When Jordan “EyeIgnite” Stellon and Remco “remkoe” den Boer had their falling out on Reddit, Remkoe posed the question, “Realistically, is there ever any team that will never make a roster change?” Evidently, no, and Team Solomid are going to be one of the scariest teams in EU next season because of their move to sign Yanis “Alpha54” Champenois.
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 first preview in the series features Team SoloMid and new signing Alpha54. Alpha54 brings flair to Rocket League’s most safe team. Can his individual ability breathe life into a stagnant roster?
Season 7 Results: 6th place (3-4, 13-15). Lost to Dignitas in first round of Regional Championship.
Off-season Movement: Added EU MVP Alpha54 (0.85 GPG, 0.48 APG, 1.44 SAPG) in place of EyeIgnite (0.71 GPG, 0.29 APG, 1.29 SAPG).
Off-season Performance: 17th-24th DreamHack: Valencia, 2nd DreamHack: Dallas.
Team stats: 1.61 GPG (8th), 1.14 APG (8th), 4.36 SAPG (8th), 8.00 SHPG (4th), 1.96 GAPG (4th)
Team MVP: Alpha54
Realistic Team Goal: Top Four at RLCS World Championship.
Background and Team History
Even if Kyle “Scrub Killa” Robertson may have been more deserving, Alpha54 was Season 7’s European MVP and had a breakout season with FC Barcelona. The news of his move was shocking. It felt like Real Madrid plucking away Jadon Sancho or something but no one talked about it.
Aldin “Ronaky” Hodzic’s surprise departure from Triple Trouble overshadowed the region’s most valuable player moving teams. He’s the player who won the award in his first RLCS season and still has room to improve and nobody really freaked out about it.
If TSM retain his services they’ll have one of the most mechanically sharp players in the region locked up for a long time. That’s a pretty good piece to build around. Pair that offensive prowess with a defensive stalwart like Remkoe and a top shelf distributor like Otto “Metsanauris” Kaipiainen and there’s something special cooking.
TSM’s offense was terrible last season. They scored the fewest goals per game in EU but finished fourth in shots per game. Their gameplan was basically rotate tightly, force a ton of pressure, keep hitting the ball near the goal until the opponent messes up and then score.
Remkoe and EyeIgnite aren’t the kinds of players to catch the ball and try and dribble. They don’t try for many air dribbles or flip-resets. Slamming the ball into the backboard and hoping for a slip up only took them so far. They had to make a move.
That pressure kept their net relatively clean though. Despite finishing last in saves, they allowed 1.96 GPG (4th in EU), and should be even stronger defensively (Alpha averaged 1.44 SAPG to Eye’s 1.29).
Now they’re a threat to win the region, but if they want a chance at winning deep at the World Championship they’ll need Alpha54 to find another gear.
Alpha54 completely changes the complexion and strategy of this team. In basic statistical terms, he’s an upgrade over EyeIgnite in every way. TSM will spend a lot less time waiting for mistakes and a lot more time instigating them. Their bim and bam style clogged up the midfield enough to pin opponents in and now they throw in an unpredictable wrench into the mix.
The EU MVP doesn’t care who’s in front of him or what kind of move is needed. He can pull off nearly anything on nearly anyone and can single handedly swing the course of a series. There are very few difference makers of his quality. He’s a star.
Now he has a new supporting cast. David “Deevo” Morrow and Dan “Bluey” Bluett were both excellent last season, but Remkoe and Metsanauris are both due for solid seasons. Alpha will create more chances and his teammates have punished plenty of open nets in their careers.
Alpha54 can bring the ball down and make plays off the wall with much more menace than EyeIgnite, so the offense will be more versatile. Metsanauris is the biggest benefactor because he scores just as many chances as he creates (averaged 0.54 GPG and APG last season). Alpha will finish his passes and set him up for shots of his own.
Remkoe will have even less to do on offense and could settle into a Rizzo-like defensive role. He loves to stay back, make long clears and hold down the midfield line (only three players spent more time as the last defender in EU). He rarely gets scored on (only 0.18 times per game, or once every five games), and he won’t have to carry so much of EyeIgnite’s defensive load.
The team will also be rejuvenated by a new player. Scrims will feel more fun and they have someone new to bounce ideas off. Sometimes hearing a new voice in comms is all you need to have fun playing Rocket League again.
TSM can win the Season 8 World Championship. If Alpha can capitalize off the pressure that Remkoe and Metsa have spent two seasons creating, then they’ll take any team to five games. They may even have a chance at the Grand Final.
Alpha54 hasn’t won anything yet. Yes, he won MVP, and yes, he’s a mechanical beast but he still hasn’t won a major or even made a Grand Final. He led FC Barcelona to second place in EU, but couldn’t get them past Cloud9 at the World Championship.
Obviously it’s not his fault and he’s only one season in, but he hasn’t put together an unstoppable Chausette45-like performance on the big stage yet. He’ll carry a lot of the offensive burden for TSM in big games, and if he can’t step up then TSM will fall short.
TSM prided themselves on clogging up the midfield and limiting defensive mistakes last season. What happens when Alpha54 isn’t where EyeIgnite would usually be? Can they find Alpha on passes upfield or will he be forced to slide into their rotations?
Will their pressure heavy style allow for enough space for Alpha to work his magic? Part of the reason why TSM created so much pressure is because they’d only hit the ball once and move on. Alpha needs room to set up flicks, but he may be overcrowded by his teammates. He needs to score consistently in transition when he can capitalize on the space in front of him.
TSM only gave up 1.96 GPG, but they surrendered 1.68 APG. They were undone by passing plays too often last season, and need to time challenges and interceptions better. When teams break the pressure they need to regain control with more urgency.
Alpha54 used more boost per minute than any other player in NA or EU last season, but Remkoe was only six spots behind him. They were both in the top five in boost collected per game, and they could end up boost starving each other. Metsa collects more boost from pads than anyone in the world. Remkoe takes more full canisters than anyone besides Reed “Chicago” Wilen and Scrub Killa. Where will Alpha get his?
They could also just not mesh as a team. TSM started Season 7 3-0 and then collapsed in their last four games. Can they overcome adversity this season? Remkoe is 24, Metsa is 20 and Alpha is 16. Can he match their maturity and professionalism?
TSM’s worst case scenario is that Alpha’s creativity is more disruptive to his own team than his opponents. Maybe they give up a lot of breakaway goals due to miscommunication. There’s an outside chance this team could miss LAN and leave Remkoe to take the long look in the mirror that Jayson “Fireburner” Nunez did after Season 7.
Both he and Metsa have been pros since Season 1. Have their reactions slowed? Can they continue to find the determination needed to win?
TL;DR: Alpha54 supplies much needed versatility and could completely revamp a stale offensive strategy. If he plays like an MVP they could win the World Championship. If they can’t get on the same page they’ll fall short in the Regional Championship again.
Featured image courtesy of Todd Gutierrez for DreamHack.
Follow Connor on Twitter: @connorssanders.
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