Team Liquid have opted to replace struggling support Matt “Matt” Elento with new acquisition Adrian “Adrian” Ma in their starting line-up for the rest of the 2017 NA LCS Spring Split. This marks the third major change to Team Liquid’s starting line-up, and reinforces the idea that the team has started to look ahead to the future in developing their best roster to avoid relegation, and place them in a position for success next split. Although Adrian carries with his character concerns, the struggles of Matt and the potential of Adrian make this a necessary move for Team Liquid.
Team Liquid have made multiple moves in the past few weeks in a last-ditch attempt to stave off relegation and fight for a playoff spot. Adding star AD Carry Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng from Team SoloMid and Phoenix1 support Adrian, Team Liquid have acquired two former All-Stars, both of whom provide potential upgrades to their roster. Doublelift, although a temporary addition, immediately started for Team Liquid and was a huge upgrade for the team over Mid laner turned ADC, Young-bin “Youngbin” Chung.
Adrian was a entirely different situation. Following his departure from Phoenix1 on the heels of internal issues with the team – resulting in many fingers pointing towards him as a toxic presence and a bad teammate – his now infamous “Jungler with a brain” interview was likely the final straw that sent him packing to Team Liquid. With a troubled past, the official announcement of his arrival hinted that Adrian may not be a part of the starting roster anytime soon, at least not this split.
Team Liquid’s current support, Matt, has had his struggles as well. Unlike Adrian, Matts struggles have been on the competitive stage, where he has failed to live up to expectations for the majority of the season. Well liked by teammates and fans, Matt has struggled to find his footing in the NA LCS after his promotion from Team Liquid Academy last season.
With the departure of Greyson “Goldenglue” Gilmer, much of the criticism and blame for Team Liquid’s struggles has been redirected towards Matt. A player who has seemingly been deeply affected by fan opinion in the past, this criticism has only further contributed to the poor play Matt has exhibited.
Once groomed to be Team Liquid’s primary shot caller, these responsibilities have continued to shrink with the deterioration of his play, the emergence of his teammates, and the addition of new players. Samson “Lourlo” Jackson has become an increasingly vocal voice in the team’s shot calling, and the addition of Doublelift provides another experienced shot caller rendering Matt’s role within the team somewhat obsolete.
If an in-game moment could depict Matt’s heartbreaking role as a spare part in the team, it was this – fed to the lions by his new teammate, Doublelift:
Although still statistically possible, Team Liquid has been all but eliminated from the race for the final Playoff position. Needing to run the table on a schedule that includes games against Team SoloMid, Phoenix1, and the red hot Team Dignitas, their chances of acquiring that sixth spot are very slim. Understanding this, there is no better time than now to begin to develop the best team you can for the likely Promotion Tournament and the Summer Split; That best team includes Adrian.
There is a catch to a line-up involving Adrian, in that Adrian can not be allowed to be a detriment to the team atmosphere as he has been hinted at in the past with both Immortals and Phoenix1. While Team Liquid struggled to control the negative presence of former Jungler Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett, there are key differences that should create a different environment to squash any immaturity or negativity associated with Adrian’s arrival.
Former Head Coach Choi “Locodoco” Yoon-sub has been replaced with David “Dlim” Lim and Brandon “Saintvicious” DiMarco, whilst co-owner Steve “LiQuiD112” Arhancet’s presence should be a stabilizing force that was mostly absent until last season’s spiral had already gone too far. With Team Liquid’s current structure, guidance, and leadership, Adrian will not be allowed to threaten the team’s progress or development from within.
Character issues aside, Adrian’s talent on the rift is undeniable. He brings to Team Liquid a support in the top half of NA, with talent they would be hard pressed to find from another NA player who is currently unsigned. He also brings a wealth of competitive experience, playing in the LCS for multiple seasons on Team Impulse, Immortals, and Phoenix1. Experience playing on a team at the professional level is something that teams highly value, and understanding high-level team play and communication is something that can take a significant amount of time to develop new talent.
Matt has had his opportunity to find success at the professional level, and after a year in the LCS with Team Liquid he has unfortunately failed to live up to expectations. For Team Liquid to escape relegation and compete for a top position next split, they have to look forward to the future and begin developing the best roster they can for next split. With his high ceiling, there are few players Team Liquid would be able to acquire that provide the same level of experience and talent as Adrian. Team Liquid move to immediately start Adrian is the best decision they could make for their future success.