Over the course of the off-season, the North American Challenger Series saw increased investment and an influx of talent like never before. After Cloud 9 Challenger successfully secured promotion to the LCS through a combination of veteran players and up and coming talent, a number of investors have entered the scene in an attempt to replicate their successes. The most notable of these new teams is Gold Coin United, headed up by coach Choi “Locodoco” Yoon-seop.
On paper, they are supposed to be a super team, the most experienced and talented team in the Challenger Series by a wide margin, filled with ex-professionals and former All-Stars. Up and coming NA talent? They’ve got that too. Their spot in the LCS seemed to be already etched into the Summer Split standings, they just have to wait for the Promotion Tournament to follow in the footsteps of Cloud 9 Challenger… right?
GCU is the vision of a seasoned LCS coach, handed a check and told to go pick his fantasy team. In fairness, to the eyes of most observers, you could say he did a pretty good job. Taking over the spot of the former NRG eSports, they decided to keep arguably NRG’s best performing player in jungler Lucas “Santorin” Tao Kilmer Larsen.
A veteran of the LCS who had played for both NRG and worked with Locodoco on Team SoloMid, Santorin was solid last split for NRG and one of the best available jungle options for the team.
In the mid lane, they acquired former Team Liquid player Kim “FeniX” Jae-hun. Once widely considered a top 3 mid laner in NA, Fenix also worked with Locodoco during his time with TL. In the top lane, Colin “Solo” Earnest, joined the team after an impressive season on Team Liquid Academy. Solo is widely regarded as one of NA’s top young talents along with GCU’s starting ADC Richard “Rikara” Samuel Oh, possibly the strongest ADC still in the Challenger Series.
The final and most impressive piece to the puzzle was former Korean All-Star and CJ Entus support Hong “MadLife” Min-gi. Regarded at one time as the best support in the world, Madlife has struggled in the past few seasons and CJ Entus even saw itself relegated at the end of the last LCK split. His mechanics on champions such as Thresh are legendary to the point where fantastic hooks to be coined “MadLife” plays. Locodoco once again has prior experience with MadLife, even playing along side him in Korea.
The formation of this “super team” clearly follows on the heels of C9C’s success and attempts to follow their path to the LCS. Pairing LCS veterans with rising Challenger talent, GCU took the C9C blueprint and attempted to recreate it with the best players they could find. Yet Unlike C9C, do not expect GCU to find the same level of success as a result of one fatal flaw – Locodoco.
If a mistake was made in putting together GCU, it was at the very beginning, when the former TL and TSM coach was assigned the role of leading the squad. Locodoco’s teams have a history of underperforming and have been consistently plagued with internal issues. After having the opportunity to coach two rosters loaded with talent at TSM and TL, Locodoco has once again unfathomably been handed the reins to an organization with the players to succeed. But with his history of failure, we should not expect anything different than the same results.
The Team Liquid documentary “Breaking Point”, illuminated the issues Locodoco has as a coach and a leader. While much of the post-release attention was given to Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett, Locodoco showed an inability to lead his team through internal disagreements or issues. In many cases, his own immaturity and stubbornness exacerbated these issues.
GCU has already had a rough start to their season, falling 2-0 to Big Gods Jackals in their season opener. While they were missing MadLife, the team exhibited issues that having their starting support would not have fixed. While it is still very early in the season, do not be surprised if GCU’s struggles continue and they are ultimately unable to follow C9C into the LCS.