G2 was so close. In a World Championship where everyone cheered for them but few believed in them they made it all the way to the Grand Final.
They faced a team who they had beaten on Day 1: Renault Vitality. The crowd urged them forward even after a heartbreaking Game 1 loss. Then G2 lost Game 2. Then Game 3. A herculean effort to win Game 4 gave them a semblance of hope, but Alexandre “Kaydop” Courant ripped it away and Vitality won Game 5.
Their second place finish was a pretty impressive moral victory, but is doesn’t end their two year long major LAN drought. Of the last seven teams to win the last seven majors, G2 are the odd team out. Maybe the World Championship will be their chance to keep the streak alive.
This is Best Case/Worst Case, a Game Haus preview series profiling each Rocket League Championship Series team. With the season just days away, now is the perfect time to project each team’s ceiling and floor looking ahead to Season 8.
Season 7 Results: 2nd place in NA (6-1, 19-10). Lost to Cloud9 in Regional Championship. Won Group B at World Championship. Beat PSG and Rogue to make Grand Final, but lost 4-1 to Renault Vitality.
Off-season Movement: None.
Off-season Performance: 5-6th DreamHack: Valencia Closed Qualifier, 9th-12th DreamHack: Dallas, 9th place DreamHack: Valencia, 5-6th Rocket League Summit, 1-2nd DreamHack: Montreal Closed Qualifier, 2nd DreamHack: Montreal.
Team Stats: 1.93 GPG (T-3rd), 1.72 APG (2nd), 4.93 SAPG (4th), 1.62 GAPG (2nd)
Team MVP: Jacob “JKnaps” Knapman
Realistic Team Goal: Make Grand Final of World Championship.
Background and Team History
Maybe the two in G2 stands for second place. Second in Montreal, and second at the Season 8 World Championship. These are the moments where players crumble from the frustration of getting so close to glory. They are also the moments where the drive to succeed is further fueled by failure.
G2 will likely fall on the side of refueling. After adding Reed “Chicago” Wilen before Season 7, the team found a new gear. NRG’s complete domination of League Play robbed him of the MVP, but in any other season, Chicago probably would have won MVP.
He’s really the soul of the team. Chicago participated in 84% of the goals his team scored in Season 7. No other player in NA accounted for more than 79%.
JKnaps reestablished himself as one of the five best players in the world after League Play. He was incredible at the World Championship, and could barely be slowed down at DreamHack: Montreal. He’s heading into the most important season and peak of his career.
That Chicago/JKnaps offensive duo is only sustained by Dillon “Rizzo” Rizzo’s defensive work. No player in NA spent more time as the last defender in Season 7. His offensive production (0.31 GPG, 0.31 APG both bottom five in NA) was a product of that style.
G2 have moved away from the two attacker one defender system since the end of League Play. That’s probably why JKnaps started popping off. Rizzo got forward more often, even if it was just to get a challenge in or keep the ball on the backboard.
Hesitation caused traffic jams in their rotation. There were a couple of early DreamHack exits that they used to work out the kinks. Now they’re one of the contenders to win the World Championship.
Best Case Scenario:
It almost seemed like G2’s success was something fans sort of willed into existence last season. They had fallen into a predictable rhythm of League Play bite accompanied by World Championship bark. 6-1 records mean nothing in LAN environments.
Now it feels like G2 have broken that cycle and are ready to shoot through the roof. When everything is clicking for them, they’re nearly impossible to stop. G2 were down 3-1 to NRG, and pulled the series out in seven.
Things really turned around when they locked the defense up. Chicago and Rizzo are incredibly capable between the sticks, but the real kicker is only one of them can cover the whole net. Their defensive skill opens up loads of transition opportunities for JKnaps waiting on the wall.
Chicago is great at getting off his line to decrease the shooting angle of the incoming attacker. JKnaps is one of the best in the world at defending his own backboard. They can be hard to break down if they can settle in.
Then the passing comes, and it comes from everywhere. Their in-field based identity has been part of the team dating back to Season 4, but it’s still so difficult to stop. Even when the defender rushes out to block the shot, they’re out of position for the followup.
If the defense doesn’t sell out and intercept the pass, then G2 can bounce the ball from one opposing corner boost to the other until the defense flinches. In Season 7 Chicago led NA in boost stolen per game. Rizzo was third. JKnaps was 12th. There is only so much boost available to the defense.
That fast paced style can carry them a long way. It also tests their field awareness. Each player has to know where the other two are so they can throw a pass their way. The third player has to get into a position where they can support a rebound but also get back to goal and save a long shot.
The balance between over committing and protecting the net is a central theme of Rocket League, and it comes to the forefront on pass heavy teams. G2 can find the balance and make a deep run.
Season 8 really feels like their moment. All of the momentum is heading their way. Maybe they’ll be the ones lifting the trophy into a storm of blue and orange confetti when things are all said and done.
Worst Case Scenario:
Boy, there are a lot of great Rocket League teams. Reciprocity, Vitality, Cloud9 and NRG all stand in G2’s way. That’s an intimidating gauntlet to run through. G2 may be the best they’ve ever been, but that may not be enough.
If the unprecedented run of parity continues and another new team wins a major, G2 are about the last surviving candidate to keep the streak alive. That’s a cool sentiment, but it seems like any team with mechanical quality can walk into a LAN and come away a winner.
There really isn’t much they can do in terms of upgrading the roster. G2 have three of the ten best players in the region and everything will come down to how they perform in the moment.
This may be the first season where G2 aren’t just a good team on the fringes of being great. They have established themselves as reckon-worthy force, but haven’t got the big win they need to write themselves into the history books.
Maybe they never will. They’ve hung around for so long, but can’t get over the hump. Is it a mental block? Does fan pressure play a role? Can they avoid the defensive mistakes that cost them the Grand Final against Vitality?
Teams have to play near perfect Rocket League to win LANs now. G2 are capable of that, but so are a lot of other teams. Their best isn’t better than Vitality and NRG’s best right now, but it could be.
The worst result for G2 would be a floundering loss in the quarterfinal. Anything short of the Grand Final would be a disappointment, but an uninspiring loss to a team they’re better than would be heartbreaking.
TL;DR: G2 are the best they’ve ever been, but they haven’t proven they can win a LAN yet. Just because they can doesn’t mean they ever will.
Featured image courtesy of Stephanie “Vexanie” Lindgren for DreamHack.
Follow me on Twitter: @connorssanders.
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