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Rocket Launching: Looking Back on Season Previews NA Part 2

RLCS

Welcome to Rocket Launching, a midweek RLCS column that discusses the wonderful world of Rocket League esports. After Season 7’s conclusion I thought it would be fun to look back on what I had written about each RLCS team in their preseason previews. 

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.

No point in beating around the bush anymore. Let’s get right into it.

Team 4: Evil Geniuses

RLCS 7 finish: 7th place (2-5, 10-17), relegated in the Promotion Playoffs by Splyce.

Season 7 team statistics and finishes: 1.81 GPG (5th), 1.52 APG (4th), 5.00 SAPG (3rd), 2.67 Goals Allowed Per Game (8th), 65.22% Save Percentage (8th)

Best Case/Worst Case Spectrum: The absolute worst of the worst.

Most heinous preseason take: Realistic Team Goal:Top four finish at RLCS Season 7 World Championship.

Most spot-on preseason take: There’s a scary possibility that Drippay could be walking into the exact same situation he left behind in Australia. He was the star of an over-performing Chiefs team that relied on him heavily to maintain the pace of world class teams. Ultimately his supporting cast was good, but not great, and it became clear that they had hit their ceiling.

I really thought a team that ended up getting relegated had an outside chance of making top four at the World Championship. It’s funny because really, Rogue’s season wasn’t much different.

They kind of made the World Championship because no other team in NA wanted it and then they popped off at the World Championship. Given their recent run of success at DreamHack events, would it be crazy to think that if a couple of breaks had gone their way that EG would be the surprise top four team?

There I go believing in EG way too much again. Evil Geniuses was basically Rogue without the defense. EG’s offense was solid statistically and Matthew “Drippay” Den-Kaat scored the most goals per game of anyone not on NRG. Gabriel “CorruptedG” Vallozzi had the most assists per game of any non-Big Three player. Jason “Klassux” Klass had a slightly better statistical season than in Season 7.

RLCS
Klassux – Courtesy of Psyonix

None of that mattered, though, because they didn’t play any defense. Like, at all. They had the lowest save percentage in the league and gave up an astounding 2.67 goals per game. That was somehow worse than Splyce. It was the worst defensive performance since Out of Style allowed more than three goals per game in Season 4, and they weren’t really an RLCS team in hindsight.

I guess I underestimated how much Reed “Chicago” Wilen meant to them on defense, but Drippay led the team with 1.93 SAPG. They question that plagued them for the entirety of the season was: What does Klassux do? He’s great at generating chances through bumps and demos and is one of the most passionate players in the game, but his production is incredibly limited. EG were severely hampered by his

His regression combined with CorruptedG’s struggles led to an incredibly frustrating season. If Chicago hadn’t left they would have been a really different team. They’ve had great success at DreamHack events, and maybe that’s just who they are. Their offensive barrage can overwhelm teams at tournaments, but it doesn’t work in League Play.

Team 3: G2 Esports

RLCS 7 finish: 2nd place (6-1, 19-10), Lost in the Grand Final of the World Championship against Renault Vitality.

Season 7 team statistics and finishes: 1.91 GPG (3rd), 1.70 APG (2nd), 4.79 SAPG (6th), 1.82 Goals Allowed Per Game (4th), Rizzo had a 31.75% Goal Participation, lowest in league history.

Best Case/Worst Case Spectrum: Near dream scenario in Season 7.

Most heinous preseason take: It’s hard to find players in NA better than Rizzo or JKnaps, but they haven’t been able to prove that they can win at the game’s most important event. That’s not to say it can’t be done, but they haven’t been able to carry over their regular season success to a high placement at LAN.

Most spot-on preseason take: G2 only need to prove they can beat world class opponents on the biggest stage. This team doesn’t have a visible weakest link or glaring chink in their armor. They’re talented and organized enough to beat anybody, now they just have to do it on the biggest stage.

I was really high on G2 coming into Season 7. Reed “Chicago” Wilen was the complete package in my mind and a clear as day upgrade over Cameron “Kronovi” Bills. I was worried that they would struggle at the World Championship, but that’s when they played their absolute best.

Their win against Renault Vitality in the group stage flipped the tournament on its head. Instead of facing NRG in the quarterfinal and Cloud9 in the semis, G2 faced PSG and Rogue en route to the Grand Final. PSG put up an impressive fight, but G2’s path was much easier than Vitality’s.

RLCS
JKnaps – Courtesy of Psyonix

It took a bit of luck and a dash of an unbelievable performance to reach the Grand Final. Heck, if Vitality doesn’t score the zero second goal at the end of Game 1, maybe G2 end up winning it all. Either way, Season 7 was a resounding success for G2, and it came as a result of their adaptability.

Dillon “Rizzo” Rizzo was the most defensive player in NA’s Rocket League history in Season 7, but he was much more involved offensively at the World Championship. He went from averaging 0.30 goals and assists per game in the regular season to averaging 0.64 GPG and 0.68 APG at LAN. His adaptability was key to their deep worlds run.

Jacob “JKnaps” Knapman and Chicago gave defenses nightmares all season long. Chicago only missed out on MVP because Justin “JSTN.” Morales had the best Rocket League season ever. The roster move was a resounding success, and their Grand Final appearance completely validated the change.

