Coming into the 2022 League Championship Series season, Team Liquid were forced to start their main Academy support, Bill “Eyla” Nguyen, over their former World Champion and LCS MVP support, Jo “CoreJJ” Yong-in, due to a delay in his green card approval. The team had three imports on their starting roster without his residency.
At the beginning of the pre-season Lock In tournament, Liquid was using a few different versions of their roster, but they quickly decided that Eyla filling in for CoreJJ was their strongest. They ran with that roster until CoreJJ received final approval in mid-February, allowing them to play with their intended starting five players.
But after one week with the team, CoreJJ needed to take another week off due to a personal matter, giving Eyla three more games in the spotlight.
Eyla in the LCS
According to CoreJJ, Team Liquid has no problem with him taking a step back, because in his opinion, Eyla is the second-best support in the region, only behind CoreJJ himself. And though Eyla is humble about his position among the other LCS talents, he is confident in his ability as well.
“In terms of individual skill, I could see why CoreJJ said that,” Eyla said after their victory against Dignitas QNTMPAY. “I have so much to learn about working with my jungler, working with my ADC, so it’s really hard for me to say for sure, but individual skill-wise, I am very confident.”
Eyla understands the invisible nature of his role and notes that while he can’t see every other support’s shotcalling, he agrees with CoreJJ that he is LCS ready. “Coming into the LCS, I was really surprised how big the gap is between CoreJJ himself and every other support,” he said. “I expected the top supports in the league to be a lot closer.”
And although filling in for Team Liquid is a huge opportunity for him, he doesn’t necessarily get to shine in the way he would if he were in a more permanent position on another roster.
“I feel like I’m holding myself back because my job on the team is to basically fill in for CoreJJ,” Eyla said. “I’m not there permanently; I’m not looking to improve with the team over the whole course of the year.”
He’s hopeful for a more permanent spot in the future, but for now, he’s at least getting to learn and grow under the best player in the LCS.
Eyla’s history in Oceania
Like all pros, Eyla had to start somewhere, but like most non-pros, he started in Bronze. “I started off gaming, like any other young kid,” he said. “I was the type of person who would play maybe 50 ranked games every year, but I would have 1000 normal games.”
After his first season in Bronze, he jumped to plat in his second year, then Masters in his third, finally hitting Challenger in his fourth season playing. At that point, he had gotten more invested in the game and began paying more attention to the pro scene.
“At the time, Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok was doing really well,” Eyla said. “I would watch him all the time, so I got inspired to potentially become a pro player.” He started trying harder in soloqueue and began playing in the oceanic amateur scene, eventually climbing through to their Academy league and finally the Oceanic Pro League, where he played for two years.
“I was fortunate enough to get MVP of a split working with Jake “Spawn” Tiberi,” Eyla said, referencing his second year in the OPL. The OPL ceased operations that off-season, however, and in an odd way, it was lucky for Eyla, who had already proven himself as beyond competent.
Spawn was offered the Team Liquid Academy coaching position that off-season and he brought Eyla along with him to Los Angeles, who was no longer considered an import thanks to the OPL’s closure.
“I think I would have made it here, regardless of whether I was an import or not,” Eyla said, reflecting on his move to NA. ” I did well enough [in the OPL] to at least be considered for Academy, but it’s a guessing game, we’ll never know.”
And though many of his new LCS fans may not have followed him in his earlier career, it’s still a big achievement for him and a big part of his story.
“For me, there’s definitely a sense of pride in being Oceanic and making it all the way over to America,” Eyla said. “It’s not like I grew up here and made my way up. I managed to go overseas. And I think that already makes me very proud of what I did.”
The great migration of OPL players to LCS starting rosters did provide a fun benefit for the players who did land LCS spots, though. They got to continue their community and their rivalry despite their league dying.
“Having that chance to compete against [other former OPL players] is very fun,” he said. “It definitely means more to beat them compared to a lot of other players in the LCS.”
He’s been watching the LCS and other international competitions since before his career even started, and now he’s playing with the likes of Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg and Steven “Hans sama” Liv and against other longstanding veterans and legends, like Zaqueri “aphromoo” Black and Philippe “Vulcan” Laflamme.
“I really like watching and reading the storylines of players,” he said. “So to be able to [play against] them and try and make my own name means a lot to me.”
Eyla may not have a starting spot in the LCS yet, but if his own performance and CoreJJ’s accolades continue, it’s only a matter of time before he finds himself on an LCS roster. For now, he’s doing his job and filling in where he’s needed, but it’s also clear that he’s ready for more.