Spacestation Gaming had the best season a promoted Rival Series team has ever had in North America in Season 7. The only logical conclusion after that result is to kick one of the founding members of the team.
Rocket League moves fast, and it left Matthew “Satthew” Ackermann behind. Tshaka “Arsenal” Taylor Jr. is his replacement and Spacestation is the most highly variable team in North America. Arsenal could take them to new heights, or they could struggle to replicate the Season 7 breakout.
Satthew was far from perfect, and Arsenal is a very different player. They are North America’s most interesting team because they have the potential to break into the Big Three and rip it apart from the inside.
This is Best Case/Worst Case, a Game Haus preview series profiling each Rocket League Championship Series team. With the season just over a month away, now is the perfect time to project each team’s ceiling and floor looking ahead to Season 8.
The top half of NA is stacked. Can Arsenal carry Spacestation to the promised LAN?
Season 7 Results: 4th place (3-4, 14-15). Lost to Cloud9 and Rogue in the Regional Championship.
Off-season Movement: Added Arsenal (0.85 GPG, 0.48 APG, 1.44 SAPG) in place of Satthew (0.62 GPG, 0.49 APG, 2.46 SAPG).
Off-season Performance: 5-6th DreamHack: Valencia closed qualifier, 17th-24th DreamHack: Dallas, 3rd DreamHack: Montreal closed qualifier.
Team stats: 1.76 GPG (6th), 1.38 APG (6th), 3.97 SAPG (8th), 2.11 GAPG (6th)
Team MVP: Caden “Sypical” Pellegrin
Realistic Team Goal: Make LAN.
Background and Team History
At this point, the “Satthew deserved better” take is buried and super dead. Spacestation were fortunate to finish as high as they did. They finished in sixth in nearly every statistical category, but ended up fourth somehow. Their miraculous 3-1 win over Cloud9 saved their season.
Other than the Cloud9 series, Spacestation couldn’t hang with non-relegated opponents. They pushed Ghost and G2 to game five, but Splyce pushed them to game five. They looked great a few times but spent most of the season chasing the game. SSG knew something had to change. They could have waited to kick Satthew but they showed initiative and dropped him before the World Championship.
The scary part about kicking Satthew is that he led the team in goals and assists and made more saves than Alexandre “AxB” Bellemare. Satthew made some mistakes, but he produced with consistency. Arsenal is not walking into an easy situation. He’ll have a lot to do.
Arsenal put together a solid stat line in the Rival Series (0.70 GPG, 0.85 APG, 1.22 SAPG), but the game is faster and less open in the RLCS. Satthew put up gawdy numbers in the Rival Series in Season 6 (1.04 GPG, 0.69 APG, 0.88 SAPG), and his team decided he wasn’t cut out for the RLCS after one season. Arsenal needs to progress as a player but he can’t do it alone.
Caden “Sypical” Pellegrin will take on more of a true striker role, or they’ll do the same thing they did with Satthew. They can send Sypical and Arsenal at the ball and keep AxB back like a watered-down version of G2. Or Arsenal can take the bulk of the shots. Some games Sypical will play distributor. They’re very malleable.
Spacestation didn’t give up a lot of shots last season. In fact, Cloud9 was the only team in NA who allowed less shots per game. The problems arose when their midfield wall broke down. They allowed 7.21 SHPG but only made 3.97 SAPG. That means three shots per game found the back of the net or hit the surrounding area of the goal uncontested. As Sonic would say, that’s no good.
Their shots allowed to shots saved ratio also points to struggling to defend in transition. Bread dominated the Rival Series by overwhelming everyone they came across. That didn’t work last season because of the craftiness of RLCS players, but it doesn’t mean it can’t in the long term. Arsenal is a fast, aggressive player. He doesn’t hesitate to challenge and Spacestation will pin their opponents in a lot.
He also adds an element of swagger and self-confidence that this team seemed to be missing. They’re not close to competing for the World Championship yet, but if a few breaks go their way they could end up making LAN. The flipside is a lot more scary.
