The Houston Outlaws’ first season did not go as well as expected by the team and their fans. As mentioned before, they placed in the middle of the standings and fell short of playoffs by one spot. We’ve met the players, outlined their ups and downs, and shed some light on their important games. In this last part, we’ll take a dive into important maps, breaking them down with highlight clips and the players’ own opinions.
We’ll first determine which matches were the most defining for the Outlaws’ middle place ranking. The London Spitfire, Philadelphia Fusion, and Dallas Fuel were arguably their biggest rivals for the course of the inaugural season. Let’s break down some of these team matches between the Outlaws and see how Houston handled them.
LONDON SPITS FIRE
London never won against Houston in any regular season match but stopped the Outlaws during the Stage One playoffs. What exactly led to Houston dropping their only playoff spot to a team that they would never lose to in the regular season?
The simple answer is the way that the playoff schedule was in Stage One. The specific circumstances that led to the Outlaws placing for the Stage One playoffs were the exact reason why they didn’t win. Coolmatt explained the reason in detail in episode six of the Outlaws YouTube Channel series ‘FOCUS’:
“I was definitely worried about [the team’s] endurance throughout the day. Playing multiple sets in one day, it’s not really a required skill set in Overwatch League except for this scenario. So we haven’t really trained to play at high-intensity throughout a long period. A high-intensity match requires an energy expenditure of like two or three scrims honestly, so for us fatigue became an issue. We weren’t prepared properly for it because it’s not really necessary outside of that situation.”
“I think as the series went on, we kinda started to feel the fatigue. We started making more individual mistakes, being out of position, and our focus just fell apart. We lost discipline and when you start playing kinda shaky and you’re not focused, a good team capitalizes on that and that’s what happened to us.”
The defining moment that ended the Outlaws’ hopes for winning the playoffs in Stage Two is thanks to Profit and his great Junkrat Rip-Tire skills. Take a look at the how London full-holds Houston on Eichenwalde to win the game in this highlight.
PHILLY FUSION FEARSOME THEN FUMBLING
Philadelphia Fusion were a team that Houston had aggression towards from the very beginning. Losing their first regular-season map to PHI, Houston was always looking for redemption. However, every game the Outlaws played against the Fusion went to a game five and every time Houston failed.
Then near the end of the season with playoff pressure mounting, the Outlaws somehow got the game over Philly. In TGH’s exclusive interview with Bani, the Mercy player shed some light on how they managed to clutch a win against a team they never won against. Be sure to read the full article by our very own man-seagull Brandon Padilla to see very thoughtful analysis with some great Q’s and A’s!
“I think we stopped focusing on the enemy team (and how to prepare against them specifically) and just worked on ourselves. We’ve really built ourselves from Stage 3, and we’re just trying to play fundamentally good Overwatch, rather than trying to out-counter them or things like that. I think that made a huge difference because Philly relies a lot on their star power. If you just play good Overwatch, then it’s hard to lose to them, I think. You have the advantage in every fight unless one of their players pops off. If you can correctly shut them down, there’s nothing they can do.”
Houston’s strategy of focusing more on themselves than other teams has certainly worked out in the past and ensured them a win against Philadelphia. However, that strategy does not work all the time, as evidenced by the Outlaws’ loss to NYXL later that week. Even still, despite the loss against New York, Houston still used their unique strategy to ensure them a win over Philly.
This time around with Philadelphia, the Outlaws did not want to be forced to an overtime game five. Sadly, the first map, Blizzard World, belonged to Philadelphia even despite JAKE’s now infamous Torbjorn play. It seemed things may again go in the way of Philadelphia at the start of map two: Horizon Lunar Colony. Philadelphia was holding a fine defense and Houston had less than a minute to capture the first point. Then, Rawkus and Coolmatt teamed up to create all of the momentum the team would need to carry them to win the next three maps. Take a look at this clip.
Houston did a fine job with that momentum following the EMP and Self-Destruct combo, winning the next team fight and capturing the second point. With their spirits soaring high, the Outlaws did not let Philadelphia capture the second point, earning them a 1-1 score going into half-time.
The second half of matches both went in Houston’s favor, with Spree showing off his world-renown Zarya and, surprisingly, his lesser-known Pharah skills. Although Philadelphia was able to take one point on Lijiang Tower, the Outlaws came through for the win on the last map.
Everything came down to Watchpoint: Gibraltar, where the Outlaws were able to completely finish the map for all three points on their attack round. On defense, Philadelphia Fusion struggled to find a good counter to the composition that Houston was playing. Coolmatt again came through, coordinating with Muma to stagger the Fusion around 15 seconds before the timer went into overtime. This highlight shows the coordination of the Outlaws and the instability faced by the Fusion.
