Team Liquid secured first place in the regular season of ESL Pro League’s North American circuit with a 4-0 week that included two wins via forfeit over OpTic.
Liquid finish well
Liquid have dominated this season, dropping just two maps all year, with the addition of NAF in particular lifting the team.
The recent acquisition of TACO appears to be a work in progress still, but only allowing a total of 12 rounds over a two-game set even against the likes of compLexity appears to be a continuation of Liquid’s consistency over lower tiered opposition.
The match against OpTic would have been a nice test of Liquid’s current form as they struggled at DreamHack Marseille recently, but OpTic are in the midst of a roster change that will see them become a fully Danish line-up.
The removal of Cobblestone from the map pool with Dust 2 taking its place from IEM Sydney this coming weekend does raise a few questions and Liquid are a team that should have mixed feelings about the change. They were a solid Cobble outfit but should be a decent team on Dust 2 too given the skill-based game they play.
Cloud9 end up fourth
Cloud9 had an underwhelming end to their regular season as they produced 1-1 splits against both Rogue and Splyce.
Cloud9 had fairly high expectations entering the final week of the campaign, given their solid play online alongside their weak schedule to finish. However, the mixed results against Rogue and Splyce leave questions over Cloud9 ahead of the Finals.
Splyce not only won a game in dominant fashion (16-6) but also nearly stole the second match with a 13-16 score, having gone into the showdown on the back of a recent 1-1 split with Dignitas – clearly the worst team in the league.
Cloud9’s strength was their stability and consistency against lower level competition but these losses, coupled with an exit in the quarterfinals in Marseille to Gambit, is a major red flag moving forward.
Cloud9 still have star power in the likes of tarik and autimatic to compete at the highest level, but these losses building up too often is a concern.
SK sneak into post-season party
SK Gaming narrowly made the Finals, edging out Rogue for the sixth and final slot.
It has been a struggle for SK Gaming this season as it took longer than anticipated to integrate Stewie2K after his arrival. Adding a star player in Stewie2K in place of a support like TACO has caused a necessary change in the role of the other players, with boltz in particular struggling to adapt.
SK had a decent showing in the final week, besting Renegades in Overtime on Train 19-15 before dismantling them 16-3 on Cache.
SK are still a major work in progress but they will be an interesting team in the Finals as their lower seed and star power could create a few upsets down the line.
The removal of Cobblestone is a shame for SK however, as they were one of the few teams willing to play it often.
Keep an eye on NRG
NRG had a solid clean week with back-to-back dominant efforts over a new-look Luminosity.
Seeing NRG still give it their all despite having their Finals place secured was an encouraging sign for this young team.
The surprise of the regular season, NRG will have a chance to prove themselves offline during the Finals having finished second in the regular season.
So Team Liquid, NRG, OpTic, Cloud9, Renegades and SK Gaming are heading to the Finals in Dallas next month where they will fancy their chances against the European, Asia-Pacific and South American teams in attendance.