Welcome to Rocket Launching, a midweek RLCS column that discusses the wonderful world of Rocket League esports. Offseason roster shuffling started early this summer as Spacestation Gaming kicked Matthew “Satthew” Ackermann and Evil Geniuses released Gabriel “CorruptedG” Vallozzi and Jason “Klassux” Klass. What’s next for these two orgs? Why did they make these decisions? Here are some of my thoughts:
Satthew Didn’t Deserve This
Spacestation Gaming did the classy thing and just dropped Satthew out of the blue without any explanation beyond a Twitlonger that Alexandre “AxB” Bellemare coughed out from his personal Twitter account. Satthew announced he had been dropped from the org, and when a player announces he’s been kicked, their exit isn’t usually graceful. Satthew’s tweet and subsequent AMA were gut-wrenching. It takes so much work, so much mental stress and a complete lifestyle change to even reach the Rival Series, and seeing that work go to waste must be incredibly demoralizing. My heart goes out to him.
It’s not like Satthew was just along for the ride though. Back when they were Bread in RLRS Season 6, Satthew was a beast. He and Caden “Sypical” Pellegrin led the league in goals per game with 1.04 GPG. Bread were clearly the most potent Rival Series squad and they deserved to be promoted.
Triple Trouble and FC Barcelona created a new standard for former RLRS teams. Recently promoted squads have always struggled to adjust to the speed of RLCS play. Fnatic destroyed the Rival Series in Season 4, and found themselves right back in the Promotion Playoff one season later. No former RLRS team has ever had a winning record in North American League Play.
When I wrote my best case/worst case preview for Bread’s season I wrote that their goal should be to just avoid relegation and then shoot for LAN next season. They did exactly that. The fourth LAN spot seemed like theirs for the taking, and they laid a Teddy Perkins ostrich egg in the Regional Championship. It sucks, but it happens. Then they bombed out of DreamHack Dallas partly because of this mistake by Satthew.
In last week’s Rocket Launching, I was very critical of Satthew and Spacestation, but it sure felt early to kick someone that was so integral to the team reaching the heights that they did. This level of Rocket League can be cold. Just ask Cameron “Kronovi” Bills. Sypical and Alexandre “AxB” Bellemare obviously felt their potential is much higher than where Satthew can take them.
This can be dangerous thinking. In AxB’s twit longer (a tool that never seems to make an appearance during happy times), he mentions that “you guys (fans) are forgetting that our season wasn’t as good as everyone made it out to be. We may have gotten 4th, but we were also 3-4, and only 1-4 against teams who didn’t get demoted.” I worry that AxB is missing just how difficult winning in NA can be. Could they have performed better? Of course. Will replacing Sattthew fix their problems? Maybe.
I just really hope this move was made with a player or at least a direction in mind. There are plenty of great players out there, but are they better than Satthew? Can they fit into a complementary role with Sypical and AxB? They have to get this right, because one roster move can cost you your career. Ask your coach, George “Jorolelin” Kolev, about how much an errant roster move can change your life.
Now, I must commend Spacestation for being proactive. Stagnation can be lethal, and this season proved that Spacestation were at least a step away from dethroning the Big Three. Maybe they’re one piece away.
I personally like the move, even though I feel terrible for Satthew. He seemed defeated in his discord AMA. CorruptedG and Klassux are looking for a third. Maybe he’ll land with them and try to make RLCS again. Either way, SSG need to remember there are two parts to these roster moves. Sometimes you need to kick someone, but you have to get the second half right. Their ceiling is higher, but currently the floor is lower.
EG and Splyce Do the Tango with The Peeps
When Evil Geniuses dropped to the Rival Series I felt so bad for Matthew “Drippay” Den-kaat. The Australian star literally had to uproot his life, move to a new continent and leave his home region where he was SquishyMuffinz on steroids. Then he gets to EG and they bomb out of the RLCS.
Drippay was solid for EG, but he wasn’t perfect. Klassux struggled mightily all season, and CorruptedG wasn’t much better. Evil Geniuses’ offense was torturous to watch. Klassux just isn’t on the same mechanical level as his fellow RLCS players. He makes up for it with energy and bump plays, but when he’s missing on demos or the opponent is ready for his physical style, he’s severely limited on offense. CorruptedG also struggled in Season 7, and no matter how often he guarantees he’ll be back, he simply wasn’t an RLCS-level player in Season 7.
Honestly, I feel like EG did right by Drippay here. They mentioned in their press release that they simply don’t play in contenders’ leagues. Fair enough. Rogue did the same thing last season, and they hopped off a sinking ship (seriously, how was Sizz in the RLCS for so long?) onto a LAN-bound cruiser led by the Mountain himself.