With NRG’s pending roster vacancy, G2 find themselves in a very favorably position going forward. They have one of the most talented rosters in the region, and their on-field chemistry will only continue to grow. It really couldn’t have gone much better if you’d have written it in a story book for G2.

Team 2: NRG

RLCS 7 finish: 1st place (7-0, 21-6), Lost in the quarterfinal of the World Championship against Renault Vitality.

Season 7 team statistics and finishes: 2.71 GPG (1st), 2.23 APG (1st), 5.09 SAPG (2nd), 1.06 Goals Allowed Per Game (1st), JSTN and GarrettG averaged 2.0 GPG (!), which is better than every team in NA except for Cloud9 (!!). Also: goal differential of +58 (!!!) and a score differential of +10,115 (8,000 more than the next closest team).

Best Case/Worst Case Spectrum: Literally perfect League Play, worst case World Championship.

Most heinous preseason take (it’s hard to get much wrong with NRG, so I just went with Fireburner retiring instead of being kicked): Maybe they’ll decide they can’t win together and kick Fireburner like they kicked Jacob. There will be plenty of orgs willing to pay Garrett and JSTN fat sums to play for them. Will they be tempted to leave for greener pastures?

Most spot-on preseason take: Someone would have to pour Mountain Dew on JSTN’s computer for this team to miss LAN. Even then, they could probably qualify with JSTN playing on a Windows 97 at a public library. It would be earth-shattering for this team to finish outside of the top four in NA.

I don’t know if you glossed over it, but read the Season 7 statistics portion above. JSTN and Garrett “GarrettG” Gordon averaged more goals per game than six teams in their region.That’s straight up unfair. It’s completely ridiculous. NRG were unstoppable in League Play beyond reason. Do you think they’d beat Splyce in a 2v3?

RLCS
Fireburner – courtesy of Rocket League Championship Series

They still couldn’t win at the World Championship though. G2 beat Vitality and NRG had to face them in the quarterfinal. There is no doubt in my mind that NRG beat anyone else in the tournament in that quarterfinal beside Vitality. Both teams reached a different level this season, and Vitality soared slightly higher.

It’s ironic that the first time NRG could have truly benefited from a lower bracket run was the first World Championship with a single elimination format. NRG were very unlucky to face Vitality in a best of five knockout scenario.

NRG won all four of the major player awards in NA this season. JSTN was MVP and Savior of the Season, GarrettG won Golden Striker and Jayson “Fireburner” Nunez won Clutch Playmaker. They were stupid good this season but Vitality completely erased that. The loss was so devastating that Fireburner called it a career.

This is the best Rocket League team to never win a World Championship. You have to be skilled and lucky, and NRG just didn’t have enough of the latter. It sucks, but you have to beat who’s in front of you and Vitality had their number.

Team 1: Cloud9

RLCS 7 finish: 3rd place (4-3, 16-11), Lost in the semifinal of the World Championship against Renault Vitality.

Season 7 team statistics and finishes: 2.18 GPG (2nd), 1.69 APG (3rd), 4.87 SAPG (5th), 1.90 Goals Allowed Per Game (5th), 39 Games Played (second only to Rogue).

Best Case/Worst Case Spectrum: Somewhere in the middle. Decent League Play, decent World Championship.

Most heinous preseason take: It’s not out of the question for C9 to finish undefeated this season.

Most spot-on preseason take: Their biggest enemy this season will be complacency. They need to push through the temptation to coast to challenge Dignitas as the best Rocket League team of all time. That means locking in, playing hard every game and dominating the competition.

It’s abundantly clear to me that Cloud9 don’t give a heck about the regular season. Like, not even in the slightest. They just wreck NA with their eyes closed and then really bring the heat come LAN. I’m not insinuating that they don’t care, I’m suggesting that if it were all the same to them they’d just simulate through the regular season and then start at the playoffs.

They could literally go 4-3 in NA for the rest of time. Like they could pick me up as their third and still make LAN. The rest of the region is that soft, and Cloud9 are that consistent. They make top four at every World Championship. It leads me to wonder if they just get bored by being so good. They already won it all in Season 6. What’s left to play for?

I don’t know. I can’t get into their minds an there’s plenty of prize pools left to win. That doesn’t have anything to do with their season but I digress. Mariano “Squishy” Arruda was sick during Day 3 of the World Championship and they still made the semifinal. I have absolutely nothing to say about this team. There is virtually nothing to criticize beyond a few in game decisions. The roster is perfectly balanced. They win all the damn time.

I guess if there was one thing I’d like to point about this season, it would be that their lackadaisical approach to League Play. They were at the top of their power in Season 6, and they finished first in the league that season. NRG nearly won it all when they won the League in Season 5. G2 had their best League Play finish since Season 4 in Season 7 and they made the Grand Final.

If League Play performance is any indication of a team’s success, then maybe C9 could stand to win a few more games in the regular season. I don’t know. Fireburner flat out said the regular season is boring and they went 9-0 including the Regional Championship. Then they lost in the quarterfinal so maybe none of this even matters. Maybe they’ll replace League Play with a series of DreamHack style circuits and C9 will dominate them all.

They’re like the Patriots of Rocket League.

 

Featured image courtesy of Rocket League Championship Series.

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