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Rocket League: The Curse is Broken

RLCS World Championship

This is what championship exhilaration looks like.

After eight long seasons, Garrett “GarrettG” Gordon is a Rocket League Championship Series World Champion. The celebration after Justin “JSTN” Morales scored in overtime to win Game 7 was so emotional that GarrettG couldn’t keep his glasses on.

His hand rose to his head in a brief moment of disbelief. Then the pure joy of winning it all overcame him. His name will appear on Champions Field for the first time after seven seasons of falling short at LAN.

It was a curse unlike any other. Season after season GarrettG dominated his region during League Play, but his team couldn’t win the big one.

RLCS World Championship
Courtesy of Psyonix

He had been widely touted as the best player to have never won a World Championship coming into the weekend, but he shed that mantle on Sunday.

The Grand Final of Season 8’s World Championship in Madrid was one of the best in history. If JSTN hadn’t scored the zero second goal to keep their championship hopes alive in London at the Season 5 World Championship, this Grand Final would almost surely take the top spot.

Fans finally got the Renault Vitality/NRG Grand Final they’d been waiting for. The teams had clashed in live environments previously, even on Day 2 of this World Championship, but never with a championship stake on the line. The Grand Final of the Season 8 World Championship did not disappoint.

Vitality went up 3-1 on Dignitas in the semi-final, but Jos “ViolentPanda” van Meurs and his squad won two overtime contests in a row to force Game 7.

Then Maurice “Yukeo” Weihs accidentally bumped Maello “AztraL” Ernst out of a save and put Dignitas down 1-0. They had good chances to equalize, including a burner of a shot from AztraL that nailed the crossbar with 30 seconds remaining, but couldn’t pull it back.

Watch the frustration on Yukeo’s face as the clock hits zero in this clip. To have come so far, but still fall short:

It’s a position that GarrettG and JSTN know well, but they were determined to avoid the disappointment of second place.

NRG’s path to the Grand Final was much easier. Spacestation Gaming made a seven goal dent in NRG’s resume in Game 4, but the rest of the series was firmly under NRG’s control.

Pierre “Turbopolsa” Silfver was up to his usual tricks in the series against Spacestation, including this missed flick turned to bump play now being called the “Turbo Flick”.

Both teams took their place on stage to raucous approval from the crowd and had decent momentum coming into the series.

There was some concern from the casters that Vitality might start slow after their emotionally draining series against Dignitas, and it proved to be true as NRG won 4-1. Turbo had a hat trick.

Vitality snapped back to life with a defensive masterclass in Game 2, and were able to fend off an NRG come back to secure the win in Game 3.

Turbopulsa demolished Victor “Fairy Peak” Locquet to open the net up for GarrettG in overtime of Game 4, and evened the series up at two a piece. Turbo’s demos would prove vital in the series.

Game 5 also went to NRG on the back of a weirdly slow Turbopolsa goal (he scores a lot of these), this time punishing a mistouch by Kyle “Scrub Killa” Robertson.

NRG had arrived to season point. One more win and the World Championship was theirs, but Vitality had more gas left in the tank, jumping out to a two goal lead. Alexandre “Kaydop” Courant flexed his concentration with this save against Turbopolsa:

The three goal cushion ended up being crucial, as NRG charged back with a double touch by Turbopolsa and a blistering shot by GarrettG and only trailed by one goal with 46 seconds remaining.

NRG went on to lose Game 6, but Turbopolsa’s goal proved to be the turning point in the series. His team grabbed the momentum, even as Vitality made fantastic plays defensively to push the series to seven. JSTN and GarrettG crushed a pinch shot with time expired, but it hit the cross bar and bounced out as an omen for what was to come.

This is where the flashbacks from Season 5 start coming in. GarrettG and JSTN’s NRG pushed Kaydop and Turbopolsa’s Dignitas to seven games at the Season 5 World Championship in London.

Most remember JSTN’s zero second goal to force overtime, but it can be easy to forget that Turbopolsa was the won who claimed the series with a goal 22 seconds into overtime.

This time Turbopolsa was on JSTN’s team, and the tension was vivid as the game began. 

200,000+ watched on stream as the season reached its climax. The first half of the game ticked by scoreless, as both teams tried to avoid any fatal mistakes.The best chance of Game 7’s first half came on a shot from Kaydop, but Turbopolsa knocked it away.

RLCS World Championship
Courtesy of Psyonix

JSTN intercepted a Vitality clear near the right mid boost, clanging the ball off the wall. Turbopolsa reached the ball first and placed a feathery pass into JSTN’s path. He rose with the ball as if to set up an air dribble, spun toward it like he was trying for a flip reset, then boosted beneath the ball to demo Scrub Killa. Scrub slid back in his chair in disbelief.

2:13 remained and NRG looked like they were on their way to victory, but Vitality applied a lot of pressure after JSTN’s goal. 

With 32 seconds left, JSTN’s clear attempt was intercepted by Kaydop. As JSTN landed on the ground, Scrub Killa drove through the back of him, picking up the demo.

Fairy Peak played a low 50/50 challenge across the goal line. JSTN respawned and sprinted in to block Scrub Killa’s shot, but Scrub delayed his touch and forced another 50/50. The ball glanced off of Fairy Peak on the way through and went in. This time it was JSTN sliding back into his chair after being demoed with 28 seconds left.

Time expired as Fairy Peak blocked JSTN’s flip-reset attempt and sent the game into overtime.

Caster Callum “Shogun” Keir mentioned how eerily similar the situation was to the Season 5 World Championship. Turbopolsa scored 22 seconds into overtime to win in London, but JSTN beat him by one second in Madrid.

Vitality started with pressure off the kick off and kept the ball in NRG’s half for the first 17 seconds. Fairy Peak went for a slow play much like the one that got them the goal in regulation, but his flick careened off the back wall, giving GarrettG a free clear.

JSTN missed his challenge after Fairy Peak’s clear and was headed up-field. As GarrettG connected with the ball, Turbo came from Kaydop’s blind side and demolished him.

All Kaydop could do was look at Scrub Killa’s screen as JSTN rose up. JSTN spun his car so that the corner would connect with the ball and laced a shot to the top of the net, mere pixels out of the reach of the retreating Scrub Killa.

It was a goal perfectly indicative of NRG’s season, almost a microcosm of what makes them so great. Turbo comes out of nowhere to demo Kaydop, making GarrettG’s pass to JSTN wide open. Garrett plays a perfect pass that gives JSTN enough runway to take off and get some pace on his shot, but still keeps him far away from the goal so Scrub has to try and shadow defend.

Then the shot from JSTN is just perfect. His aerial car control is unmatched, and you can see why with this shot:

The broadcast transitioned to a picture-in-picture shot of GarrettG, Turbopolsa and JSTN hugging while the replay of JSTN’s clincher played in the background.

With one shot GarrettG and JSTN shed the best-to-have-never-won-it-all narrative, Turbopolsa became the first four-time World Champion and NRG became the first North American team to win a Rocket League Major on European soil.

JSTN couldn’t even gather himself to answer John “Johnnyboi_i” Macdonald’s postgame question about his affinity for Game 7 heroics.

It was a spectacular ending to a spectacular season. The streak of unique teams winning majors ended at eight, and now NRG have won two of the last three.

With only a month and a half until the start of Season 9, NRG look, definitively, like the best team in the world. Is this the birth of the next great Rocket League dynasty?

 

Featured image courtesy of Psyonix.

Follow me on Twitter: @connorssanders.

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