Welcome to Rocket Launching, a midweek RLCS column that discusses the wonderful world of Rocket League esports. So, apparently some roster news happened over in EU?
Sources confirmed to The Game Haus Monday morning that Yanis “Alpha54” Champenois will be joining Team SoloMid. Aldin “Ronaky” Hodzic left Triple Trouble to replace Alpha on FC Barcelona.
This is really important because it affects nearly half of the league in EU. If Andy “Kassio” Landais had intentions to sign with another squad, this shuffle would have jostled four of the eight EU RLCS teams. As Fluump would say, it’s pretty insane.
Let’s take these roster moves one by one, chew them thoroughly and then digest them with the fervor of the giraffe who eats Simba’s hair.
Alpha54 Will Join TSM
FC Barcelona confirmed via their official (esports) Twitter page that Alpha is, indeed, moving on. Team SoloMid is his destination, which is a very interesting proposition.
I’ve said on multiple occasions that TSM was the most frustrating Rocket League team in the world last season. Their playstyle amounted to trading possession in the midfield until somebody messes up or scores a long goal. It worked sometimes, but boy was it boring.
A week ago I said that something needed to change in how Remco “Remkoe” den Boer and Otto “Metsanauris” Kaipiainen approach the game, but Alpha54 could prove that invalid.
There are very few bonafide, grab the game by the throat, difference makers in Rocket League, and Alpha54 is one of them. Very few can completely change the course of a series like the French flick master.
I’m talking about players like Justin “JSTN” Morales, Kyle “Scrub Killa” Robertson, Jesus “Gimmick” Parra or Thibault “Chausette45” Grzesiak who can create chances from seemingly nowhere through mechanical excellence.
TSM were in desperate need of that game changing ability, so Alpha was the dream signing. If we’re looking at just the level of play, FC Barcelona could have been seen as a better situation, but TSM’s current roster composition is very similar. You have two RLCS veterans feeding on chances created by one of the younger generation’s mechanical maniacs.
This is a massive win for TSM. Seriously huge. I don’t know if they had to pay him an absurd amount or what they did to convince him, but he was the absolute best player available for transfer. Alpha won MVP in his first RLCS season. He is excellent in the air and with the ball on his hood. He should bring enough spice to TSM’s offense to make them a world class team.
Something had to give with TSM. Jordan “EyeIgnite” Stellon, Remkoe and Metsanauris had hit their ceiling with the ELEAGUE win in late 2018. It sucks to kick someone, but they just couldn’t do much better with the group they had.
Alpha is a completely different player than EyeIgnite who was more of a true striker. Alpha does a little bit of everything and isn’t as reliant on redirects and rebounds to score. He’s a definite upgrade, but more importantly he changes their playstyle and thus the complexion of the team.
In sadder news, we won’t get to see Alpha in his Barcelona uniform again. His jersey had the word “Alpha” preening across the top with the number 54 underneath it like he was some youth academy player invited to ride the bench in a preseason tournament. It was magical.
Ronaky Joins FC Barcelona
Barcelona have made no official acknowledgement of the signing, but it’s done. After The Game Haus reported the move in the morning, Euan “Tadpole” Ingram confirmed the move is done by wishing Ronaky good luck in Barcelona in a Twitlonger addressing the situation (admittedly, a bit back handedly).
There’s a lot of bad manners stuff that happened surrounding this, but that’s been well documented. I don’t want to talk about that. I’d rather just focus on what he could mean to FCB as a squad.
Ronaky led EU in shots per game last season, but somehow finished 12th in goals per game with 0.70. Only five players in EU had a worse shooting percentage.
Alpha54 on the other hand was incredibly efficient with his chances. On 3.37 shots per game Alpha scored 0.85 GPG. Francesco “Kuxir97” Cinquemani was the only player who scored more goals with as high a volume of shot attempts.
FC Barcelona used Alpha54 to create a lot of chances through flicks and air drags, but aren’t solely reliant on those types of plays. They love to play fast, use a lot of boost and suffocate their opponent.
Ronaky should benefit from that, and Dan “Bluey” Bluett/David “Deevo” Morrow could be a better supporting cast than the Tadpole/Kassio Triple Trouble squad from Season 7. It’s hard to quantify how much Ronaky is responsible for their success, but he could find himself in a position where his looks are a little bit more clean than with TT because the offensive pressure they generate is greater.
On the other hand, losing an MVP is a pretty crushing development. Having an org makes it a bit harder to air grievances, but the FCB boys don’t seem too up in arms about the move. Maybe the TSM offer was so good they couldn’t deny Alpha the chance to go, or maybe they think it won’t be too much of a chore to replace him.
