The NYXL were supposed to be in the Overwatch League Grand Finals. They were, after all, the best team in the regular season, winning 34 games, seven more than the second place L.A. Valiant and only losing six times along the way. Not only that, but the finals were being played on their home turf, at the Barclay’s Centre in Brooklyn, New York and a win for the team seemed like an inevitability.
Heading into their series against the sixth-seeded Philadelphia Fusion, the NYXL were confident, and their fans were already looking forward to the Grand Finals in their home city, and planning fan tournaments and watch parties. Then the unthinkable happened. The Philadelphia Fusion defeated the NYXL in their best of three series, dashing the hometown team’s hopes and punching their own ticket to the Grand Finals in the process. But how did this happen? According to Fusion DPS star Josue ‘Eqo’ Corona, it’s simply a changing of the guard.
“I think that NYXL is a team that plays to their strengths and they have such strong Tracer and Widowmaker players that they felt intimidated going into a meta where they had to play the same compositions as the enemy team. I think that they tried to polish their fangs in the wrong way and I don’t think that they played bad, it’s just I don’t think that anyone can beat us,” explained Eqo.
Eqo has a quiet sort of confidence about him. He answers questions quickly and makes it clear that he believes in his teammates and his own abilities. Fittingly, Eqo is the team’s leader and one of their main shot-callers, something that is even more essential given the Fusion’s language barrier among their players. Their playoff roster consists of seven players that hail from five different nations and few among them share the same main language.
“Communication is definitely an issue in our team but we have players who listen and so we have one guy calling the major plan and everyone plays around them. So if midway through fights we switch then everyone knows how to switch and connect with the big plays. Everyone just listens to each other and follows the big call. We just try to keep things simplistic,” said Eqo.
Isaac ‘Boombox’ Charles, the team’s British born flex-support, echoed Eqo’s assessment and says that the team has grown a lot since the season started.
“I feel that individually I have improved the way that I communicate with the team and my job in it,” he said. And now we have Korean players who know way more English, playing fluent in game and never missing a call. So our communication now is amazing.”
The Philadelphia Fusion is the only team in Overwatch League history not to play in the pre-season. If things go well for them this weekend they will also become the only team to hoist the Grand Finals Championship trophy.
Unlike the Fusion, every member of the London Spitfire speaks the same language: Korean, which gives them a bit of an advantage in terms of team cohesion. That being said, similarly to the Fusion, the Spitfire has had to claw their way through their fair share of challenges to reach these finals.
After winning the Overwatch League’s first stage, the Spitfire struggled down the stretch and finished in fifth place, which forced them to play for their season in a best of three quarterfinals with the L.A. Gladiators. Things didn’t start off well for the London based team, as they dropped their first match by a score of 3 to 0 and looked out of sorts doing so.
According to their DPS star Ji-hyeok ‘Birdring’ Kim , the team’s atmosphere was neutral and there were lots of arguments and disagreements due to the pressure of the game. At the same time, Birdring says that the setback was a pivotal one for the team.
“After we lost 3 to 0 we decided to let everything else go and just focus on working as a team and working as a unit, he said. And as a result, I think that our cohesion has gotten way better and our atmosphere is really good right now, which is probably the biggest reason as to why we have been successful.”
And successful they have been. After losing their opening match against the Gladiators, London has won four straight matches and eliminated the Gladiators and L.A. Valiant in the process. Birdring and his fellow DPS phenom Joon-yeong ‘Profit’ Park have been game changers all season long, and have particularly stepped up in the playoffs. According to Profit, their recent uptick has been simply a matter of focus.
“I mean it’s playoffs and so all of the team members realized that this is the last chance, this is the last bid and put in a lot of effort. That’s what led us to regain our old form,” said Profit.
During the regular season, the Fusion and Spitfire played a total of four games with each team coming away with two wins. The interesting thing to note is that the Fusion won the last two meetings, as well as their closely fought Stage 2 Semi-Finals match.
Will it give them an advantage mentally? Perhaps, but regardless of the outcome, the Grand Finals represents the culmination of years of hard work for these players.
“It’s a completely surreal feeling,” said Boombox. “If you had told me two years ago that I would be playing in the Overwatch League Grand Finals I probably would have laughed at you and gone back to studying. It feels really good.”
On the Spitfire side, Profit kept it short and simple saying that, “I feel good, I think that we can win 2 to 0.”
The playoffs kick off July 27th at 8:00 PM EST, with the second and third matchups taking place Saturday starting at 4:00 PM.
After a full season that has seen the teams play over 40 matches each, perseverance is key. The fact is that only one team will walk away with the distinction of being the Inaugural Overwatch League Champions. And while the series could go either way, one thing that is certain is that it’s going to be a heck of a battle.
Liked this article and want to read more like it? Check out the article on Whether the Overwatch League Can Survive Expansion and our Interview with Overwatch Voice Actress Lucie Pohl.