Overwatch League’s first week shows this won’t be the two-horse race we feared

Stirling Coates Roar Guru

By Stirling Coates, Stirling Coates is a Roar Guru

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    Heading into the inauguaral Overwatch League season, the excitement and anticipation was somewhat shadowed by fears most of the competing teams would serve as little more than training fodder for the hot favourites of each division – London and Seoul.

    We may be one ‘week’ into a 24-stage season, but the early goings-on of the first Overwatch League season have shown there may be enough talent across the league to make this a genuine competition.

    South Korea’s outrageous dominance of the global eSports scene is common knowledge – even in mainstream sports media – and so it was unsurprising to see bookmakers flock to the Spitfire and Dynasty – whose rosters consist entirely of Korean players – as the league’s first matches approached. Similarly, betting fans weren’t so keen on the hopes of teams like San Francisco, Florida or Shanghai, who sourced more of their players from Europe and China.

    But from the season’s very first game it was clear we’ll be in for some interesting competition in 2017-18.

    San Francisco, criticised for not building a strong roster around Andrej “babybay” Francisty, were the ‘home’ team in the league’s opener, battling the highly-fancied Los Angeles Valiant. The Shock did end up losing all four maps, but the scoreboard didn’t really tell the story.

    A strong attack phase on Dorado for the Shock had them well-equipped to take all three points, but some mismanagement of ultimates at the death saw them unable to take that last point. The Valiant – regarded as one of the best aggressive outfits in the league – were able to push the payload the whole way on their turn with ease and claim the win.

    San Fran were able to force a second go of Temple of Anubis in the second map – falling just short in a 4-3 loss, before they forced Ilios to a deciding point in the third map – once again falling agonisingly short.

    The Valiant took care of Numbani quite easily to finish up the 4-0 rout, but it was from a bloodbath.

    The most encouraging result of the first day, however, was the Dallas Fuel holding Seoul to just a 2-1 scoreline in their match.

    Some incredible defensive play on Junkertown actually saw the Fuel claim map one 3-2, while on map two the sides needed to play Temple of Anubis three times to get a result – this time the Dynasty taking the 6-5 win. Seoul breezed through Ilios 2-0 to take the 2-1 lead overall, but Dallas weren’t letting up, forcing a 3-3 deadlock on Numbani to see the match finish in Seoul’s favour by just the slimmest of margins.

    Friday’s first match saw one of the shocks of the tournament, with London dropping the first map, Dorado, against wooden spoon contenders Florida. The Spitfire were only able to move the payload past one checkpoint, allowing the Mayhem to claim a shock first-up point. London regathered, eventually winning the match 3-1 after clean wins on Anubis, Oasis and Numbani, but the first map proved the ‘any given Sunday’ rule even applies in eSports.

    Not content with brave efforts in defeat, the Overwatch League has offered some upsets too in its first three days. The Philadelphia Fusion, who missed the entire preseason due to logistical issues, impressed in their first outing with a 3-2 win over smokies the Houston Outlaws, while earlier today Dallas, barely 72 hours removed from the aforementioned gallant performance against Seoul, were upended 3-0 by the LA Valiant.

    There’ll be lots of water to pass under the bridge between now and June, when the playoffs begin. A London vs Seoul grand final is still by far the most likely outcome, but at least we know anyone’s beatable in this league.

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    The Crowd Says (1)

    • Roar Rookie

      January 15th 2018 @ 11:31pm
      Adam Heap said | January 15th 2018 @ 11:31pm | ! Report

      Really impressed with the Valiant. London and Seoul were no surprise, but even if this season WAS a two-horse race, I think you’ll find that if the League continues, the gap will close between the South Korean and remaining teams quite organically.

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