For a year, Team Liquid has possessed a roster filled to the brim with potential – the upcoming major is their chance to shine.
The upcoming ELeague major in Atlanta will be the first major that Team Liquid will not have a stand-in for since Dreamhack: Cluj-Napoca in October 2015. Whilst 2016 had only two reputable majors, MLG Columbus 2016, which featured Eric “adreN” Hoag as a Liquid stand-in and ESL One Cologne 2016, which saw the temporary return of Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev.
Coming into the ELeague Major with “Legend” status having made it to the finals of ESL One Cologne 2016, and with the experienced Danish pro Jacob “Pimp” Winneche as the team’s new rifler, it’s all to play for.
Coming from a previous year in which Team Liquid arguably stole Cloud9’s crown as the best North American team, forging a path to the semifinals of Columbus and the finals in Cologne, there will be certain expectations for the Team Liquid squad, largely revolving around whether or not the team can perform at the top tiers without S1mple.
Spencer “Hiko” Martin (arguably one of the best North American players) has often stated that he will consider his career a failure if he does not win a major; Hiko’s drive to win could prove to be a influential factor for the squad.
Historically, Team Liquid has over-relied on Hiko, yet Jonathan “EliGE” Jablonowski and Nicholas “nitr0” Cannella, two of the team’s younger talents have performed well in the past year, accumulating invaluable experience playing at the top tiers of professional Counter-Strike. Similarly, the decision to swap Kenneth “koosta” Suen for Josh “jdm64” Marzano seems to have paid off well. With all of this in mind, TL have all the potential to perform well in Atlanta.
Considering the manner in which Hiko’s story has panned out, leaving Cloud9 on relatively sour terms before attempting to construct a North American super team with the ex-iBuyPower players (prior to their permanent ban from the majors by Valve), before travelling a bumpy road with Liquid; a win at this major on home turf would be somwhat of a fairy tale ending for the journey of not only Hiko, but for the entirety of Team Liquid.
Should a victory at the ELeague Major be expected? Who knows. It would be a shame to see the squad fail to make it out of the group stage, but the competition is stiff this year – especially from many of the European teams in attendance, who are each looking to reclaim their throne as the best in the world following a year dominated by the Brazilians of the scene.
Team Liquid will have their work cut out for them in Atlanta, but they also have the potential to do well against the fierce Europeans. Team Liquid are notoriously difficult to predict, but regardless of outcome, the ELeague majors looks to be one of the best yet.