payload objective shifted, with Linkzr swapping to Zarya and the supports moving to a more GOATS-like line of Brigitte, Ana and Lucio. The shift, however, did little to stop the NYXL’s pressure game, with Mano’s Reinhardt stepping up into team fights with confidence and catching Houston off-guard.
It appeared that New York was going to steamroll the point before Danteh’s Sombra stopped the push temporarily at the L-bend near end of the map. Houston’s ultimate meter management kept them in the match, pushing the NYXL’s time bank into overtime. The hold wouldn’t last, as the Excelsior were able to survive a Graviton Surge onslaught and return to take the third point with no time remaining. The Outlaws opened their attack phase showing Linkzr on Widowmaker, immediately catching the entire NYXL with their pants down. The sniper specialist proceeded to critical strike four members of the NYXL and the Outlaws captured the first point with ease. The sniping spree continued as the payload moved forward, with the Excelsior seemingly unprepared to deal with a Widowmaker, let alone one of the best sniper specialist in Overwatch League.
Even with over four minutes of clock to work with, Houston struggled to push the payload towards the third objective. It wasn’t until Jake’s Brigitte and Danteh teamed up to make the final push and get the Outlaws the third objective point with around two minutes of time in the bank.
Linkzr returned to Widowmaker and once again dominated the NYXL in the tiebreaker round, allowing Houston to easily take the point and the map.
Map 4: NY 4-3 Over Houston on Watchpoint: Gibraltar
Houston opened their attack of Gibraltar with a GOATS composition to match the same from New York. The Excelsior won the mirror match early, but this didn’t stop Houston from winning team fights off dueling Graviton Surge combos and catching the Excelsior off-guard. This would be a trend throughout the attack, as the NYXL would find themselves continually staggered, giving up the second objective. Houston pushed the payload up to the apex of the third objective, but found themselves stifled by Jong-Ryeol “Saebyeolbe” Park’s Sombra. Mano would throw out an Earthshatter that was countered by Rawkus’ well-timed Transcendence, allowing Houston to take all three points with a minute and a half in time left.
New York opened their attack still in GOATS and with a Sombra flex, with Houston keeping their composition from before. Jjonak created space for the NYXL, catching multiple Outlaws out in the open and letting his team walk the payload to the first objective. Houston saved their ultimate attacks for the second objective, but not before facing a team wipe just as the objective began. Rawkus continued to counter NYXL’s Sombra play with an on-point Transcendence, but it didn’t slow down the Excelsior on their way to taking the second objective. The excellent ultimate management of Houston from Map 3 seemed to have vanished, as they wasted multiple ultimate attacks in an attempt to stymie the NYXL. New York pushed through a self-destruct attempt by CoolMatt and handily took the objective with three minutes to spare in the bank.
With less time available than New York, Houston began their push into the first objective, trading pressure moving the payload bit by bit. Saebyeolbe’s Sombra once again stopped Houston’s push dead, catching multiple Outlaws in an EMP that allowed the Excelsior to stop the objective.
With ample time to work with, New York won the GOATS struggle and pushed Houston backwards, pulling themselves out of their rut and taking the objective and the map.
Map 5: NY 2-0 Over Houston on Oasis
The match moved to overtime at Oasis, with both teams at two maps won apiece. Rawkus moved over to Ana and Muma over to Winston, but neither could contain Mano as he charged into play and allowed New York to capture the point. The Excelsior immediately followed up with an Earthshatter, Graviton Surge combo that didn’t succeed. Houston captured the point back quickly, but once again lost control after multiple Jjonak kills.
Lacking ultimates and time, Houston rushed the point and ran directly into yet another EMP, an all too common occurrence throughout the series. NYXL easily finished off the capture and took the first point. Houston looks uncomfortable when forced to play a traditional GOATS composition, and this map is proving that to be true.
New York’s Sombra play continued to be a massive problem for Houston, losing players fast and early in the second capture point. Feeling himself, Saebyeolbe caught the entire Outlaws squad in an EMP and showed once more that Houston didn’t have an answer for Sombra. Mano and Niene played cleanup and easily pushed the capture to 70 percent, with no response from Houston. Looking demoralized, Houston was finally caught in a trade of Graviton Surges and lost the point and a valiant fight.
Conclusion — NYXL 3-2 Over Houston
Houston fell into old habits and showed they still don’t have an answer when forced to play a traditional GOATS composition. Linkzr made things interesting and Houston showed some energy early on, so there was at least plenty to make this assumed one-sided affair far more compelling than expected.
The Outlaws will need to find an answer for their poor GOATS play in Week 2, as they challenge the San Francisco Shock on Thursday, June 13th at 7p.m. eastern.
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