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Rocket Launching Week 5: A Spacestation Celebreation and Cloud9/G2 Tragedy

RLCS Week 5

Nobody saw this coming, and really it’s the most ridiculous outcome ever, but maybe we should have forseen this:

RLCS Week 5

For as much s— as Cameron “Kronovi” Bills’ dad, Steve, has said on twitter:

He sure has a short memory. In Season 2, just a few months after Kronovi won the World Championship his G2 squad finished in seventh place with a negative five-game differential. That was just one win more than the Season 8 unit, and I don’t remember anyone’s dad calling Kronovi out on Twitter back then. (It’s also worth noting Kro had the lowest player rating on this season).

Relegation wasn’t around then, and given the pedestal Kronovi stood on back in the day, it’s amazing that he finished in seventh at all. Shouldn’t a player of his stature have carried his team to a better result?

Ideally, yes, but you could say the same of Mariano “Squishy” Arruda, Jacob “JKnaps” Knapman, Yanis “Alpha54” Champenois or Hrant “Flakes” Yakoub. That’s not how the game works. It’s not how sports work. If everyone isn’t contributing, then you’re not going to succeed.

RLCS Week 5
Flakes – Courtesy of Todd Gutierrez for DreamHack

Alpha54 was the big, splashy move Team SoloMid supposedly needed to crawl out of the EU cellar, but he couldn’t do it. G2 and Cloud9’s star power underperformed, and Flakes’ desire to upgrade Marius “gReazymeister” Ranheim’s spot on the roster may have been warranted.

Whether they get relegated in the Promotion Playoff or not, it’s important to remember that players have bad days and even bad seasons. There is no promise that being at the top guarantees your place there. The talent pool is constantly growing and improving, and just like in seasons past, the stars fall from grace.

I was reminded of Rocket League mortality last weekend, but it’s something I’ve always been conscious of. It happened in Season 7 with Dignitas. Francesco “Kuxir97” Cinquemani played in the Promotion Playoff. Complexity went from runner-up to relegation. Greazy, Remco “remkoe” den Boer and David “Deevo” Morrow were there in Season 4, just one season after they lifted the World Championship trophy.

The list goes on, but the point is this: staying at the top of Rocket League is hard, and eventually everyone will fall.

Of the 16 players to appear on World Championship teams, four didn’t last beyond Season 4, and six have played in the Promotion Playoff. Pierre “Turbopolsa” Silfver and Jos “ViolentPanda” van Meurs nearly finished seventh last season.

Alexandre “Kaydop” Courant, Victor “Fairy Peak!” Locquet and Kyle “Scrub Killa” Robertson are the only ones with a spotless ledger, and they’ve only played one season since winning. At this point, I feel like it’s a safer bet that they’ll be in the same spot Cloud9 are in soon.

This esport moves fast, and that’s part of what makes it so entertaining. You can be a preseason favorite and still get knocked down. You can be seen as a cellar dweller and finish top two.

It’s not unusual to fall from the previous precedent, but it doesn’t change the embarrassment and frustration of finishing far below expectations. I hope Cloud9, TSM, G2 and Complexity are hurting right now because if not, it might be time to move on.

Winning consistently takes so much dedication, so much skill and at times luck. A couple of bad bounces and unfortunate demo respawns and you find yourself in the relegation zone. The fans will pile on, and there will be plenty of memes poking fun at you, but you can’t give up.

Plenty of those pros I mentioned have bounced back from near Rocket League death. Mouz and Kuxir were at the top of EU a week ago. Turbopolsa is destroying everything that moves besides Rogue with NRG. Think of the journey of the guys on Veloce Esports and Reciprocity, who were a game away from relegation in Season 6. Deevo reinvigorated his career.

RLCS Week 5
Courtesy of Jennika Ojala
for DreamHack

These players have to believe they can bounce back because I think everyone wants to see Squishy and JKnaps playing at the highest level. They’re fun to watch and cheer for, and I’ll never forget how loud the crowds cheered G2 at the Season 7 World Championship.

Do you deserve to be ridiculed a bit? Yes. Should you let that define you? No.

So here’s to second chances, whether it be in the promotion playoff, or with another team, I wish those facing the Promotion Playoff good luck and good vibes.

All the talk around RL this week has been about Cloud9 and G2, but I’d like to flashlight on some other nooks around the scene. Let’s start with Spacestation Gaming, who deserves far more hype than they’ve received.

A Spacestation Celebration

Cloud9 and G2 facing relegation is the bigger story in the short term, but SSG, Veloce and Pittsburgh Knights challenging for the top of their region is the first step toward the future of Rocket League esports.

It seems like these guys are hitting their peaks, and based on what we saw from Cloud9 and G2, that means three seasons of near domination.

That begins with a team whose full names weren’t on Liquipedia a year ago. I remember reaching out to Julian “Moopy” Amador for Tshaka “Arsenal” Taylor’s full name and doing the same with Matthew “Satthew” Ackermann for Caden “Sypical” Pellegrin. You’re welcome, Liquipedia, even though I’m sure you would have figured it out anyway.

