The Rocket League Championship Series World Championship is two weeks away, and the field is wide open. Each region is sending its best, and each region also hopes to bring the title back home with them. Who has the best odds at making their region proud?
This three part mini-series will serve as a large scale preview for the RLCS Finals in Newark, New Jersey from June 21-23. Fans can expect team by team profiles, as well as their chances at winning it all in Jersey.
North America returns three of the four teams it brought in Season 6, including defending champions Cloud9. Can the region follow up its performance in Las Vegas and win on home turf? Here are NA’s best chances in descending order.
Contender #4: Rogue
Roster: Cameron “Kronovi” Bills, Nicholas “Wonder” Blackerby and Austin “AyyJayy” Aebi
RLCS Season 7 Results: 6th place (2-5, 13-16), Beat Ghost and Spacestation at Regional Championship, lost to NRG in semi-final.
Group: C (Renegades, FC Barcelona)
Previous Worlds Results: None
Key Player: Wonder
Rogue’s presence at the World Championships is something of an enigma. They were objectively bad for most of league play, and barring a 3-1 win against Spacestation on the last day of the season, they would have been playing in the Promotion Playoffs. Instead they beat Spacestation, found another level of form at the Regional Championship, and they’re through to worlds. Any other result in the Regional Championship, and Rogue are in dire straits.
Kronovi has been rock solid for Rogue all season, and he has significant previous LAN experience. He won ELEAGUE with G2 in 2017 and has been a regular at LAN since Season 3. Kronovi is a much needing calming presence on this roster. He’s been in good positions to score and defend all season. Rotations have been cleaner and at times he’s been tasked with locking down the defense by himself.
Wonder and AyyJayy are huge variables. Both are mechanically capable, both can fill multiple roles on the pitch, but both also are painfully inconsistent. One day AyyJayy will flip-reset his way to several solo goals, and on another he’ll be rendered useless by Evil Geniuses.
The pendulum can swing wide on this team’s potential, but there isn’t quite enough substance to build a deep run around. Rogue didn’t make Day 3 at DreamHack Dallas, despite a favorable matchup against mousesports in their last series. They haven’t proved they can consistently play at a high level, let alone in a LAN environment.
Kronovi has also struggled at World Championships since he won in Season 1. G2 kicked him largely because of his inability to perform at worlds. He has something to prove in Jersey.
Rogue’s offense was among the better groups in NA. They finished fourth in goals per game, and third in shots per game. They create plenty of chances, and they’ve proved they can score with the likes of anybody. If they can create quality looks through impressive passing displays like they did in Dallas, they can play with the likes of anyone.
The troubling part is their defense. They finished fifth in goals allowed in NA. At times Rogue lose focus and miss off their backboard or unnecessarily send two at the ball. They have to clean up their defense to have a chance to make some noise at the World Championship.
Then again, one series win sends them through and anything can happen in the knockout rounds. All they have to do is beat Renegades and they’re in the clear.
Chances of winning the World Championship: Slim to none. Best case scenario is a top eight finish.
Contender #3: G2 Esports
Roster: Dillon “Rizzo” Rizzo, Jacob “JKnaps” Knapman, Reed “Chicago” Wilen
RLCS Season 7 Results: 2nd place (6-1, 19-10), fell to Cloud9 in semi-final of Regional Championship
Group: B (Renault Vitality, GroundZero Gaming)
Previous Worlds Results: Season 6 9th-10th, Season 5 7th-8th, Season 4 4th
Key Player: Rizzo
G2 haven’t yet been able to shake the LAN-monkey off their backs. The only major they’ve won was ELEAGUE with Kronovi in 2017. They’ve always been a great team in league play, but they haven’t quite been able to breakthrough in the playoffs.
Chicago is here to change that. The MVP runner-up was incredible on both sides of the ball all season. He knocked in 0.83 GPG and had 0.79 APG on the league’s third best offense. Even more ludicrous is the fact he participated in 84.13% of G2’s goals this season. He’s been an upgrade over Kronovi, and he formed a nice offensive partnership with JKnaps.
The problem is that offensive partnership is both the team’s greatest strength and its greatest weakness.
Against lesser teams Rizzo comfortably locked down the defense and allowed JKnaps and Chicago to do all the work on offense. Against NRG in league play and Cloud9 in the Regional Championship it blew up in their face. They can’t maintain the same pressure or stretch the defense with this offensive strategy against elite competition. Teams don’t allow Chicago and JKnaps the space they need to create.
Rizzo’s performance will be crucial in G2’s overall performance. If they find a way to integrate him into the offense without opening themselves up at the back, they could make a very deep run into this tournament. If the offense is clunky and Rizzo forces himself too far forward, they’ll bow out early.
Fortunately for them, their group is manageable. GroundZero have never been to a World Championship, and Vitality are reeling after a disappointing performance at DreamHack Dallas. Winning their group will be key. It could be the difference between facing their eternal bane NRG Esports and a strong but not otherworldly PSG squad.
Fans will have G2’s back and they’ve shown consistently that when a series goes down to the wire, they are at their best. Sometimes the connection a team has with the crowd and the energy in the stadium is the difference between winning and losing. G2 haven’t been able to do that yet, but they have the potential to.
