iBUYPOWER Invitational Preview: Team Liquid
Damian “Daps” Steele
Eric “adreN” Hoag
Keith “NAF” Markovic
Nick “nitr0” Cannella
Jacob “FugLy” Medina
0-2 ESL Offline Qualifiers: 14-16 < Flipside Tactics and 10-16 < Copenhagen Wolves (February 2015)
Group Stage Exit: MLG Aspen, January 2015 ( beat CLG, lost to FNATIC, LDLC)
Semi-Finals: Clutchcon LAN, Denver, CO (January 2015): Lost to FNATIC 0-2.
ESEA Season 18 Invite Record: 6-4
Liquid was another North American squad who made a big splash in the off-season thanks to some timely high level play. Unlike CLG’s run through MLG qualifiers, it was Liquid’s performance at ESEA S17 LAN under the Denial banner that drew attention. The group came into the LAN with little fanfare, making a last minute pickup of current Mythic star Todd ‘Anger’ Williams to stand in for the LAN after releasing Preston ‘Juvenile’ Dornon at season’s end. The team won won six straight matches to close out the ESEA regular season and grab a LAN spot after starting 5-5. For most teams, heading into ESEA LAN with roster changes and an dismal result just prior would spell disaster, but instead, something very interesting happened.
The first matchup the ESEA Invite playoffs saw the unheralded group take on EU powerhouse Titan, who despite using a stand-in in Iorek, still retained the world’s best AWPer in KennyS and stars like apEX, Maniac, and Ex6tenz. Amazingly, Liquid began to grind out round after round on Inferno, at one point taking a 15-13 lead with a chance to close it out. They would ultimately lose in Double Overtime, but players like Keith ‘NAF’ Markovic and Jacob ‘Fugly’ Medina were having clutch performances and the team would go on to beat eLevate and upset Cloud9 in the lower bracket before falling to GX. They didn’t know it at the time, but their two major off-season additions were busy having fantastic LAN performances as well, as Nick ‘nitr0’ Cannella and Eric ‘adreN’ Hoag were playing extremely well for GX. Cannella & Hoag’s team knocked out Liquid and ultimately placed third.
Immediately in the off-season, the roster shuffling began with lead AWPer Shahzeb ‘Shahzam’ Khan departing for Cloud9, while nitr0 and adreN were released from GX to make room for Sam ‘Dazed’ Marine and Spencer ‘Hiko’ Martin. After a flurry of moves, Liquid ultimately snapped up the two talents while losing the services of Anger to Mythic. With adreN adjusting his career path to focus on CS:GO and nitr0 having put on a series of good showings at Dreamhack Winter ‘14 and ESEA LAN, many felt that Liquid might have had the best off-season of any team. Team Liquid, the organization, certainly thought so, acquiring the CS:GO squad in January as their first foray into the CS scene, and then adding longtime CS legend Matt ‘Warden’ Dickens as the team’s coach.
Liquid received a direct Invite to MLG Aspen when GX was removed, but failed to advance from group stages. The team’s only win was against fellow North American squad CLG, and although they managed to make it to the semi-finals of Clutchcon the following week, they only won four rounds in two maps against Fnatic in the Bo3 loss. The team has struggled to maintain consistent form and live up to the lofty expectations set for them, sitting at a current 6-4 record in ESEA Invite with losses to CLG, C9, and eLevate. They dropped out of CEVO midway through the season, but it was their failure to do damage at the Katowice offline qualifiers that left many with a bitter taste, especially considering how well Liquid played initially. Damien ‘daps’ Steele offered the following:
Our team’s performance for the year of 2015 has been up and down. Travelling for the past month has given us very little time to practice which has been one of the main reasons we lose some of the matches we do.
Individually NAF and I have not been playing at the level we did last season at ESEA LAN, which has also been effecting some of our match results negatively. The main area we have to improve on as a team is our CT sides. Most matches we will get 7-8 rounds T side, but start out down 2-8 CT side. Other than that our team is looking forward to being at home and actually getting time to practice and build chemistry before Gfinity.
Along with the additional time to practice Steele alluded to, the silver lining is that the team’s average record is still good enough for fourth place in ESEA Invite, and have a favorable schedule ahead of them. Despite the inconsistent results, they’ve defeated every team in this Invitational at least once, with the exception of Ascendancy, whom they did not play. They are chock full of talent, and every day they have a chance to practice is another day that they have to improve. They recently downed CLG and eLevate in the first week of the FACEIT qualifiers, and I like their chances to move through their side of the bracket into the Finals. They’ll have to be wary of a talented Ascendancy in the first match, but should have the depth and experience advantage. Despite their recent loss to eLevate and close OT win over Denial in recent ESEA matches, I would give them the edge there as well in a best of three. Still, Liquid has shown a lot of ups and downs recently, so an upset would not be the biggest of shocks.
Preview by Brian ‘Rotaderp’ Antoszyk – ESEA News. Follow him on twitter: @antoszykb
(photo sources: HLTV.org, ESEA News, teamliquid.net)