A week off was well earned for the Vancouver Titans. An undefeated Stage 1 has carried over into a perfect Stage 2 (thus far), and now the Titans are nearing the halfway mark of a long season. Two more strong weeks would cement their run as likely the best in league history.
Week 5 Preview
Toronto Defiant (6-6)
First up is the inaugural Battle for Canada – a matchup that looked much better coming out of Stage 1. At that point, Toronto were sitting comfortably at 5-2 and seemed like they might be the second best expansion team behind the Titans. Since then, Toronto’s strong start has faded thanks to a tough Stage 2 schedule and unforeseen roster moves.
Do-hyung “Stellar” Lee’s retirement came out of nowhere and left the Defiant scrambling. They’ve been slow to adapt around new addition Jin “im37” Hong. It’s unclear if this is Toronto coming back down to earth or a temporary slump, but they desperately need to right the ship.
Perhaps the week off will make this an interesting contest. The last time an opponent had extra time to prep for the Titans, Houston made them sweat, taking the first map and pushing Vancouver out of its comfort zone.
Still, it’s hard to see this going any way other than a stomp for the Titans. They’ve just bee too good to this point to predict an upset before it happens, especially against a struggling opponent in Toronto.
If Keongmu “Yakpung” Cho is on form, and Sangbeom “Bumper” Park has an off day, there’s a world where this is close. Vancouver is just as rested as the Defiant, and they should be eager to secure seeding in a competitive stage playoff race. That motivation should be enough for Vancouver to take the first Battle for Canada.
Prediction: Vancouver wins 4-0
Seoul Dynasty (7-5)
Seoul have rounded into form after a brutal start to Stage 2. They’ve shaken off early losses to the Titans and Gladiators and given themselves a shot at a second straight stage playoff berth. A 2-0 week at the Dallas Homestand gave them life, but it could cost them this week against a rested Titans squad. How will Seoul handle the stress of travel and back to back weeks of games on consecutive days?
In Week 2, Seoul were able to take a map off the Titans after the series was already over. Even if they can repeat that performance, nothing suggests that they are equipped to really push Vancouver. The Dynasty can punish lesser GOATs teams like the Outlaws, but when they are against a competent opponent, they look much more pedestrian.
Vancouver will be there to punish the kind of sloppy play Seoul showed against the Valiant in Dallas. The Dynasty are capable of brilliance, but they still lack the individual skill the Titans have across the board. Seoul needs a win this weekend, but they should look elsewhere if they’re being realistic.
Prediction: Vancouver wins 3-1
Player to Watch: Juseok “Twilight” Lee
Beyond Twilight, the flex support matchup, in general, will be tantalizing. Jehong “ryujehong” Ryu has had a renaissance of late, looking more comfortable on Zenyatta and even getting the chance to pick up Ana, the hero that made him an icon. Seoul’s prospects have mirrored those of their star flex support since Season 1, and they’re starting to look up.
If Jehong is the legend enjoying a return to form, Twilight is the young gun reminding everyone that Jehong used to be the best at the position. He too has taken advantage of the emergence of Ana to show that he is top-tier at multiple heroes. Theirs is a clash of the old guard and the new world. With Sleep Darts, Biotic Grenades and Nanoboosts aplenty, it should be an impactful and entertaining head to head. If Twilight wins it, Vancouver should roll, but Jehong has the potential to put on a vintage performance and lift Seoul up.
Two games. That’s all that stands between Vancouver and a second undefeated stage. They’ve already exceeded expectations, but hitting the halfway mark without slipping up would be unreal. As long as the Titans are focused and ready to play, they should have no problems finding 14-0.
Featured image courtesy of Ben Pursell for Blizzard Entertainment.
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