Following a dominant debut in the Overwatch League, the Toronto Defiant are on their way to a stage playoff berth after completing the regular season on a three game winning streak. At least, that was the impression their Stage 1 performance left. Since their quarterfinal elimination at the hands of the San Francisco Shock, however, the Defiant have claimed victory in only one of their first five matches in Stage 2. With no matches scheduled in Texas for the Dallas Homestand this weekend, Toronto will not be returning to action until Week 5 against the Vancouver Titans.
Toronto entered the stage with the fourth most difficult schedule of the league in front of them. Opponents like San Francisco and Vancouver loomed over the resilient Defiant, encouraging Toronto to begin the stage strong. Despite sacrificing a map against the Washington Justice, Toronto managed to come away victorious to begin. Since then, losses to the Boston Uprising, Philadelphia Fusion, Dallas Fuel and San Francisco Shock have exposed Toronto and nearly pushed them out of the Stage 2 playoff race.
Challenging opponents are one obstacle, but internal roster changes are entirely another. San Francisco’s playoff victory would be an awakening for the young squad. Following the conclusion of Stage 1, Do-hyung “Stellar” Lee announced his retirement from professional play. Stellar’s departure suddenly left Toronto without a clear flex DPS option. After a brief journey through the Path to Pro, Jin “im37” Hong joined the Defiant as an answer for the hole left by Stellar’s retirement.
Im37’s journey to the Overwatch league spanned less than 30 days. After participating in matches with both Wave Check in Open Division and Second Wind in North American Contenders, he’s now reached the Overwatch League to test his metal with the best.
To nobody’s surprise, integration of their new player was not achieved overnight. Simply filling a new role in itself is a major hurdle for a player to overcome, but changing roles between multiple players midseason is a different beast entirely. Toronto’s latest attempt to fill Stellar’s flex DPS roll has been with Seung-hyun “Ivy” Lee. The team has struggled behind their indecisive Zarya play from im37 and a lack of team coordination overall since making these changes.
Entering into the season, Toronto’s coaching staff boasted a focus towards being innovators of the continuous meta shift in 2019. Since their fall from grace in the Stage 1 playoffs, they’ve seemed completely incapable of adapting to the aggressive shift in Stage 2.
There are a multitude of factors hampering the Defiant’s success in Stage 2. Sitting at the top of that list would be their lack of team synergy. On episode 36 of Oversight, Toronto General Manager Jaesun “Jae” Won touched on the importance of they synergy Stellar offered opposite Ivy in 2019.
“Ivy, mechanically is a very gifted flex DPS… He’s very one-minded when he plays, he wants to just GO, and doesn’t really think when he’s playing. [But] Stellar is a very cerebral player. He thinks a lot, he communicates very well… he is very intelligent.” – Jae on DPS duo Ivy & Stellar
They both played off each other well. Stellar’s ability to communicate and manage engagements for Toronto helped Ivy and the rest of the Defiant execute with deadly efficiency for a time. Toronto seems more in need of a direct answer to Stellar’s absence than the overall potential im37 brings to the Overwatch League stage.
For right now, the goal for Toronto moving forward has to be reestablishing dominant roles for your team to build around. Despite im37’s struggles, he is a player with incredible talent. If he and Ivy can be more well integrated, perhaps Stellar’s absence wouldn’t have as great of an impact as it has during the Defiant’s tumultuous run through Stage 2.
Despite their struggles, Toronto will have an opportunity to finish on a high note. Their Week 5 matchup with the Paris Eternal could offer the best chance at closing out the stage on the right note. Not only that, but the Eternal will be on the verge of a playoff appearance. Toronto could have an excellent chance at playing spoiler against their fellow expansion roster. Hopefully, their time off in Week 4 will pay dividends going forward.
Featured Image Courtesy of Ben Pursell For Blizzard Entertainment
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