The Los Angeles Valiant kept their playoff hopes alive by beating the Boston Uprising 3-1, but the Chengdu Hunters are looming large ahead of the season’s final Homestand: the Kit Kat Rivalry Weekend.
While it appeared as if the Uprising might muster a classic second half comeback, the Valiant capitalized on a strong early game by rolling through two points of Havana in overtime to clinch the series. At that point in the day, all the Valiant needed was for the Houston Outlaws to defeat the Hunters to seal up the final slot in the playoff play-in tournament.
Unfortunately for the Valiant, the Hunters held on through a back and forth series that went the full distance. With a 13-15 overall record, the Chengdu are a single win ahead of the Valiant at the conclusion of their regular season, and currently occupy the 12th place in the standings, which LA desires so dearly.
However, while Chengdu’s regular season is over, the Valiant still have two games left to play, both as hosts of the season’s final Homestand weekend. As a result, if they can win a single game next weekend, they’ll usurp 12th place and still have a shot to fight for a chance at the playoffs.
There’s only one problem, though. Next week the Valiant are playing their two biggest rivals, the Los Angeles Gladiators and the San Francisco Shock. To make matters worse, both are two of the better teams in the league. Finally, to top it off, the Valiant haven’t beat either team yet this season.
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Despite their chances seeming like a longshot, there is good news for the Valiant. While they lost to both teams, it was early in the season, when they were a complete mess. Since changing coaches and adjusting the roster, the Valiant put together a strong, 5-2 Stage 3, and they have the potential to repeat that record in Stage 4.
In addition, while defeating the Shock would be an upset of monumental proportions, the Gladiators might be vulnerable. Why is that? Well, they lost a close game against the Hangzhou Spark, fumbling their chance to lock a top 6 slot on their own terms. They managed to do so regardless with some help from the Philadelphia Fusion, but they’re still coming off an ugly loss.
Plus, historically, the Valiant have an all time 3-2 record against the Gladiators. All of those wins happened last season in what has since become a completely different came, but that doesn’t change precedent.
It also helps that both teams that hosted a Homestand earlier this season managed to win both of their games during the special event. Granted, the Dallas Fuel and the Atlanta Reign played extremely easy opponents, but it’s another bit of history that, stripped of deeper context, could put the advantage in their favor.
Fortunately, fans won’t have to wait long to see how all this plays out. The Valiant play against the Gladiators on August 24, at 7:15 p.m. PST, and will have a second shot at a win the next day at 5:15 p.m. PST. Until then, the fans, and the Hunters, will be eagerly awaiting the Valiant’s results.