Sypical is in the MVP conversation for me, and he’s definitely part of my All-RLCS team (more on that this weekend). He led NA in GPG and was second in SAPG on the second-best team in the region. If the voters are tired of giving Justin “JSTN” Morales the award, it could go to Sypical.

Alexandre “AxB” Bellemare somehow managed two playmaker (three assists in one game) awards this season. No one else had more than one in NA or EU, and at times his passing was too clinical to stop. He led the league in assists and put Sypical in situations where he could succeed.

RLCS Week 5
Sypical – Courtesy of Todd Gutierrez

Sometimes we get caught up in whether or not a pass reaches its target, but we don’t really note how much space the pass provides. If the pass only gives the receiver a chance at a 50/50 it’s not good enough. AxB and Sypical have a special connection.

I really like Arsenal as a creative nuisance who can do a bit of everything. Cloud9 might take a long look at him if they decide to move on from Jesus “Gimmick” Parra. He’s smart and fast, and very aggressive. He really was the missing piece.

If the streak of new LAN- winners is to continue, SSG and Veloce are now the best chances (and Lowkey, sort of) of extending it. They’re like a quieter version of The Peeps, and I think some boomers can get behind that.

Pour one out for Spacestation and a world-class League Play performance. It’s not like Cloud9 and G2 fell to the bottom. They were thrown there by SSG and Pittsburgh, and those teams deserve a lot of credit.

Maybe Relegation Is Best for TSM

It feels weird to say this, but I think Remkoe and Otto “Metsanauris” Kaipiainen are no longer RLCS quality. This is their second bottom of the table finish in as many seasons, and this time Jordan “EyeIgnite” Stellon isn’t around to play scapegoat.

RLCS Week 5
Photo Credit: Stephanie ”Vexanie” Lindgren

Alpha54 led EU in goal participation and average scoreboard position. He didn’t play a perfect season, but he didn’t deserve to face relegation either. At times Remkoe looked uninspired on defense, and the simplicity of his and Metsa’s mechanics really limits their options offensively.

I want to see Alpha get the most out of his career, and he doesn’t have enough time for the roster to turnover to do it. If they get relegated and disband, then he could sign with a better team.

Can you imagine if he crossed regions to play with Cloud9 or teamed up with Maello “AztraL” Ernst at Dignitas? He’s got a lot left in the tank, but I don’t think we can say the same for his teammates.

FC Barcelona as a Sneaky LAN Team

FC Barcelona led EU in goal scoring by nearly a third of a goal per game, and they finished the season with a +4 win differential. Their defense was good too, allowing just 1.68 GPG, third-best in EU.

In terms of win percentage and differential, they were the second-best team in the region. They swept TSM, Vitality and Complexity, and only narrowly lost Game 5’s to mousesports, Veloce and Reciprocity. All three of those Game 5’s were separated by one goal.

They enter the Regional Championship as the sixth seed, and they lost to Dignitas and Mousesports during the regular season, but they’re better than their record. Statistically, they’ve underperformed.

Barcelona had the best game differential for a sixth seed in RLCS history. In fact, no sixth seed in RLCS history has broken even, let alone win four games more than they lost. 

No plus four team has ever finished worse than fourth, and the average table position for that record is 2.43, so between second and third. That has to bode well for something, and FCB just needs see series through and get the wins early on in games. 

Spend Your Weekend Watching CRL and the Rival Series

The Collegiate Rocket League (CRL) Fall 2019 National Championship takes place this Saturday at the Esports Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The broadcast begins on at 2 p.m. EST.

CRL is much more laid back than RLCS play, and you really get to see the personalities of the commentators shine through. You can tell they’re having fun, so you feel invested, too.

The LAN pits some high-level Rocket League teams against one another, with a hefty $27,000 prize pool on the line, I’m sure the players will put on a show. 

There’s also the conclusion of the Rival Series regular season. Over in NA, Charlotte Phoenix and Afterthought are just one series away from promoting. They play Full Metal Gaining and  Upper90 Esports afterward.RLCS Week 5

Full Metal Gaming, Bull Send, RBG Esports, Linked Up and Chaos Esports all still have a chance at top four and the Promotion Playoff, but this weekend’s winners will be this seasons winner’s.

EU sees a complex but compelling narrative. Discombobulators and AS Monaco have punched their ticket to the RLCS. Team Singularity, ARG, Method and Baguette Squad all have a chance of making a top four. ARG have a good game differential, so they’re nearly guaranteed top four. Singularity face AS Monaco AND Baguette Squad, and need to hope Method struggle with ARG to get top four. Method need to win and get lucky to make the Promotion playoff.

Kickoff for EU RLRS play will be at 10 a.m. Nov 8.


Featured image courtesy of Todd Gutierrez for DreamHack.

Follow me on Twitter: @connorssanders.

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