Stage 2 of the Overwatch League has officially drawn to a close. For the Philadelphia Fusion, it was a rough one. The Fuson ended up in eleventh place in the overall stage standings, tying with the Atlanta Reign. After a disappointing stage, it is time to sit down and discuss what the Fusion’s issues are, and where they can go from here.
The Lows of Stage 2
Strength of schedule might seem like a cop-out to some, but with only seven matches per stage, every win and every loss matters. Tough opponents had a massive impact on the Philadelphia Fusion this stage. Having to play against the New York Excelsior twice, and then losing to both the London Spitfire and San Francisco Shock had fans down in the dumps. However, the Fusion’s schedule was merely a small fraction of their troubles.
Once again, the Fusion struggled with their communication and coordination. Philly’s aggressive playstyle seems to have resulted in what appears to be a “too many cooks in the kitchen” situation. There’s no clear shot-caller; everyone is often wandering around doing their own thing. Su-min “SADO” Kim gets a lot of flack for feeding, but if one pays attention, they will notice that Josh “Eqo” Corona and Jae-hyeok “Carpe” Lee are often dying out of position as well. The team is rarely well-coordinated, and that fact only grew more apparent with each loss. When the best a team has looked all stage is against the Houston Outlaws, there is a problem that needs to be addressed.
Along with their communication issues, the Fusion are generally struggling with GOATS. While other DPS players have grown more accustomed to playing Brigitte or Zarya as the season goes on, both EQO and Carpe continue to look uncomfortable. That lack of comfort plays a significant role in what the Fusion’s actual main problem might be.
Fusion’s Flexibility, or lack thereof
Flexibility is the main thing that the Philadelphia Fusion lacks. During the offseason, the Fusion decided to focus on their core roster. In doing so, they agreed to part ways with multiple players from their season one roster. Former members of the Fusion, such as Hong-joon “HOTBA” Choi and George “ShaDowBurn” Gushcha found new homes in the Guangzhou Charge and the Paris Eternal respectively. Other members who never got to see the stage, like Jeong-hwan “DayFly” Park and Joe “Joemeister” Gramano, have since moved on to new ventures. The only addition to the roster was the signing of Elijah Hudson “Elk” Gallagher.
Elk was signed to the Fusion on a two-way contract; this contract limits the number of games that Elk can play during a stage. As fans witnessed during Stage 1, Elk’s debut was not on excellent terms. Thrust on to the role of off-support, Elk would be subbed in for a sick BoomBox. While Elk is a fantastic healer, his strengths lie with Lucio and Ana. The role of Zenyatta is a tricky one; it’s a role of choices. One has to know who to prioritize with their discord orbs, when the appropriate time to use transcendence is, etc.
Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock
Not having a flex support player adds more stress to the Fusion’s lineup. Although Elk showed that he significantly improved on Zenyatta between Stages 1 and 2, it would probably be in the Fusion’s best interest to pick up another player if BoomBox falls ill again.
So why haven’t they?
The fact that Philly has yet to pick up another support player supports the fan theory that the Fusion will be bringing up Alarm when he comes of age later this summer. Kyungbo “Alarm” Kim is currently a star flex support for Fusion University. His Zenyatta is one of the best in Contenders. So much so that Sung-hyeon “JJoNak” Bang holds him in high regard. Together, both Alarm and Elk are an unstoppable support duo. They have played an essential role in Fusion University’s success, winning three championship titles while playing together.
Choosing to play two games each stage put Elk out of the running for competing for the fourth championship title. However, Alarm and the rest of Fusion University were able to pull out another victory over Gladiator’s Legion during the finals for NA Contenders. Alarm’s future is looking bright, and he will more than likely be pulled up from Fusion University once he turns 18. In the meantime, the Fusion might want to look toward their tank line for a possible change.
In An Ideal World
Channeling Charlie Kelly from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, it’s time to think about possible moves from the Fusion. As the league enters the mid-season break, the time for trades is now. While there are arguments to be made about potentially trading members of the core roster, it would make more sense to look towards Fusion University’s roster for inspiration. The addition of another off-tank would considerably improve the Fusion’s lineup.
As much as fans adore the fish, Carpe has been having a tough time on Zarya. If the Fusion were to bring up Se-won “BERNAR” Shin from Fusion University, he would offer that flexibility back to the roster. BERNAR has proven himself to be a formidable flex tank; his D.VA and Zarya are definitely Overwatch League level at this point.
Having another dedicated flex tank would help Philly in multiple ways. That added flexibility would allow Gael “Poko” Gouzerch to show off his Zarya skills, which fans have rarely seen outside of his streams. Because of Poko’s success on D.VA during season one, fans often forget that he was brought onto the team as a Zarya specialist. Having BERNAR in the starting lineup alongside Poko and SADO would strengthen the Fusion’s GOATS play, which is something that Philly will desperately need if the meta does not change.
What Comes Next?
In a report from Arran “Halo” Brown, it appears that the Overwatch League will not be debuting a 2-2-2 lock as many hoped. This means that fans will probably continue to watch the Fusion struggle with GOATS meta next stage. Philly will be facing a mixed bag of opponents next stage; their hardest games will more than likely be against the Los Angeles Gladiators and the Boston Uprising. The Fusion will be going up against the Boston Uprising twice this stage. Like the Fusion, the Uprising are underrated by many in the community. However, unlike Philly, they are one of the stronger GOATS teams in the league. Their DPS players Jeffrey “blasé” Tsang and Kelsey “Colourhex” Birse are significantly more comfortable on Brig and Zarya than EQO and Carpe, and they will definitely make the Fusion work for a victory.
However, these two matches will probably pale in comparison to Philly’s game against the Los Angeles Gladiators. Although the Gladiators seemed to wilt before the New York Excelsior during quarter-finals, they are a team that always bounces back. This match will more than likely make or break how Philly’s third stage will go. The Gladiators are known to have a wacky, unpredictable playstyle. This often works in their favor, but there are times when it truly blows up in their faces. If the meta changes between Stages 2 and 3, the Fusion might have a better chance if their DPS players are allowed to do what they do best.
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