Chances of Winning World Championship: Long shot. If the bracket breaks their way, they could end up in the semi-final, but they’d have to find another level of play they haven’t reached yet to advance to a Grand Final.
Contender #2: Cloud9
Roster: Mariano “Squishy” Arruda, Kyle “Torment” Storer, Jesus “Gimmick” Parra
RLCS Season 7 Results: 3rd place (4-3, 16-11), Runner-up at Regional Championship after beating Spacestation and G2. Lost to NRG in final.
Group: D (Lowkey Esports, Triple Trouble)
Previous Worlds Results: Season 6 World Champion, Season 5
Key player: Torment
The battle between NRG and C9 is painfully close. Given that Cloud9 just won in DreamHack, it’s hard to argue against them, but it’s even harder to bring that level of play to consecutive major LANs. It’s unwise to get too caught up with results from one event, and winning at the highest level is incredibly difficult. Is a C9 win out of the question? Absolutely not.
In fact Dignitas showed that repeating as world champs is completely possible. The environment in Jersey will be similar to the one Cloud9 won in Season 6. The fans will be loud, and the NA supporters will have their back. Squishy brings a different level of star power to this team, and he feeds off of it.
Torment also feeds off of it, and when he is making plays and disrupting opposing attacks, C9 win. Even when he doesn’t play all that well they win. At the highest level though, C9 need him to find his form and make life hell for their opponents. He is a great goalkeeper, but Torment also is great at challenging balls in the midfield.
Speed is where C9 hang their toppers, but passing is the real key to this team. What sets C9 apart from the rest of the world is their ability to take advantage of every ball. They rarely throw possession away or double commit. They seem to always know where each other are and where they want the pass to be. Squishy and Gimmick dominate the side walls and Torment strikes the ball as true as anyone in the game.
If teams are cutting out those passes, then they get into trouble. C9 won’t often double commit a game away. Sometimes they get over ambitious or lackadaisical and it costs them. Gimmick will go for every single ball they allow him to. He’s always up, being a nuisance and making great passes, but at times that comes back to bite them. Torment and Squishy might be a little too confident in their teammate’s touch and sneak too far forward and get scored on.
C9 control their own destiny unlike any other team at this tournament. It’s extremely rare that an opponent looks Cloud9 in the eye and just beats them to every ball and generates pressure. It usually comes from their own mishaps, but if they can keep those to a minimum, they’ll beat everybody. And now they’ve been in this situation before. They know what it takes to win at the World Championship, and they’re the only full team in the world that can say that.
Chances of Winning World Championship: C9 are among the favorites. Anything less than the semi-final would be shocking, and repeating as champions feels as likely as Rogue making it out of Group D.
Contender #1: NRG Esports
Roster: Justin “JSTN” Morales, Garrett “GarrettG” Gordon, Jayson “Fireburner” Nunez
RLCS Season 7 Results: 1st place (7-0, 21-6), Beat Rogue and Cloud9 to win Regional Championship
Group: A (INTZ eSports, PSG)
Previous Worlds Results: Season 6 7th-8th, Season 5 runner-up, Season 4 9th-10th, Season 3 3rd, Season 2 5th-6th
Key Player: JSTN
It may well be sacrilegious to doubt Cloud9, but NRG are still the narrow favorites from NA to bring home the crown. That’s not to say C9 has no shot though. They do, but NRG have been on another level of play all season. They trounced everyone in NA and nearly had the best RLCS season ever. Their defense was unreal, their offense was unstoppable and they won all the major postseason awards.
There are heavy expectations on this team. One can’t dominate league play and then flop at the World Championship without heavy criticism. The last time NRG looked this good heading into the finals, they made it all the way to the Grand Finals and were one goal away from taking home the crown. Can they recreate that same magic?
If JSTN is feeling himself and shredding defenses apart? Yes. The beauty of having JSTN and GarrettG on the same team is that you have unmatched versatility. Fireburner slots into whatever role they don’t want to
play, and no one can stop it. JSTN and Garrett read the ball better than anyone in the game outside of Squishy and Kaydop. They know where the ball will bounce before anyone else recognizes it, and they both have a special ability to position their car just right and hit the ball where it needs to be.
That ability to read the ball has been the foundation for the domination of NRG’s success because it creates so many transition opportunities. NRG are rarely pinned in their own half for long because of their versatility and JSTN’s sick reads. Every one of these players in dangerous in 1v1 situations, on off wall aerials, with low boost or whatever else comes their way.
The only worry is their recent struggle against Dignitas in Dallas and their inability to beat OCE teams at worlds over the last few seasons. Their group should be easy for them because INTZ are so over matched, and they need to do their best to win the group. Vitality were off when they met NRG in Dallas, but the NA squad absolutely crushed the EU group in what could very likely be foreshadowing for the Grand Finals.
Cloud9 are a big threat. They’ve handled them in online play, but LAN is different. They need to keep their nerve, focus on playing their game and not get caught chasing Gimmick’s passes around in order to win. Every other opponent would be an underdog against NRG. They’re that good.
Chances of Winning World Championship: It’s championship or bust time for NRG. Garrett and Fireburner are the best players to never win in the Grand Finals, and this could very well be their year.
Feature image courtesy of Psyonix.
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