Now, there are more potential options for EG and Drippay opening up each day. Slater ‘Retals’ Thomas announced via Twitlonger (I’m telling you, there’s never good news reported in a Twitlonger) that The Peeps are moving on from Arsenal and are looking for a third. This is a massive power move. The Peeps now have leverage over two of Rocket League’s biggest orgs because of Splyce’s rumored interest to stay in the RLCS with Jamie “Karma” Bickford.
They had to sacrifice Arsenal to generate interest from an org. Arsenal is a hell of a player, but those consistent paychecks from trustworthy orgs are worth much more. Karma and Drippay could be viewed as upgrades over Arsenal (you might have to squint a bit for Karma), and as Triple Trouble proved in Season 7, making a roster move after promotion isn’t necessarily the death of a team as it has been for RLRS teams like Out of Style in the past.
Conspiracy theorists have floated the idea that Arsenal was already poached by another RLCS team (Spacestation? Ghost? Rogue?). If that’s the case, this is some major big brain stuff. I’m talking Simon Pegg wearing another man’s face and learning his gait to fool security systems in the Mission Impossible movies type stuff. Arsenal is (theoretically) keeping his move under lock and key, and helping his ex-teammates to start a bidding war for them between Splyce and EG. What a bro.
The Peeps should squeeze every ounce of leverage they can out of this. Both of these orgs have been in the scene for a while, but both have also shown they aren’t exactly keen on sticking it out with a losing club. Winning after promotion is difficult in NA (did you read the part about Satthew earlier?). If EG and Splyce didn’t ride it out with club legends like CorruptedG and Trevor “DudeWithTheNose” Hannah, then why would they do it with a brand new squad?
Here’s how I think it will work out. There are two teams with roster openings (SSG/Peeps), two orgs looking for rosters (EG/Splyce) and another team without an org. Birds and the Beez shouldn’t break up their roster without playing at least one RLCS season. They were clearly the best team in the Rival Series and could have a successful Season 8. The Peeps were good in the RLRS, but were not on the same level as BnB. Retals and Jirair “ExplosiveGyro” Papazian could work with Karma, and they’re already playing together for DreamHack Valencia. I bet they sign with Splyce.
Next Arsenal ends up with Spacestation. Satthew was mistake prone, and Arsenal is a more solid player. He could also bring some much needed attitude to Shakestation, er, Spacestation. That leaves Drippay and EG looking to buy out some contracts and, before Season 8, it seemed like Ghost were desperate to move out of Rocket League.
EG should buyout Ghost’s contracts and kick Braxton “Allushin” Lagarec. Allushin salvaged his career after two horrendous weeks of RLCS play, but he’s still a half-step behind the RLCS in my eyes. Ghost were very bad on offense in Season 7, and Drippay would immediately improve their offensive output. Let Michael “Memory” Moss embrace a Rizzo/Season 4 Torment-esque defensive role and then let Drippay and Treyven “Lethamyr” Robitaille go crazy on offense.
Make Drippay the captain and work the entire off-season on finding a playstyle that suits Lethamyr’s aggressiveness and Drippay’s offensive capability. All three of these moves (SSG + Arsenal, Ghost + Drippay, The Peeps + Karma) could theoretically make each team better. There are no obvious downsides to these moves beyond continuity and chemistry purposes. If these teams are serious about competing, they can build that connection and learn how each other likes to play.
Now, buckle up because I’ve got a Paul-Pierce-Pooped-His-Pants-level of conspiracy theory to throw at you. What if the mystery org poaching Arsenal is G2? Could they kick Dillon “Rizzo” Rizzo and sign Arsenal to try and have a functioning three man rotation instead of two offensive players and a goal keeper? Let’s say G2 under perform at the World Championship again, and this time Rizzo is the scapegoat instead of Kronovi.
They already grabbed a rising star in Reed “Chicago” Wilen, and maybe they see the same level of potential in Arsenal. Then Rizzo joins Spacestation and they probably get relegated. Rizzo hasn’t proved that he’s a world class player over the last two seasons and is a bit overrated in my eyes. He’s just charismatic and everyone loves his girlfriend (he also royally let me down in fantasy this season).
The real winner here is the fans. Season 8 drama has already begun, and it could result in the most fearsome collection of Rocket League talent NA has ever seen. Can you imagine all the storylines and cryptic tweets in the oven for when the offseason actually starts? The World Championship hasn’t even happened yet.
Inevitably in Season 8 none of the new rosters will crack top three. Nothing in NA matters because Cloud9 and NRG will continue to rule with an iron fist until they get bored of Rocket League. Or some kind of other robotic metal fist. The joke is that C9 are robots. It’s not a tired bit yet, right?
Featured image courtesy of Spacestation Gaming.
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