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Team Liquid took down the previously undefeated Evil Geniuses in the League Championship Series Lock In finals on Sunday — a somewhat expected outcome considering most analysts and fans predicted a strong performance from the organization after the offseason shuffle landed them some serious star power. The only doubts arose after Liquid announced, just before the Lock In tournament began, that they wouldn’t be playing with their full roster. However, head coach André “Guilhoto” Guilhoto said the team had a solid plan for approaching the tournament all along.

Liquid through the Lock In

Throughout the event, Liquid were forced to play with only four of their five intended starters due to complications around LCS import restrictions and the green card status of their legendary support, Jo “CoreJJ” Yong-in. In total, Liquid used eight different players to secure their second Lock In trophy.

The main roster they settled on consisted of Gabriël “Bwipo” Rau, Lucas “Santorin” Larsen, Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg and Steven “Hans sama” Liv from the main roster, with Bill “Eyla” Nguyen filling in CoreJJ’s place. Eyla was Team Liquid’s intended Academy support, and it was reported by Dot Esports that Liquid preemptively planned for Eyla to start if they needed him due to import restrictions.

Bjergsen in Team Liquid gear
Bjergsen changed jerseys for the first time in eight years. | Photo by Parkes Ousley

“When we came into Lock In, we wanted to give an opportunity for every different bot lane iteration to play,” said Team Liquid head coach Guilhoto after winning the tournament. That meant they’d play Hans and Eyla, Sean “Yeon” Sung and CoreJJ, and both Hans and CoreJJ, with their Academy top laner, Bradley “Bradley” Benneyworth, filling in for Bwipo.

During their final Lock In weekend, however, Liquid narrowed down their roster, playing with Hans same and Eyla in all seven of their semifinals and finals games. Guilhoto said Liquid wanted to start building some stability and that the week leading up to their semifinal match allowed them to test which players would play in those final series.

“The week where we played versus Immortals and then in the quarterfinals [was] kind of a decision time,” Guilhoto said. “All the iterations of bot lane played and then it was just who we felt would give us the best results.”

Liquid spent the week prepping with a main core of five players in that final week, rather than swapping between the eight of them. The other players didn’t disappear, however. They — and CoreJJ, especially — were all present and helpful in Liquid’s discussion and preparation for the weekend, Guilhoto said.

Liquid’s roster developments

Despite the situation created by Liquid’s ongoing efforts to secure a green card for CoreJJ, Guilhoto said the team has been pleased with the way everyone has looked on Summoner’s Rift so far.

“We are very happy with all the members that we played with in Lock In,” Guilhoto said. “Whether we keep the same iteration in spring split until the green card [arrives] or we make some changes will depend on a lot of things.”

The only issue Guilhoto noted was that all of that roster swapping slowed down some of the overall synergy between team members, but that obviously hasn’t hamstrung the team too much. Much of that is due to the veteran presences on the roster.

All the members of Team Liquid in the Lock In
All the members of Team Liquid’s Lock In roster, minus Bradley. | Provided by Team Liquid

“We have a lot of experienced players,” he said, noting the strong game knowledge among the core players and the willingness to improve among the younger ones. “We are fortunate to have not only incredibly talented players but also a common mindset across the team to improve.”

Guilhoto’s spring expectations

In years past, the LCS has been a rather top-heavy region, with only a few good teams at the top. Meanwhile, the rest of the league provided not only poor practice in scrims but also underwhelming stage games that failed to challenge the international-bound rosters. However, Guilhoto explained that in 2022, that didn’t seem to be the case.

“There’s no clear team this year — at least for me — that is just an absolute bottom team,” he said.

Guilhoto took it a step further, as well, noting that without such a weak bottom chunk of teams, the league would level up compared to their rivals across the pond.

“I think that the teams in the LCS this year have a higher level and are more competitive than the LEC,” he said, noting that the LCS isn’t the same, weak league as last year. He clarified that the strength of the top teams between leagues couldn’t yet be determined, but that the parity in the LCS made for better competition.

Guilhoto offered praise for every single team in the LCS, focusing in on certain strengths that can challenge the rest of the league to improve overall.

“Evil Geniuses will keep improving. They’re a team that is very well-coached with a lot of young talent,” Guilhoto said. “TSM can only improve, because they literally didn’t have a single LCS player in Lock In. CLG showed a lot of good signs… 100 Thieves — though I don’t think they’re the favorite to win — will be fighting for Worlds. Cloud9 — once Kim “Berserker” Min-cheol and Park “Summit” Woo-tae come in especially — will be a very strong team. Dignitas, with Kim “River” Dong-woo are a very strong team.”

Guilhoto even had good things to say about Immortals who wound up with a 0-4 record this Lock In, acknowledging his possible bias from working there last year.

“I still have a lot of faith in at least the three players I worked with last year,” he said. “I think that the 0-4 result does not describe their true strength coming into spring split.”

Overall, while he is most focused on making sure Team Liquid is ready to start the LCS spring split off right, Guilhoto said everyone’s Lock In performance has him excited for the rest of the year.

The official start of the LCS season begins as games kick off on Saturday, with the final schedule coming soon.

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