Overwatch League: The Dallas Fuel’s Cinderella Story
The Dallas Fuel became champions last weekend in Hawaii taking a 4 to 2 victory over the Shanghai Dragons in the Overwatch League’s first tournament of the season. In doing so they became the first Cinderella story of the 2021 season and proved that anything can happen in the Overwatch League.
Coming into this season, the Dallas Fuel were high up on a lot of power rankings and both analysts and players alike were expecting big things out of them. Before their first game against their rival Houston Outlaws, tragedy struck up when Ki-hyo “Xzi” Jung announced he’d be leaving the league due to persistent injuries. Without a true hitscan player on their roster, many thought the Dallas Fuel would be playing at a huge disadvantage.
Despite a very close game five loss to the Houston Outlaws, confidence in the Dallas Fuel started to wane. There was no real reason for it when you look at the first four weeks of play, they beat the Los Angeles Gladiators that same week in a 3 to 1 series. A good look for Dallas when the Gladiators were also on top of a lot of power rankings. They’d later lose to the Washington Justice and then beat the Boston Uprising, going into the May Melee Qualifiers with a 2 and 2 record.
It seemed as though the success of Houston Outlaws may have blinded everyone to the potential of the Dallas Fuel. The week of the May Melee qualifiers all eyes were on the potential rematch between the Outlaws and the San Francisco Shock, another game that went down to the wire in a game 6. The entire league was stunned when the Dallas Fuel swept both the two-time defending champs and the top of the rankings Outlaws nabbing their invitation to the ball that was the May Melee.
When we look at how close the Dallas Fuel had taken the Outlaws in that first week, no one should have written them off. But, many thought that the loss of a reliable star hitscan player was going to be the weakness that contributed to their downfall, but throughout the course of the tournament, the Dallas Fuel proved they could overcome even that perceived shortcoming.
Between the incredible plays from main tank Eui-Seok “Fearless” Lee, or the massive hacks from Dong-ha “Doha” Kim (both EMPs and clutch single target hacks) the Fuel time and time again shifted the matches in their favor. Of course, the May Melee itself wasn’t as easy as the qualifiers against the Shock and Outlaws.
The Shanghai Dragons made the Fuel work for it and highlighted the dangers of not having that key hitscan player. When they met again in the finals on Anubis, the Dragons Byung-sun “Fleta” Kim ran amok over the Fuel with his Echo and they were able to fully hold point A. But as the match went on, the Fuel were able to compensate, and in a pivotal moment on Blizzard World to decide the series, Yeong-han “SP9RK1E” Kim broke out the Soldier 76 and clipped Fleta’s wings.
It wasn’t a fairy godmother that put Dallas on the top, the Fuel earned that championship title at the May Melee. But like the teams before them that have risen to the top in the short 2021 season, they can fall just as easily. Unlike any season that has come before, the parity in the league is as volatile as it’s ever been. It’s led to some of the best Overwatch we’ve seen in some time and will push every team to strive harder and fight stronger.
For the Dallas Fuel, they’ve already started to shore up more of their defenses as they add former-NYXL player, the Big Boss himself, Do-hyeon “Pine” Kim as their newest hitscan specialist. Whether or not that’ll be enough for Dallas to keep that top spot as they take home $100,000 and three regular-season points only time will tell. But with this only being the beginning of the season, we’re in for a hell of a ride.
Feature Image Screenshot: Overwatch League May Melee Finals Shanghai Dragons v Dallas Fuel.