Matthew “Satthew” Ackermann hung up the discord call feeling sad and angry. His now ex-teammates, people he considered to be close friends, had blindsided him with the news that they were dropping him from the org he had worked so hard to sign with.
Alexandre “AxB” Bellemare asked him to talk with him in the team chat earlier that day. Satthew was surprised when he logged on because Caden “Sypical” Pellegrin and the team’s coach George “Jorolelin” Kolev were already waiting in for him in the voice channel.
“I hopped in the channel and they told me they felt they needed to move on with a new player,” Satthew said. “Obviously at the time I was in the middle of shock and a little bit of anger and frustration. There was also just some sadness at the same time.”
He called Spacestation’s general manager Shawn “Unit” Pellerin to talk through the situation. As Unit tried to convince him to set up another meeting to try and salvage the broken relationship with his teammates it became clear to Satthew that his time at Spacestation was done. He had to move on. He couldn’t repair the relationship he’d spent two seasons building.
Spacestation were coming off an up and down Season 7. They started playing together after Season 5 when AxB moved on from the RLRS squad The D00ds. Satthew and AxB hit it off immediately and, after a few tryouts with other players, they found the perfect player to complete their squad. Sypical complimented their playstyles well and they decided to stick with him. They struggled in scrims at first, but before they knew it they had qualified for the Rival Series through the upper bracket.
“From our first scrims, AxB and I were really close,” Satthew continued. “We didn’t know Sypical as well because he was relatively new. As we played together we actually became really close. We have the same type of humor, we laugh a lot in scrims and we joked around all the time. We like a lot of the same things. It was a really good relationship for some time.”
They dominated the Rival Series under the name Bread in Season 6 and earned promotion to Rocket League’s highest tier with a win over Rogue in the promotion tournament. This was the culmination of their dreams as Rocket League pros. It’s too bad it couldn’t last.
Satthew’s path to the RLCS has been unconventional. The closest he’d been to a pro player was when he subbed for G2 in Season 5. He’d never been able to find the right connection with a team, but when he played with AxB and Sypical in the RLRS, he thought he’d struck gold.
Expectations were high for Bread. They signed with Spacestation Gaming right before the season, but started out 1-2 in League Play. Then SSG dropped another series to Ghost to begin Week 4, but surprised fans with a 3-1 upset over Cloud9 later that day. They were a single game victory away from staying in the RLCS and had a pretty decent shot at making the postseason LAN.
“The last few weeks we started doing poorly. We brought on Joro after Week 4. We had a good DreamHack Dallas qualifier, which was our first event being coached by him, but then every single result afterwards was terrible. That included Week 5 because we barely beat Splyce and then we lost to Rogue. We hadn’t been playing well in scrims and we went on to Valencia qualifiers and those were terrible. Regionals obviously were terrible as well.”
“There was definitely a disconnect within the team. We felt like we were doing bad and we kept trying to experiment when we probably should have just stuck with our playstyle we had at the beginning of the season.”
Joro was AxB’s teammate on The D00ds in Season 5. Satthew and AxB had known him for a long time, and asked him to join the team as a coach to help them analyze their replays.
“I felt like it was a huge mistake bringing [Joro] on midseason. We had something good going and probably shouldn’t have made any changes at all. He’s not contracted with the org, so I think it was a mistake in letting him have a say in this whole process… I feel like it was a big mistake letting him have any role whether he had a say in roster moves or it was just mediation like he says. I just feel like he shouldn’t have been in the equation at all.”
Things continued to get worse. Spacestation performed poorly and posted an 0-8 record in the Regional Championship and missed out on their chance to play in the postseason. AxB and Joro started to talk about dropping Satthew.
Two weeks later they played at DreamHack Dallas where Satthew made this mistake against Team SoloMid.
The mistake was painfully obvious and blame was easily assigned. This misplay cost Spacestation the series, and SSG were the only Season 7 RLCS team in Dallas to not make Day 2. Many fans have pointed to that moment in hindsight and theorized that the turnover was the reason Satthew was released.
“When they talked to me, they never mentioned that play specifically. I asked them when this apparent issue had risen and they said they started discussing three weeks [before Dallas]. AxB talked with Joro first and then eventually they went to Sypical and asked how he felt. So they said that process started three weeks before.”
If it wasn’t that mistake, why were they moving on at all?