They also rode a phenom to the RLCS after being kicked from their own teams, so Bluey and Deevo can’t be too ungrateful. Bluey is still a very aggressive player and Deevo is becoming more sage and wise by the series. Ronaky will be tasked with doing the same thing he did with Triple Trouble: hitting the ball really hard at the net.
FCB might be a little bit less reliant on ground plays and individual pop-offs, but a team doesn’t necessarily need those things to be successful. Barcelona may be able to scheme and speed their way past opponents, even without Alpha54.
EyeIgnite to Play Beyond the Summit with TT, Kassio Returns
This squad struggled mightily in the DreamHack: Montreal qualifiers with EyeIgnite, but their scrim time was limited and they had Ronaky on the squad.
Ronaky and EyeIgnite have very similar tendencies. Their stat lines overlap quite a bit, too (Ronaky 0.70 GPG, 0.50 APG, 1.73 SAPG, on 3.50 SHPG vs. EyeIgnite 0.71 GPG, 0.29 APG, 1.29 SAPG, 3.00 SHPG). Having two pure strikers on the field at the same time could have been a bit clunky.
Kassio is also a very good player who somehow got caught up in the shuffle here. He’s extremely versatile and was a mad man for Method in the Rival Series. He’ll probably play a third man role similar to Season 7 where he bought time defensively for his teammates and scored loose balls.
Tadpole has to shoulder the brunt of this move because Kassio and EyeIgnite both finished in the bottom five in assists in EU. Ronaky is a good passer and his absence means Tadpole will have to do most of the creating for his team.
Remkoe also finished in the bottom five in assists in Season 7, so EyeIgnite is used to turning to one creator for his chances. Kassio could stand to distribute the ball a bit more, and will have to be better offensively in Season 8.
Triple Trouble need to look for every avenue they can to create space for EyeIgnite to shoot. They need to demo goalies, try for in-field passes and do anything else they can think of to clear the way for EyeIgnite to go and score.
This team is in a quietly dangerous position, but they’ve overcome adversity before. You don’t spend two seasons in the Rival Series without learning a few things along the way.
Ronaky’s departure now handicaps TT because of the 2/3 roster rule. Now they have to keep Kassio in order to compete in Season 8 of the RLCS. EyeIgnite seems like a logical offensive replacement, but that means the rest of the team will have to adapt on the fly to his skill set.
Also, Kassio was never officially kicked, but there might be some weird energy around this team. I feel like they were pretty set on using EyeIgnite in Kassio’s place, and now they have to play together. Hopefully Kassio has thick skin and a clear mind and can move past that.
Also, demanding a player give you the money he owes you in your Twitlonger is one of the biggest flexes of all time.
Bonus Round: Mist Joins The Peeps
I hate when teams don’t do their players the service of announcing their roster news. There are only three players to a team, so bringing someone is absolutely massive and deserves fanfare.
So, naturally, when NRG announced that they were signing Pierre “Turbopolsa” Silfver, The Peeps limped in with a tweet by Slater “retals” Thomas announcing that Nick “Mist” Costello would be their new third for Season 8.
C’mon boys. Just wait til the next day so we can celebrate your new guy a bit. Spacestation did the same thing with Tshaka “Arsenal” Taylor during the Grand Final of the World Championship. Interest in your team is good, so announcing during slower news times is a smart idea.
Sidenote: I know SSG were not thrilled with Matthew “Satthew” Ackermann being kicked, so I wonder if they announced the signing of Arsenal during the Grand Final as a slight to the other members of the team. That’s just a little conspiracy theory for you, reader, as a reward for reading this far into the article.
It’s like Mist was holding out that NRG would sign him so he waited to join The Peeps until after he was officially out of the running. Also, why did he leave Birds and the Beez? We sort of just glossed over how he played (quite well) with Ghost during the DreamHack: Montreal qualifiers despite BnB also playing in the qualifier.
Maybe Matthew “Drippay” Den-Kaat and Evil Geniuses are absorbing the BnB roster in Mist’s place but didn’t want to tip their hand before everything was in order.
Either way, Mist is very good at Rocket League, and The Peeps are an intriguing team. The last Rival Series All-Star team was Triple Trouble and that worked out well for them (well, before Monday morning).
Drippay can either land with Ghost or Birds and the Beez’s roster. There are now only two available roster positions in NA, and it’s unclear who the last candidate is beyond Drippay or maybe Jamie “Karma” Bickford.
It’s a scary time to be a recently promoted RLRS team. The poachers are ready and waiting. It’s also a bad time to be a lion. Or an elephant. Because of the poachers.
Featured image courtesy of Rocket League Championship Series.
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