Nobody believed in Veloce Esports coming into RLCS Season 8, but after Week 1 of League Play, they’re sitting pretty at the top of the table, 2-0. Coming into Season 8, Veloce were seen as the Splyce, ex-Mouz type that would be completely overmatched and maybe win one series on the season.
Veloce didn’t give any credence to that and took down Complexity and Dignitas to begin their RLCS campaign.
How did they flip the expectations on their head? By playing rock solid defense, overcoming adversity, punishing mistakes and through Jack “FlamE” Prearton’s annoying antics, that’s how.
Here’s an in depth look at the surprising start to the season for the newly promoted Veloce Esports.
Attack the Wave
When California body surfers encounter behemoth waves they always run toward it. They see the wave gaining form, and swim deeper to confront it. Why would they go closer to the impending crash?
Because being in no man’s land is the worst place to be when a big wave comes. If the surfer runs toward it they may swim past the wave before it crests. If it does crest, they can dive under it before or as it crashes and avoid its force.
The second option is to just stay close to shore and let the wave crash far beyond the surfer. Danger arises when someone gets caught in between attacking and staying in and the wave crashes directly on them.
This principle applies to Rocket League, and was well exemplified by Veloce Esports. FlamE, Andy “Kassio” Landais and Sandro “FreaKii” Holzwarth rarely hesitated in challenging the ball, and it worked.
Confronted with two creative masterminds in Hrant “Flakes” Yakoub and Maello “AztraL” Ernst, Veloce refused to allow them any space to create.
Flakes didn’t eclipse 400 points in a single game against Veloce, and his team could only muster up one goal in four games. Veloce ran at Flakes every time he picked up the ball and he couldn’t open things up for his teammates. Watch how FreaKii reads him like a book here.
Veloce dared Joonas “Mognus” Salo and Marius “gReazymeister” Ranheim to score but they couldn’t. Mognus was one versus one against Kassio on a backboard read in Game 4, and didn’t even test the net. Kassio didn’t let himself get pulled into no man’s land and they cleared their lines.
Against Dignitas they shut AztraL down fairly well in Game 1 and gave up a garbage time goal in Game 2 to pad his stats. Things changed in Game 3 when AztraL and Maurice “Yukeo” Weihs started to test the backboard and connect on passes.
Dignitas shot the ball 18 times in Game 3. Veloce could only muster four. Then in Game 4 Yukeo missed an open net that would have put Dig ahead with 40 seconds remaining. It went to overtime and 3:49 in ViolentPanda made a perfectly timed run and ended it.
It all came down to Game 5, and after Yukeo slotted one home 26 seconds in it seemed like the series was going to get away from them. Yukeo missed another open net, FlamE scores with 2:55 remaining. He’s been an absolute nuisance all series long.
They let another goal in, but the defense was good enough to keep them in the game so they could mount a comeback (more on that in the next section). Dignitas took 57 shots in the series and Veloce made 36 saves. Veloce really started to show weakness toward the end of the Dig series, but they gritted through, and the foundation of their success came from their defensive effort.
Down a goal with 30 seconds remaining, it seems that Veloce are going to be reverse swept. Then FreaKii clears the ball, and Kassio does this:
The pass in the backfield completely takes Yukeo out of the play, and FreaKii can try and beat AztraL to it. Under duress, AztraL plays it into Kassio’s path and instead of ripping a shot, he lays it off for FlamE who smashes it past ViolentPanda for the equalizer.
It was beautifully executed, but they didn’t celebrate the tie. Thirteen seconds later FreaKii put Panda into no man’s land on the counter, and the wave crashed down on Dignitas.
That level of resilience from Veloce was uncommon in a newly promoted team, and even when the series seemed like it would slip away they stayed focused on stole the win.
At the start of the Complexity series FreaKii and Kassio both missed a fairly straightforward clear. Nothing came of it, but it might have just been the last shakes of nerves manifesting themselves. After being held to two shots in Game 2 they scored three goals on fours shots in Game 3.
Greazy only eclipsed 250 points once in the entire series. Even after making mistakes and struggling on offense, Veloce stomped Complexity in Games 3 and 4 and might have already set themselves up to avoid the Promotion Playoff. FlamE disconnected from two matches and didn’t lose focus.
There will likely be one two win team in the relegation zone, but Veloce are far from worried about that now. They’ve got their eyes set on making LAN after as good a Week 1 performance as they could have hoped for.
FlamE Must Be So Annoying to Play Against
FlamE has great instincts for when to cut rotation and surprise the defense with a challenge.
The challenge he makes to keep the ball in a dangerous area is great, but the weird recovery he made up on the ceiling was an incredibly tough and key to keeping him in the play. He’s always so quick to cut in on an unsuspecting half clear, and he must be such a nuisance to play against because he pops up in weird places.
FlamE also flashed his mechanical efficiency on this double tap:
He’s really fun to watch and found himself in the right place at the right time often on Sunday.
Veloce didn’t have a The Peeps style explosion where everything they hit found the top corner. They stayed patient, played good defense and then punished poor touches and overcommitment.
Kassio punished a meandering Greazy touch in Game 1 vs. Complexity and then FreaKii crushed Mognus’ awkward play in his own defensive corner in Game 3. In Game 4 Greazy and Mognus double committed on the backboard and Kassio found FreaKii for the easy goal.
Maybe the biggest takeaway from that match should be how bad Complexity looked and not how Veloce flew.
The punishable mistakes continued against Dignitas. In overtime of Game 1, ViolentPanda committed too far forward on a missed shot. Kassio had enough time to let the ball bounce before popping it into the middle where FreaKii secured it.
AztraL made an abysmal clear attempt that FlamE scored in Game 2. Dignitas forgot about the backboard in Game 3, and the series winner should have been challenged by AztraL or Panda.
That’s not to discredit Veloce’s offense because they forced so many of those errors. They put their opponents in positions where they gave up easy goals, and Veloce deserve credit for capitalizing.
FreaKii led his team in scoring in all five games against Dignitas. Kassio was named player of the week, but FreaKii scored three more goals than both of his teammates and had seven saves in the 18 shot Game 3 against Dignitas.
Was this just a fluke, or are Veloce serious contenders? They’re probably not in competition for the top of the region just yet, but another series win will most likely keep them from relegation. Another couple of series wins and they’ll be challenging for a LAN spot.
For now they need to keep locking down the defense and punishing every single mistake that floats their way. It’s paid good dividends so far, and Veloce have already surpassed expectations.
Featured image courtesy of Jennika Ojala for DreamHack.
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