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Rocket Launching: Looking Back on Season Previews, NA Part 1

RLCS

Welcome to Rocket Launching, a midweek RLCS column that discusses the wonderful world of Rocket League esports. Before Season 7, I wrote a series of team previews that outlined the best and worst case scenarios for each Rocket League Championship Series squad from NA and EU.

It’s always good to consider the context of a team’s performance. For example, Triple Trouble’s fourth place finish and subsequent qualification for LAN will eventually become just another name on a Liquipedia page, but they had to pick up a new teammate right before the season started. If we forget just how low expectations were coming into the season, we’ll also forget how special the season was.

With that said, this week, I’m going back through those previews to see where teams ended up on the best case/worst case spectrum. The sections will be broken down by team, and I’ll highlight the most heinous thing I said about the team and the take that was most spot on.

Think of this as a big picture season in review. I’ll try not to conjecture about what it means for the future, but that may end up happening some here.

This will end up being a four part series. Four teams per article over the next two weeks. Part one will feature the bottom half of NA’s RLCS squads by order of expected finish. The second part will post the day after this one, and the EU pieces will post early next week.

Team 8: Splyce

RLCS 7 finish: 8th place (1-6, 5-20), relegated in the Promotion Playoffs by Birds and the Beez.

Season 7 team statistics and finishes: 1.12 GPG (8th), 0.92 APG (8th), 4.8 SAPG (4th), 2.52 Goals Allowed Per Game (7th), 19.18% Shooting Accuracy (8th)

Best Case/Worst Case Spectrum: As close to worst as one can get.

Most heinous preseason take: Maybe the team can carry their momentum from the Rival Series and make a splash with the big boys. They’re not going to win the league in the first season, but it’s not unreasonable to think they could qualify for LAN.

Most spot-on preseason take: The absolute worst thing that could happen to Splyce is that they just simply aren’t good enough to compete and look over matched in every series like Allegiance did last season. The team finishes the season 1-6 or 0-7 and gets bumped in the promotion playoffs.

RLCS
Courtesy of Todd Gutierrez/DreamHack

Poor Splyce. This season went about as poor as it could have, and the only reason it didn’t was because they managed to beat Ghost Gaming in Week 1 before they awoke from the grave. In the preseason preview, I was very worried about Splyce. This team has a strange bond with the Rival Series that they can’t seem to escape.

One truly positive sidenote is that they’re evidently disbanding. If this team stuck together, it would have ended up in some strange loop where they win in the Rival Series, but can’t make it in the RLCS. If Jamie “Karma” Bickford truly is an RLCS-caliber player, then she needs to attach herself to a true RLCS squad.

She very nearly kept Splyce in the RLCS by herself in the Promotion Playoff. Her work ethic is unmatched, and I don’t see her throwing in the towel after just barely getting a taste of her dream. Karma is an iconic player who will continue to help the game grow. Hopefully, it’s with an RLCS team.

Splyce just simply couldn’t hang with the other RLCS squads. Their persistence in getting there was admirable, and there’s no shame in getting relegated. They achieved their goal. No one can take that away from them.

Team 7: Rogue

RLCS 7 finish: 6th place (2-5, 13-16), Beat Spacestation to make LAN. Lost in World Championship semi-final to G2.

Season 7 team statistics and finishes: 1.84 GPG (4th), 1.47 APG (5th), 4.35 SAPG (7th), 1.81 Goals Allowed Per Game (3rd), Shot differential: +32 (3rd)

Best Case/Worst Case Spectrum: Almost worst case League Play, but absolute best case World Championship performance.

Most heinous take: After disappointing tournament performances in the off-season, the question has to be asked: was adding Kronovi for PrimeThunder the right move? Should another player have been replaced? 

Most spot-on take: Kronovi can help supplement the defense while continuing to provide the offensive pressure that defined the team last season. If Wonder can move up with confidence, AyyJayy will be able to knock in more goals from his passes.

It’s near impossible to question Rogue’s decision to bring in Cameron “Kronovi” Bills to replace Ronin “PrimeThuner” D’Auria. Prime was a goal scoring machine in Season 6, but his defensive limitations were striking. Kronovi proved to be a much more adaptable and consistent player than PrimeThunder, which is exactly what Rogue needed.

RLCS
Kronovi – courtesy of RLCS

Rogue were among the lowest SAPG teams in Season 7 because they didn’t allow many shots in the first place. When there was a break in the back, it was usually big enough for teams to capitalize on it. On the offensive side, they created loads of pressure and peppered the opposing net.

Nicolas “Wonder” Blackerby was the team’s leading scorer, but all three players have similar numbers in all three statistical categories. They didn’t need to rely on defined team roles to score. Each player was capable of defending, shooting and passing.

They just couldn’t close out series during the regular season. Once Wonder graduated from college before the Regional Championship the team really started to reach its potential.

When it came to LAN Kronovi took over. They shocked FC Barcelona to win their group, and then continued their form against Triple Trouble. I never would have thought they would have achieved a top four finish at Worlds. Everything came together at the perfect moment for them and it was impressive. They finished one series away from the Grand Final, and I thought they would end up getting relegated.

I’d say NRG’s upcoming roster move hangs over this team more than any other. If NRG want Wonder, Kronovi or Alex “AyyJayy” Aebi, then Rogue are going to be stuck looking for a replacement. Wonder and AyyJayy have solidified themselves as strong pros with upside, which is the exact mold of player NRG should want.

Rogue were a measly three games from being relegated, but they came alive when it mattered. They need to be more consistent, but their Season 7 finish was one hell of a pleasant surprise.

Team 6: Spacestation Gaming

RLCS 7 finish: 4th place (3-4, 14-15), Lost in Regional Championship to Rogue.

