Brazil’s SK Gaming have taken first place in the North American ESL Pro League Season 5 round robin phase with an overall record of 18-6, narrowly outpacing Team Liquid and fellow Brazilians Immortals, both of whom finished with a 17-7 mark.
It’s of little surprise that SK Gaming found themselves on top at the end of the 10 week season. More shocking was how close the other teams got to the overwhelming heavy favourites. If either Immortals or Team Liquid had 2-0’d the other in Week 9 (when they split their two games 1-1), a tie for first place would have ensued.
Meanwhile NRG Esports, a team considered miles away from reaching SK Gaming’s status, only fell three games short of the Brazilians as they finished in fourth.
Integration of felps an issue
The only obvious reason why SK narrowly escaped the subpar was the addition of a new player to start the year. Just a couple of days before the start of Season 5 of ESL Pro League, SK Gaming announced the addition of felps in place of fnx (who would take felps’ spot on Immortals).
The long rumoured deal had finally come to fruition, with the star of Immortals joining the stacked SK Gaming line-up, with the hope being that this would be the last piece of the puzzle to enable them to make consistent title runs. However, SK struggled to find felps a defined role within the organisation, resulting in SK becoming a team with five star players who often falter against lower competition.
The player having the most difficulty adjusting to felps’ presence has been in-game leader and AWPer (sniper) FalleN. FalleN’s statistics have dropped substantially since being considered the best AWPer in the world late last year. Given his role as in-game leader, FalleN must dedicate extra time to incorporate felps into SK’s system of play, leaving less time to maintain his own mechanical prowess. However, all is not lost as the addition of felps has added the firepower SK lacked when FalleN used to struggle.
Coldzera has no equal
Even with four other stars on the team, superstar and best player in the world, coldzera, stands tall amongst the crowd. He is a player like no other, with his incredible instincts coupled with some of the best mechanical prowess the game has ever seen. Coldzera can single-handedly take over a match, even against the highest competition, no matter the weapon. What makes Cold so dangerous is that his domination can come with pistols, sub-machine guns, rifles or even as the secondary AWPer.
A prime example of this came during the 9th round of SK’s Week 9 match-up against NRG. Coldzera as the secondary AWPer on T-side picked up two crucial kills to open up the bombsite before securing one more and the bomb plant before the end of the round. While others made plays to set Cold up, he capitalized on them so quickly that NRG had limited ability to counterattack.
More prominent when Dust II was in the map pool (due to how open it was and how successful the “double AWP” set-up could be), Cold has the ability to shut down a site with his patient AWP play. As long as Coldzera remains at this high level, SK will remain in contention as one of the top five teams in the world.
Fer and TACO more than capable
The final two members of SK are incredibly valuable in their own way. Fer is a player who is strongly aggressive and a major key to SK’s success. He is finally beginning to receive the accolades and recognition he deserves as one of the top players in world.
Often overshadowed by Cold and FalleN, fer’s ability to entry frag with such class allows the other members of the team to shine. Take, for example, the 24th round on Mirage versus Team Liquid in Week 7 when fer completely opened up the round by securing the first two kills in the B apartments.
TACO on the other hand is a player who saw more success with fnx in the line-up. TACO has taken on the Support role in fnx’s absence, meaning he takes a backseat to the other members of the team at times. However, TACO is still a star, and that allows all five members of SK to perform at the highest level on any given map.
On to Dallas
The top six teams from the North American region now move on to face those from Europe at the Verizon Theatre in Dallas, Texas, at the end of the month. SK Gaming, Team Liquid, Immortals and NRG Esports will be joined by Cloud9 and OpTic Gaming from North America, with Europe sending over North, G2 Esports, mousesports, Fnatic, Natus Vincere and Team EnVyUs in what, at least on paper, shapes up as an excellent Final.