Team Liquid finished the first week of the 2017 North American League of Legends Championship Series with a 1-1 record. After a strong 2-0 performance against Counter Logic Gaming and a 1-0 series lead over FlyQuest eSports, Team Liquid would ultimately lose their second series 2-1, ending the week on a loss with plenty of room for improvement. The defeat at the hands of FlyQuest featured multiple poor individual performances by Team Liquid players, raising questions as to the direction of the team moving forwards.
It would’ve been easy to write this article about how much Team Liquid has grown as a team – game 2 against Counter Logic Gaming was a game that would have never happened last year. CLG stormed out to a significant early lead, taking towers quickly and pushing Liquid all the way back to their base. After losing multiple inhibitors, last season’s Liquid would have collapsed and given in, writing the game off as a loss and beginning preparation for the next – this season is different.
Team Liquid trusted in each other and their composition, showing a poise and resilience we have not seen from them before. They held off CLG by making smart macro-plays and showing excellent team-fighting prowess. This was a new Team Liquid, ready to challenge for a spot near the top of the NA LCS.
This was before Team Liquid played FlyQuest eSports, where everything that was so encouraging in their victory of CLG began to fall apart.
The bottom lane of Chae “Piglet” Gwang-Jin and Matt “Matt” Elento, which had looked so strong in the previous match, faltered. Greyson “Goldenglue” Gilmer looked uncomfortable on popular Mid lane champions he will have to master moving forwards. Perhaps most surprisingly, after placing superstar Jungler Kim “Reignover” Yeu-jin on multiple power picks, he failed to make any significant impact in either of the last two games, including a 0/6/0 performance on what has been his best champion, Rek’Sai.
But one player on Team Liquid consistently impressed, a player previously highlighted as having the potential to break-out before the season. Samson “Lourlo” Jackson was the star for Team Liquid after the first week, displaying impressive performances in both series and creating highlight reel plays:
The NA LCS off-season witnessed a large influx of talent heading into the Top lane – formidable players such as Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho and Jang “Looper” Hyeong-seok created a lot of buzz around the strength and difficulty of NA’s Top lane this season – yet, after week one of the Spring Split, it is the consistently criticised, TL Lourlo who is turning heads in the NA LCS studio.
Lourlo looked strong on both tanks and carry top laners, continuing his rich vein of form from the stellar play he exhibited at IEM Gyeonggi. After poor performances by both of Team Liquid’s Korean stars, Piglet and Reignover, will Lourlo be the one who has to solo-carry Team Liquid forwards?
The answer, thankfully, is no.
Lourlo will indeed need to continue his strong play for Team Liquid to compete for a spot at the World Championships; he made multiple crisp teleport plays which will be critical as the season progresses. Jackson similarly showed his mastery of carry Top laners, drawing multiple bans for his Fiora, a trend that will need to continue as future potential Courage of the Colossus nerfs will push carry top laners further into the spotlight.
But importantly, Lourlo will need some of the pressure on his shoulders to be alleviated, placing the onus on Reignover and Piglet to return to form; both players have proven track-records and are still near the top of the LCS tiers in their respective positions. Goldenglue’s play in Mid lane is a legitimate concern. You could deduce the organization realized this as well when they decided to sign Austin “Link” Shin as back-up. Until Goldenglue proves the depth of his champion pool, all of Lourlo’s hard work could be easily unravelled as look opponents continue to target and exploit Goldenglue in the ban phase.
Team Liquid is still a work in progress, yet what many had anticipated as a weakness in Lourlo, may instead prove to be the player they can rally around. A steadying presence in the Top Lane, look for Lourlo to continue his impressive play in the upcoming weeks to cement his reputation as one of NA’s best top laners.