Early hitch for Liquid, NA's only hope at IEM Katowice
nitr0 IEM Katowice 2019
Photo by Bart Oerbekke/ ESL

Early hitch for Liquid, NA’s only hope at IEM Katowice

The NA squad needs a miracle lower bracket run to reach playoffs

Team Liquid have been in the Intel Extreme Katowice playoffs at the last three iterations of the event. To get there one more time, the North American squad will have to make a heroic lower bracket run.

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After a difficult loss to FaZe Clan — who are playing with stand-in Justin “jks” Savage — in their first match of IEM Katowice, Liquid face elimination. If they can’t overcome G2 Esports, who were upset in the first round by Fnatic, there won’t be a single NA representative in the Spodek arena for the IEM Katowice playoffs.

Liquid were confident ahead of their match with FaZe, thinking they had a clear route to the second round of the upper bracket.

“We could take them even if they had [Robin “ropz” Kool],” in-game-leader Nicholas “nitr0” Cannella said at the IEM Katowice press conference before the match. “With their stand-in, it’s going to be more of a struggle on their end.”

Despite the disappointing loss, nitr0, who recently returned to CS:GO from VALORANT, showed a bit of his old self during the series. Nitr0’s last LAN with Liquid, before leaving Counter-Strike for a time, was IEM Katowice. Now, his first LAN back with Liquid is also Katowice. It’s safe to say the IGL has a history with the event, and maybe it will be enough to snap him back into peak form.

“It’s been a learning experience for sure,” nitr0 said of returning to CS:GO. “It’s going to require a lot of hours to get back to the full form but, with the amount of hours so far, I’m feeling good already.”

The other two big question marks on Liquid are Joshua “oSee” Ohm and Richard “shox” Papillon. As a young AWPer on NA’s No. 1 team, oSee draws a lot of attention as he makes his Tier 1 debut. Still, the American is not fazed by the pressure.

“Honestly I don’t think that I have to put myself at the top of the team every round,” oSee said. “We still have a lot of good players on the team that have the potential to turn a round around.”

As for Counter-Strike legend shox, the Frenchman is still adjusting to playing on an international, English-speaking lineup.

“My English at the moment is not the best,” shox said. “It’s going to take more time for sure.”

Besides the new language, shox is also acclimatizing to the NA play style. He said that every team and region has their own style; no one school of thought better than another. And, he said he wants to add a bit of French flair to the Liquid playbook.

“If I can add some small things to it, this is where we can get an edge over other teams,” shox said. “If you can have an identity that can be flexible, this is where you can get an edge over the other teams.”

North American woes

Although the start to the year has been difficult for NA CS:GO — with a poor showing at BLAST Premier: Spring Groups and only Liquid to represent the region at IEM Katowice — Jonathan “EliGE” Jablonowski is urging fans to be patient.

“I think that there’s a lot of potential in all of these teams,” he said. “I think that if any of the fans were expecting any of the teams that are completely brand new to immediately be dominating the scene, they have unrealistic expectations because it’s a learning process … You’re not going to be able to beat Na’Vi by getting five guys that have played together before. It’s not possible.”

EliGE and Liquid spoke about the state of the region and some of the changes that are being made to help promote growth. They emphasized the need for better practice and more NA events to help foster a competitive Tier 2 scene outside of the big three — Evil Geniuses, Complexity Gaming and Liquid — who are constantly traveling to Europe for tournaments.

“I think it has to be an effort from everyone in the scene to lift it up,” EliGE said. “Just pouring in money won’t help.”

Even still, if there’s one thing that can help kickstart some optimism for NA CS:GO in 2022, it’s a deep Liquid run at IEM Katowice. With their backs against the rope, Liquid have a long lower bracket run ahead of them if they want to make that happen.

The miracle run begins or ends at 6:30 a.m. ET on Feb. 19 in a do-or-die best-of-three against G2.

Author
Image of Coby Zucker
Coby Zucker
Coby Zucker is Upcomer's resident CS:GO writer. He's also played League of Legends at the collegiate level and is a frequent visitor in TFT Challenger Elo. He's a firm believer that Toronto should be the next big esports hub city.