Spacestation’s Best Case
Satthew was very efficient with his shooting in Season 7. He scored on 28% of attempts which puts him between Jesus “Gimmick” Parra and Matthew “Drippay” Den-Kaat in NA. He didn’t take nearly as many shots per game as those two players, but he converted his chances when they came.
Sypical, Satthew and AxB all took about the same amount of shots per game (2.59, 2.55, 2.48 respectively), so if they want to break even with last season then Arsenal just needs to score like Satthew.
If they want to surpass last season’s result, then Sypical and AxB need to be more efficient in front of goal. Arsenal won’t single handedly make them an elite offense. Sypical needs to be more potent and AxB needs to make smarter decisions. Maybe they can work more passing plays or demos in to create easier chances.
Only Dillon “Rizzo” Rizzo and Treyven “Lethamyr” Robitaille spent more time in the defensive third than AxB last season. That allowed Satthew and Sypical to spend more time in the neutral and offensive thirds awaiting passes. Arsenal may capitalize on those passes at a higher rate than Satthew did.
Spacestation have peace of mind. They felt like they couldn’t do it with Satthew, so they acted on it with urgency. They’ve had all summer to practice together and get used to one another. Their goal is speed, and having confidence in your teammates allows for more aggression.
Sypical is the main cog of the entire operation. He needs to be a valuable contributor in every single game. Spacestation can’t have him score eight goals one week and then disappear the next anymore. He needs to score and score often, but when he isn’t scoring he needs to be creating for others.
In Spacestation’s best case scenario they use more demos, outplays and quick reads to circle around their competition. If they perform well against their non-Big Three opponents and sneak a series off of Cloud9, NRG or G2 they could finish as high as third place. Their ceiling is the knockout round of the World Championship (assuming the RLCS brings back Season 7’s World Championship format).
Spacestation’s Worst Case Scenario
Can Arsenal unlock defenses in his first RLCS season? Will he be in the right spots to punish gaps in the defense? Can he limit mistakes that lead to transition goals? He’s going to have a heavy burden to carry in his rookie season.
Arsenal will clean up some of the mechanical mistakes that plagued Satthew, but Satthew was a quality RLCS player. Sure he’d let a howler in every once in awhile, but he was a bonafide pro who proved he belonged in his first RLCS season. Arsenal will have to do the same.
Spacestation are far from a proven winner. Their win against Cloud9 not only saved their season but also completely changed the narrative around the team. It kept them clear of relegation and everyone just assumed they’d be the fourth North American LAN team.
Then they went 0-8 during the Regional Championship and made Nicholas “Wonder” Blackerby look like Kyle “Scrub Killa” Robertson. Can they bounce back from such a disappointing end to the season? Maybe not. Maybe Satthew wasn’t the problem.
This squad wants to play furious and fast, but that could open them up in defense like it did last season. Giving up easy goals is frustrating. That can lead to double commits and clueless positioning. They need to keep calm and stay in every series.
The top of NA is really good. NRG, C9, G2 and Rogue all performed well at the World Championship and in the offseason. Spacestation doesn’t need to just improve as a team. They need to find a way to be better than those four teams. They have to be better than the three of the four World Championship semi-finalists and the last major LAN winner. Good luck.
Spacestation could get relegated. They’re probably better right now than Birds and the Beez, but can they outpace Ghost? Will The Peeps surpass them after signing Nick “mist” Costello? The margins at the bottom half of the table are going to be very tight. Spacestation may overrun their own ambitions and end up back in the Rival Series.
TL;DR: Sypical and AxB need to make steps forward this year if Arsenal is going to carry them to new heights. He might not be able to do it on his own. If they play too fast and let in too many goals, they’ll stare relegation in its cold, dark eyes.
Featured image courtesy of Todd Gutierrez for DreamHack.
Follow Connor on Twitter: @connorssanders.
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