Photo by Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment
The Stage 3 Playoffs for the Overwatch kicked off last night with the Vancouver Titans delivering a swift victory over the Houston Outlaws in a 3 – 0 sweep, which many expected. However, the match following was were all the eyes were really at. The up and coming Shanghai Team being led by Gamsu faced off against the New York Excelsior, a squad teeming with star studded talent and who have always been in the top 3 since the inception of the Overwatch League. New York was the first seed and Shanghai the eighth and this was an upset game from the start.
The first map was control point Oasis and Shanghai was in control for nearly the entire thing taking the first win off New York 2 – 0. On Hollywood the hybrid map to follow, it was a lot closer with NYXL stopping the Dragons just short of point B and with Hollywood being a map that the Dragons have yet to win this stage NYXL was able to just BARELY take the win in overtime. This was to be NYXL’s high point in the series.
On map three, the Dragons chose Volskaya and the match was theirs to lose. The Dragons struggled to take both points and ended with a time bank of 7.6 seconds. The New York Excelsior managed to finish with a time bank of 5 minutes and 1 seconds. Yet, the Shanghai Dragons still managed to take the series putting them up 2 – 1 in the series. What followed on Gibralator was a complete massacre as the Shanghai Dragons finished the map then held NYXL just before point B, securing the win 3 – 1. Youngjin on his Doomfist, Dding on Pharah, Diem on Widowmaker, Gamsu on Wrecking Ball — the Shanghai Dragons had a field day with the New York Excelsior and while people are calling this an upset, the first seed versus the eighth seed…it was always going to end this way for New York.
In regular season play, NYXL do everything that a winning team is supposed to do. They play intelligently, they suck you into over-playing and making mistakes. They dominate maps and close out games with minimal frustration. But playoffs are another story. At this point, their performances in the playoffs are becoming more than a meme, it’s a serious issue. Not to take anything away from the monster performances from Dding, Gamsu and Youngjin of the Shanghai Dragons in their Stage 3 Playoff meeting, but the Excelsior couldn’t have looked more listless.
A major team selection misstep set the tone for the entire series against the Dragons. Team leader, Saebyeolbe was absolutely dominant on Sombra in stage 3. Sombra has been a mainstay in this flexible meta and thus one would assume that your most consistent Sombra player would start in the playoffs. Nope. SBB was nowhere to be found. And as the first round of the stage playoffs continued it became evident that perhaps he was giving them something that I’ve always thought they lacked. A true captain that could pull the team from the brink.
When you watched the other games in the round (besides Vancouver/Houston), you saw just what a leader or a big game player can do for your team. We saw San Francisco’s Choihyobin come up with clutch defensive plays on Dorado against Seoul’s Fleta. In the same match, Rascal dominate the Numbani map on Baptiste. KSF for the Valiant absolutely took over the Havana and Oasis maps to push the Valiant into the second round. I’m concerned that the NYXL have basically become Jjonak and the Jjonakettes. This only adds to the frustration of watching NYXL in the post-stage/postseason.
I want this team to be a winner. For as much as I hate to say it, virtually all geo-located sports need the New York teams to perform (Well, besides the NBA. But Knicks drama alone could fuel a postseason.) or at least not be synonymous with underachievement. Once this team is physically NYC they, perhaps more than any other team, will be expected to win and win big. They’ve had chances to do so they just have to stop shrinking in the spotlight.
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