After Coolmatt de-mechs and kills Boombox, he gets back in his mech and sees where Carpe is hiding. He then flies over to block Carpe from escaping and shuts him down. Although Philadelphia is later able to resurrect the famed Widowmaker, this leaves them no resurrection available for the final fight. EQO switches to Tracer in desperation, and the last fight takes place. Houston has much better cooldown coordination and ultimate abilities for the last defense, which ultimately wins them the map. This difference in ‘Ult Economy’ is due to the staggering of the last two kills by Coolmatt, Muma, and Arhan.
Houston finally showed their dominance against a team they had never previously won against.
DALLAS FINDS NO FUEL: HOUSTON REIGNS SUPREME
Any fan of sports in Texas would certainly appreciate the rivalry faced between the cities of Houston and Dallas. Mavericks and Rockets, Cowboys and Texans, and now the Fuel and Outlaws. It is a rivalry that is not lost on the two Texan teams, who both constantly want to outdo each other.
Sadly enough for the Dallas Fuel, the beginning two-thirds of the season did not go very well, or at least as planned for the star-studded lineup. Internal issues centering on one of their coaches, Kyle ‘KyKy’ Souder, eventually led to his release from the Fuel and eventual sign-on to the Houston Outlaws coaching staff. Before KyKy’s release from the Fuel, the Outlaws had won against Fuel in a very dominant fashion.
This time, it seemed that Dallas was determined to prove themselves. Houston hadn’t allowed the Fuel to get a single point on any of their previous matches. The scores were 4-0 the first time they faced off, and 3-0 the next time (three because of a draw). The Fuel were confident that they wouldn’t go down with another goose egg on the board against the Outlaws. Luckily for Dallas their goal was reached, but unluckily they were only able to get one point on the board.
It all came down to the fourth map, Dorado, with Houston in the lead 2-1. If the Fuel could get this map win, they could potentially force a Game Five. Things looked very strong in the beginning for the Fuel as they essentially wiped out the Outlaws on their first push.
Dallas apparently forgot the objective-based part of this team shooter. They left the cart alone to slide back near their spawn after they had won the first fight. This seemed to be the game-defining moment as Houston held them to the area just before the first point, not allowing any mercy for Dallas’ fundamental mistake.
For part of their defense, Houston ran ArHaN on DPS as Genji, who nearly single-handedly ensured their win as the Kings of the Lone Star State. The Outlaws sent a message to Dallas after they had been beaten in that fateful first fight. Take a look here.
After this defense hold from Houston, Dallas had very little time left to capture the point. Coming off of the devastating error they made must have gotten into their heads. Houston blocked them, earning the Fuel a zero score for Dorado.
All the Outlaws had to do was to push the payload to the point where the Fuel had made it. They were running a double sniper composition with Coolmatt on Zarya and Muma on Reinhardt, interestingly enough. This team composition plus the tilting that Dallas had suffered from their misstep was all the Outlaws needed to win the match. Houston was able to capture the point in less than two minutes, cementing their place in OWL history as the best Texan team.
As we are able to see from the Philly and Dallas examples, Houston has made clutch plays. Sadly, they struggle when they either aren’t feeling their best or when a large title is on the line. A brutal example was shown to us courtesy of Profit’s RIP-tire. This seems to be a pattern in the Outlaws overall game habits.
The reason for their struggles against the Fusion is the same reason they struggled in the first Stage playoffs against the Spitfire. This is also the exact reason Houston lost to NYXL on a game five that could have potentially given them a playoff spot.
Houston’s fatal flaw is that they rely less on who they are playing against, and more on the players’ mental states. When the Outlaws are looking strong, they are confident. When they’re performing poorly, you can see it on their faces. The mental resilience needed to contend in such a high-level sport is a skill that takes time to develop. Their struggles are indicative of separate personal issues that coalesce into one teamwide issue.
In other words, Houston has a tendency to be tilted on a match-wide scale. They lose many games in a row when they are not feeling up to the task.
Looking to the Future
The Outlaws had a successful season regardless of not placing in the season playoffs. They landed many sponsorship deals, made it onto TV to talk about OWL, created an extremely passionate fanbase, and kept everyone who watched them entertained along the way. While these things don’t lead to a great spot in OWL standings, they are indicative of a special kind of force that the Outlaws has exerted on the League. Their charisma and skills carried many of the members from the World Cup to the Overwatch League, and may very well inspire future members of upcoming seasons.
Thank you for reading all the way through if you did, I sincerely appreciate it!
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