There is only one week remaining in the North American League Championship Series, and the postseason is taking shape. After Week 8, there are four teams that have secured a place in the playoffs, three teams that are officially eliminated and three that are still fighting for the chance to go to the finals. Each team only has two games left to solidify their final standing in the spring split.
Echo Fox took off running Week 1, and though they may have stumbled a few times, they hardly slowed down. Even with two losses last week, they are still tied for first place with 11 wins and 5 losses. Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon has returned from Korea to dominate the top lane, and the new roster has been dominating the rift.
Perhaps most surprisingly, Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett appears to have finally found a team that is a good fit. He has spent the last few years bouncing from team to team every few months, and many thought that this would just be another short stop for him before he moved on to another team, or left the pro scene altogether. Instead, he has been playing better than ever, and it seems that for the first time in his career he is connecting just as well with his team off the rift. They are in the position to secure first place as long as they win both of their Week 9 games.
Currently tied with Echo Fox for first place is Cloud9. Though they have not ever won an NA LCS split, they also have never failed to make it to Worlds. Additionally, they have been the only North American team to make it past the group stage in the last two World Championships. They have several experienced players, including Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi who most consider to be the best ADC in the league. However, their rookie Top Laner Eric “Licorice” Ritchie has also been getting a lot of attention. He has held his own against some of the most experienced Top Laners in the West, and his lane control has been a key part of many of their victories.
Clutch Gaming & 100 Thieves
The other two teams to have secured a playoff spot this week are Clutch Gaming and 100 Thieves, but they have a lot more in common than just that. Both new to the NA LCS this year, they each rebounded from a rough start to make it into the postseason. Clutch Gaming and 100 Thieves are backed by the Houston Rockets and the Cleveland Cavaliers, respectively. Additionally, both have relied on a mix of veteran LCS talent and fresh skill to succeed this season. Zaqueri “aphromoo” Black and the rest of 100 Thieves will take on Fabian “Febiven” Diepstraten and Clutch Gaming in the first game of Week 9 to decide their final rankings.
On the other side, this week’s games also saw three teams eliminated from the possibility of extending their seasons.
Last year, FlyQuest finished their first split in 4th place, exceeding the expectations of most. This year has been a different story, and the changes made by the rest of the league outpaced their own. Many people thought it was an improvement when they chose Jason “WildTurtle” Tran to replace Johnny “Altec” Ru last year. Now, Altec is on Echo Fox, tied for first, and FlyQuest is figuring out how to improve before the Summer Split arrives.
The other two teams that are officially out of playoff contention are both brand new to the league. OpTic Gaming is an established esports brand that has just branched out into League of Legends. With a team full of veterans such as Noh “Arrow” Dong-hyeon, Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage, and Daerek “LemonNation” Hart, expectations were high. There were some impressive individual performances that looked promising at times. However, they never really played up to their potential as a team, and it resulted in their current 4-12 record.
The Golden Guardians
The Golden Guardians are a new team backed by the Golden State Warriors, and unfortunately for them, they did about as well this season as people expected them to. Hai “Hai” Du Lam’s experience was not enough to outweigh the rest of the team, and they were outplayed in nearly all of their performances this split. They have the skill to improve as a team in the future, but they have a long way to go.
In the final week of the Spring Split, there are 3 teams that are technically still fighting for playoff spots. To make things more interesting, many predicted Team Liquid, Team Solo Mid, and Counter Logic Gaming to be at the top of the table. TSM and TL each only need to win one of their Week 9 games to move on. If either team does this, it will dash the hopes of CLG.
TSM made big roster changes that included the addition of Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen and Alfonso “mithy” Aguirre Rodríguez. Coming from G2 Esports, they were widely regarded as the best Bot Lane duo in the West. Unexpectedly, these two were one of the weak points for the team for most of the season. Most of the weight was left on the shoulders of Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg to carry them even this far. Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell was not a liability in the top lane, but wasn’t as consistently strong as he has been in the past, and Jungler Michael “MikeYeung” Yeung was less explosive than they had hoped he would be.
Team Liquid acquired an entirely new roster full of experience at the end of 2017. They started off the season strong, dominating the first 3 weeks to earn a 5-1 record. Two losses to top teams in Week 4 seemed to shake their confidence, and since then they have failed to have another 2-0 week. One of the most “hit or miss” teams in the NA LCS, they will need to be in top form to ensure a playoff spot. If Bot Lane duo Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng and Kim “Olleh” Joo-sung play as well as they did in Week 1, this should be a breeze.
Counter Logic Gaming
Last, there is Counger Logic Gaming. While technically still in the running, everything possible must go their way to have a chance at playoffs. If they don’t, it will be the first time ever that CLG did not advance past the regular season. Going 3-3 in the first three weeks, they then went on a six-game losing streak. However, something changed in Week 7, and they have won four straight games. Led by incredible performances in the Bottom Lane by Trevor “Stixxay” Hayes and Vincent “Biofrost” Wang, they have looked strong enough to have people hopeful for a last minute comeback to force a tiebreaker.
Regardless of the outcomes of this week’s games, you can bet that they will be some of the best of the season. As some teams fight for a spot in the playoffs, others jostle for a better ranking and playoff berth. Even the eliminated teams will be fighting to win some respect and finish with the best record possible. With so much on the line, the NA LCS games in Week 9 are not ones to miss.
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