“Basically they said that they felt with these new teams coming into the RLCS bring a new type of playstyle
and they said wanted to get a new player who plays the way they feel is the meta. They mentioned some of the new players they were thinking about and that was pretty much it.”
AxB and Sypical wanted a player that was faster and more aggressive than Satthew. It’s hard to blame a team for wanting to improve their play by finding a new teammate with a different skill set that can bring some new life. The issue arises, as it has for so many teams in the past, when the remaining two players have to inform the third that they’re moving on without him. These cuts aren’t exactly the cleanest. No one expects them to be.
That doesn’t change how painful the receiving end is.
“It felt terrible. It felt like I was just getting started because my numbers the first season really weren’t bad. I led the team in goals and assists. We pretty much translated from RLRS to RLCS just at lower level. It was still Sypical and I complimenting each other on offense while AxB played more of the third man. We just didn’t dominate [the RLCS] like we did RLRS. It felt terrible after all this work put in.”
“There’s a lot of time and effort that goes into this. I felt like we still had time and effort to put in and we needed to improve our attitudes because it felt like there was some complacency and attitude issues going on in scrims. Now we can’t really target that because they’re trying out new thirds. It’s tough.”
Satthew has dedicated a large portion of his life to reaching the RLCS. There are countless hours of scrimmages, free play and replay analysis that go into becoming a professional. When it comes to an end so abruptly, with so little prior communication, it can lead to some hard feelings toward the friends that are continuing without you.
Does Satthew have any hard feelings toward his ex-teammates?
“I mean, definitely. I do not have any respect for them whatsoever anymore to be quite frank.”
It’s easy to forget that the cars fans see flying through the air are controlled by human beings. Human beings that live lives outside of Rocket League. These roster decisions affect players and families just as much as they affect who wins out on the pitch. After the discord call Satthew talked with his brother about his future.
“My family played a huge role in the following days after the drop happened. My brother was the first one to talk to me. He got home from work and we just talked for a couple of hours. My parents have been great. We’ve just been discussing future plans. Whether Rocket League works out or not, I still have school to fall back on. I’ve been a statistics student at the University of North Carolina for two years now. There’s always that as a plan B now.”
Satthew’s brother, Mark, helped put things back into perspective. He helped Satthew remember that, even though in the moment it felt like it, it wasn’t the end of the world. Satthew started moving on and hosted an AMA on discord. A fan asked him he had considered retiring. He answered that he had.
“The considering retirement part is just like every pro is considering what they’re going to do after Rocket League. It’s not like a definite thing. I’m definitely leaning towards playing. I have opportunities in RLRS. I’m probably going to try and pursue those and I’ve already been trying with one and it’s going well so far. I see myself at least competing in RLRS next season.”
After a few days, Satthew returned to Rocket League. No matter how much his team and his org meant to him, he’s ready to move on. He’s started to look for chances in RLRS and is confident he’ll return to the RLCS before he hangs up the sticks.
“There’s a stigma about telling a third, ‘Hey, we’re going to try to someone out (for your spot).’ There’s definitely ways to say, ‘We feel like you’re falling behind in these areas, let’s work on this. We feel we can improve as a team if you change this part of your game.’ That discussion never really happened.”
“I was under the impression we were going to stick it out as a team. We made promises to each other at the end of the season. We have something good going on. We’re going to keep working on it. Literally like a month ago we made that promise to each other. At least between AxB and I.”
Satthew is the latest victim of the fickle and constantly evolving nature of esports. Every player, coach, analyst and org is conscious of how short careers can be. No matter how much goes into the initial ascension, reaching new heights means making new sacrifices. Everyone understands that. It doesn’t make it any easier.
AxB released a statement via Twitter explaining the move. In it he said, “You guys need to understand that this is a business and you can’t let your relationships get in the way of what’s best for the team. We all love Satthew and he’s a nice person but Sypical and I both agree this change was necessary in order for us to be where we want to be.”
When approached for comment Joro stated, “I’d rather stay neutral on the call as I’ve been the whole time, not really my business to be messing in a team decision like that. Now that it’s done though and I’m just going to do my best working with AxB and Sypical going forward.”
Spacestation Gaming and Shawn “Unit” Pellerin did not reply to a request for comment.
Featured image courtesy of DreamHack’s Todd Gutierrez.
“From Our Haus to Yours”