With the craziness of this Overwatch League offseason, it is worth a look back at how teams have changed since the league’s inception. Looking at retention of the original players for each team, there appear three distinct categories. The first are teams that have had a complete overhaul, with none of the original players still with the organization. On the other end of the spectrum there are stronghold teams that have retained a larger number of their players. The last category are teams with 1-3 ‘surviving’ players who provide the foundation for a new strategy for their teams.
Part 1 looked at the at the ‘overhauled’ teams – those that have parted ways with every single player that was with the team as the 2018 season started.
Today is a look at the ‘stronghold’ teams – those that have retained over half of their original players. The three teams that fit this criterion are the New York Excelsior, Philadelphia Fusion and Houston Outlaws. This will take a look at where the players have gone and what direction the teams seem to be moving in.
New York Excelsior: 5 Original Players
Yeon-jun “Ark” Hong
Jun-Hwa “Janus” Song
Seong-hyun ‘JJonak” Bank
Hae-seong “Libero” Kim
Dong-gyu “Mano” Kim
Tae-hong “MekO” Kim
Do-hyeon “Pine” Kim
Jong-ryeol “Saebyeolbe” Park
For the most part, the New York Excelsior have stuck to the motto “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” This has clearly worked for them as they finished first and second in the season standings for Season One and Two, respectively. With minimal changes mid-season and in the offseason each year, they have retained five out of their eight original players. Halfway through Season One they signed Tae-sung “Anamo” Jung as their third support player and had no changes until the offseason.
Leading into Season Two, the team announced the release of Janus while signing Yeon-kwan “Nenne” Jeong and Yeon-ho “Fl0w3r” Hwang from their XL2 Academy team. With this slight change, they were able to go undefeated in not one but two stages (Stages 1 and 3). They once again had just one mid-season change, this time transferring Ark to the Washington Justice. The Excelsior finished the season as leaders of the Atlantic Division. Despite winning their first two matches in the Season Playoffs, they fell in sequential matches to the Vancouver Titans and San Francisco Shock.
As they look ahead to the 2020 Season, New York have made four roster changes. They have released Fl0w3r and MekO, the latter of whom has since signed with the Houston Outlaws. They acquired two new off-tanks in the meantime, promoting Dong-wook “BiaNcA” from XL2 Academy and signing Hong-jun “HOTBA” Choi from the Guangzhou Charge.
Remaining Original Players: Saebyeolbe, Libero, Pine, Mano, Jjonak
Philadelphia Fusion: 6 Original Players
Jae-hyeok “Carpe” Lee
Simon “Snillo” Ekström
Georgii “ShaDowBurn” Gushcha
Josue “Eqo” Corona
Su-min “SADO” Kim
Joona “fragi” Laine
Alberto “neptuNo” González Molinillo
Jeong-hwan “DayFly” Park
Joseph “Joemeister” Gramano
Isaac “Boombox” Charles
Hong-Jun “HOTBA” Choi
Gael “Poko” Gouzerch
Whereas the Excelsior began with eight players and only made a few changes each year, Philadelphia started with a full twelve players and has kept half of them. In the Inaugural season, they experienced no trades or releases, which worked for them as they made their way through the Season Playoffs and finished runner-up to the London Spitfire in the Finals.
For the Second Season of the Overwatch League, the Fusion let three players go: ShaDowBurn, DayFly and Joemeister. The team announced the promotion of Elijah “Elk” Gallagher from the Fusion University Contenders team. Elk would play this season on a two-way contract between the organization’s Overwatch League and Contenders teams. They transferred HOTBA to the Guangzhou charge before the season, then traded Fragi to them in return for Finley “Kyb” Adisi between Stage 3 and Stage 4. This season was a bit of a disappointment after their strong results in the Inaugural Season. In 2019 they qualified for the Stage 1 Playoffs but lost in the semifinals, then qualified for the play-in tournament for the Season Playoffs but were eliminated in their first match.
This offseason has been tumultuous for the Fusion. After the season ended they released Elk, Kyb, neptuNo, and decided not to pick up the team option on EQO’s contract. But just a week later it was announced that EQO would in fact be back on the roster for 2020. They also picked up Jun-ho “Fury” Kim from the London Spitfire in exchange for Se-won “BERNAR” Shin and Tae-hoon “Fuze” Kim from Fusion University. The last acquisitions were Seun-hun “Ivy” Lee from the Toronto Defiant, Daniel “FunnyAstro” Hathaway from the Atlanta Reign, Kyung-bo “Alarm” Kim from Fusion University, and Hee-su “Heesu” Jeong from Team RunAway. Hopefully these new players will combine with the original foundation to bring the Fusion back to their Season One glory.
Remaining Original Players: Carpe, Snillo, Eqo, SADO, Poko, Boombox
Houston Outlaws: 7 Original Players
Matthew “Clockwork” Dias
Lucas “Mendokusaii” Håkansson
Jiri “LiNkzr” Masalin
Jake “Jake” Lyon
Austin “Muma” Wilmot
Matt “Coolmatt” Iorio
Shane “Rawkus” Flaherty
Christopher “Bani” Benell
Daniel “Boink” Pence
Alexandre “SPREE” Vanhomwegen
The outlaws are the epitome of player retention. Out of the 10 players they had prior to the Inaugural Season, they still have seven of them, and an eighth working as part of the coaching staff. For the first two seasons, the Houston Outlaws stuck with generally the same roster with minimal changes each year. They acquired two new players in the Inaugural Season, signing Russell “FCTFCTN” Campbell after Stage One and Won-hyeop “ArHaN” Jung after Stage Two. Yet the team struggled after reaching the Semifinals of the Stage One Playoffs. They did not qualify for any other Stage Playoffs or the Season Playoffs, finishing with a record of 22-18.
Heading into Season Two, the Outlaws released FCTFCTN, Mendokusaii and Clockwork. Mendokusaii became a content creator for the team before retiring in 2019 and joining Team Liquid’s Apex Legends roster. Clockwork would go on to find a role as Assistant Coach for the Outlaws. Their big pick-up of the offseason was trading Myeong-hwan “Smurf” Yoo from their Contenders team (GG Esports Academy) to the San Francisco Shock in exchange for Dante “Danteh” Cruz. This filled a noticeable hole in their DPS line since they lacked a solid Tracer/Sombra player in Season One. But throughout Season Two, the team struggled in the GOATS meta. They only qualified for the Stage Three Playoffs and did not find a single win throughout Stage Two, leading to a disappointing 9-19 record.
This offseason brought significant moves to both the team roster and coaching staff. The team’s first announcement was the release of ArHaN, then additionally released Bani in November. In a shocking move, the Outlaws picked up João Pedro “Hydration” Goes Telles from the Los Angeles Gladiators. The team once more shocked fans with the acquisition of Tae-Hong “MekO” Kim who was not re-signed by the New York Excelsior. Further signings include Jeffrey “blasé” Tsang from the Boston Uprising and Jung-Geun “Rapel” Kim from the Vancouver Titans. With the new coaching staff and new roster additions, the Outlaws are hoping to rise through the standings in 2020 and become a true contender for the Championship.
Remaining Original Players: LiNkzr, Jake, Muma, SPREE, Coolmatt, Rawkus, Boink
You can also follow Matthew @setanta_ow or message him on Discord (setanta#2155).