Season 7 team statistics and finishes: 1.76 GPG (6th), 1.38 APG (6th), 3.97 SAPG (8th), 2.11 Goals Allowed Per Game (6th), Score per game: 1029.8 (7th)

Best Case/Worst Case Spectrum: Smack dab in the middle. Great start to the season but really disappointing ending that led to kicking Matthew “Satthew” Ackermann.

Most heinous take (this one is mostly just sad because they dropped Satthew): Sypical and Satthew tied for first in goals per game in the RLRS last season. The two strikers formed an offensive juggernaut that could not be stopped. They recreated what Dignitas had last season: the league’s two best scorers playing on the same team. That’s pretty impressive company.

Most spot-on take: Their dream scenario revolves around Satthew and Sypical continuing to rise while AxB acts as the team’s rudder. They can play to their strengths and mask their weaknesses enough to squeak into the final position and land in the top four.

Caden “Sypical” Pellegrin had a breakout season for Spacestation. Alexandre “AxB” Bellemare was solid. Satthew led the team in goals and was a largely solid striker. That sounds like a recipe for a best case scenario if I’ve ever seen one, but something went really sour for SSG toward the end of the season.

Satthew talked about some of this in an interview with The Game Haus, but there were obvious chemistry issues that led to the team kicking one of its founding members. Still, they beat Cloud9, Evil Geniuses and Splyce and kept their spot in the RLCS. That was always step one.

RLCS
Satthew – courtesy of Todd Gutierrez/DreamHack

Step two was a bit more complicated. They had really disappointing results against Ghost Gaming and Rogue in Weeks 4 and 5, but they still finished in fourth in League Play. Then they bombed out of the Regional Championship and it was over. Their dream of reaching LAN was postponed despite having a strong regular season.

Spacestation are a statistical anomaly much like FlyQuest in Season 5. They finished near the bottom of basically every relevant statistical category, but still managed to win three series. They didn’t score a lot of goals or play great defense, they just made plays when it mattered.

As a former Rival Series team, that’s about all you can ask for in NA. There was a bite and tenacity missing from this team all season. They scored a lot of jammy goals and switched off at the worst times. Statistically, they shouldn’t have had the season they had, but they found a way to win. Can they do that again without Satthew?

Maybe. It sure worked out well for Rogue, and maybe Tshaka “Arsenal” Taylor Jr. is the right player to bring some attitude to SSG. Either way, this season was a good jumping off point, but next season will be make or break for Spacestation.

Team 5: Ghost Gaming

RLCS 7 finish: 5th place (3-4, 12-15), Lost in Regional Championship to Rogue.

Season 7 team statistics and finishes: 1.61 GPG (7th), 1.24 APG (7th), 5.18 SAPG (1st), 1.67 Goals Allowed Per Game (2nd), 0.77 Assist to Goal Ratio (8th)

Best Case/Worst Case Spectrum: It was looking pretty dicey at 0-4, but Ghost ended up just a bit closer to their worst case scenario than their best.

Most heinous take: In Ghost’s best case scenario, Lethamyr emerges as one of the five best players in the world and Memory and Allushin develop into world class role players. Allushin needs to lock down the midfield, Memory needs to protect the net and search for open shots on net and Lethamyr needs to score everything that comes his way.

Most spot-on take: It seems inevitable that if Ghost under-performs, the blame will fall by default onto Lethamyr.

Ghost won more individual games in Season 6 than in Season 7. They took nearly every series to five games, but struggled to close them out. In Season 7, only two series went to five games. They beat Spacestation in one and lost to Splyce in the other.

This is a product of two different things: Braxton “Allushin” Lagarec is a more precise player than Christopher “Zanejackey” Jacobs. That led to Ghost closing out series more convincingly, as seen in their 3-0 sweep of Rogue and 3-1 win over Evil Geniuses.

RLCS
Lethamyr- Courtesy of @ZeeboDesigns on Twitter

The other factor is how much this team relied on solo plays. There is nothing wrong with scoring solo plays. The problem that Ghost ran into was that when the solo plays weren’t creating chances, their offense went to sleep. There were countless times that Ghost were pinned into their own half because they couldn’t string passes together to break out.

Allushin seemed lost to start the season, but he settled in and played well after Week 3. Michael “Memory” Moss has quietly been the team’s best player over the last two seasons. Treyven “Lethamyr” Robitaille had another solid but not outstanding run in League Play.

But they couldn’t win against the Big 3 and Rogue smacked them around in the Regional Championship. Ghost’s offense didn’t create ample chances to score. I know their playstyle is built around being solid on defense, but you have to score to win, and Ghost had NA’s worst offense outside of Splyce.

I’m praying that Matthew “Drippay” Den-Kaat ends up with this roster. If he were to replace Allushin they’d finally have the bullseye striker they’ve been lacking for so long. Memory and Leth can pick up his slack on defense and they could be very dangerous.

No matter what happens in the off-season, Ghost have to take a look in the mirror and ask themselves if this defensive playstyle is viable in the long term. It’s always been good enough to win a series here and there, but NA’s Big Three has dismantled them each of the last three seasons. Do they need a new player, or do they need to reform what they already have?

Be sure to check back tomorrow for part two, where you can laugh at me being ridiculously wrong about Evil Geniuses.

 

Featured image courtesy of DreamHack’s Todd Gutierrez.

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1 comment

RLCS: Looking Back on Season Previews NA Part 2 • The Game Haus July 17, 2019 at 6:02 am

[…] I got a lot of things wrong in those articles, but this is a good way to take a look back on Season 7 with regards to each team.This is Part 2 of NA’s teams. Read Part 1 and find about a little bit more on my reasoning for this series of articles here. […]

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