The road to Philly: Overwatch League Grand Finals preview

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Image courtesy of the Overwatch League

The road to Philly: Overwatch League Grand Finals preview

After a month of intense action, two teams remain in the fight to claim the throne. On one end, there is the Vancouver Titans, a roster built out of the core of underdogs turned juggernauts in Runaway. Facing off against them after an insane run through the loser bracket is their long-time rival, the San Francisco Shock,  a team that developed slowly, allowing their young players to thrive and have become one of the best teams in the league. 

Despite how unpredictable the playoffs have been, this grand finals matchup felt inevitable. Both teams have met each other at every step of the way, trading blows and victories. Now they’re set to face off once again. However, both teams took very different paths than what fans expected to get here. So, how did these teams reach the finals in Philadelphia? And what will this next chapter in their rivalry look like?

The Overwatch League Finals will take place on Sunday, September 29th. 

Image courtesy of the Overwatch League

Vancouver Titans: The Team To Beat

Coming into the playoffs, different expectations were placed on both teams. For the Titans, after struggling at times in Stage 4, many expected the team to drop out before the finals and even fall into the loser’s bracket in the first round. However with tank player Jang-hyeon "TiZi" Hwang in the lineup, the Titans showed that it’s going to take more than a meta shift to take them down. With the best record in Season 2 along with a great run through the winner’s bracket, the Titans will still come into the Finals as the underdogs, a position that they’re not only familiar with, but probably the most comfortable in as well. Will the Titans be able to prove the world wrong once again? Or will their run truly end with a second-place finish once again?

San Francisco Shock: Youthful Dominance

Trying to stop the Titans from the loser’s bracket is their Overwatch League rival in the Shock. After an upset loss at the hands of the Atlanta Reigns in quarterfinals, the Shock dominated the loser’s bracket, never dropping a single map. Despite entering as the third seed, the expectations are high for the Shock as they were expected to win it all convincingly. With four players that were named Role stars and the only perfect stage in Overwatch League history, the Shock have continued to meet and exceed all expectations for the team this season. Once again they face off against the Titans in the finals. Will the Shock beat their rivals once again and ascend to the throne? Or will their amazing run through the loser’s bracket fall short?

MVP versus Rookie of the Season: A battle of fists.

One of the most exciting individual matchups to keep an eye on will be in the DPS role. This matchup will feature the rookie of the season in the Titan’s Hyojong "Haksal" Kim going up against the MVP in the Shock’s Jay "sinatraa" Won. With the current meta, this matchup will likely be a battle of the Doomfists. While Haksal has shown that he is one of, if not the best Doomfist players in the league at the moment, sinatraa has shown that he’s no pushover either. While both teams are filled to the brim with talent, this matchup could decide which team will have the edge to win it all.

London Spitfire duo master Philadelphia Fusion to claim first Overwatch League title

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AP Images

London Spitfire duo master Philadelphia Fusion to claim first Overwatch League title

NEW YORK — Jae-Hui “Gesture” Hong shut down the Fusion’s Jae-Hyeok “Carpe” Lee for the second game, as the London Spitfire took Game 2 from the Fusion, 3-0, to sweep the best-of-three series and take the inaugural Overwatch League championship on Saturday at Barclays Center.

Map list:

Junkertown: 3-2 Spitfire

Lijiang Tower: 2-0 Spitfire

King’s Row: 4-3 Spitfire 

Hanamura: N/A

Dorado: N/A

Despite the loss, the Fusion, an unexpected finals participant, pocket a runner-up prize of $400,000, while the Spitfire take home the full $1,000,000 prize and Overwatch League trophy.

• The Fusion jumped out to a good start on Junkertown, snagging two of three points before Jun-Young “Profit” Park’s Hanzo and Gesture’s Orisa took over. With less than 2 minutes left, “Profit” combined with “Gesture”s well-timed halt to unleash a dragonstrike that took our four Fusion players to halt the Fusion.

• On defense, Fusion’s Gael “Poko” Gouzerch, who made the start at flex tank for Hong-Jun “Hotba” Choi, continued his hot run, nabbing a three-kill D.Va bomb to slow the Spitfire to point two. But it wasn’t enough to completely stop them as the Spitfire rolled over the Fusion for the 3-2 map win and 1-0 lead after map one.

• On paper, Lijiang Tower was a favorable map two for the Fusion, who were above average on it during the regular season. But that didn’t matter much to the Spitfire, who feasted on Fusion main tank Su-min "Sado" Kim’ and support Isaac “Boombox” Charles, for the easy 2-0 victory and 2-0 lead at the half.

• After a dynamic performance on Friday, “Profit” continued his dominance on Saturday. He finished Game 1 with an MVP-caliber 2.64 kill/death ratio, good for a 47-16 finish and a game-high 8,824 damage per 10 minutes. The Fusion didn’t have an answer for him in Game 2, as "Profit" won the postseason MVP.

• One reason the Fusion weren’t capable of a comeback is that their team MVP, “Carpe,” wasn’t himself, thanks to Gesture’s uncanny ability to keep him on the run.

• With their backs against the wall, the Fusion entered map three, hybrid King’s Row, with confidence, taking all three points on attack to send the pro-Philadelphia crowd wild. 

• After nearly claiming the full stop on defense, the Fusion made changes, including Carpe jumping on the rarely used Doomfist. He was successful early, but the Spitfire absorbed it all and kept pushing, eventually tying the map, 3-3.

• Needing just one tick on attack to claim the title, the Spitfire focused down “Sado” and the rest came easily, as they bullied the Fusion for the win. 

'Overeager' Fusion punished for mistakes in Game 1 loss to London Spitfire in Overwatch League Grand Finals

'Overeager' Fusion punished for mistakes in Game 1 loss to London Spitfire in Overwatch League Grand Finals

NEW YORK — Small mistakes had big consequences for the Fusion.

Only able to take one of two possible points on map four of the Overwatch League Grand Finals on Friday, the underdog Fusion, trailing 2-1 in the match, were seconds away from claiming the rare full defensive hold on Volskaya Industries.

It would have tied the series, sending it to a deciding fifth map.

Instead, tank player Jun-Ho “Fury” Kim struck, capitalizing on an overextension by the Fusion and ultimately helping the London Spitfire take Game 1, 3-1, at a sold-out Barclays Center (see observations).

“We were a bit overeager tonight,” said Fusion coach Yann Luu, who spoke for most of his downtrodden team in the postgame press conference. “It was a big crowd to play in front of. There were a few times where we went too far, got overextended and they punished us.”

With 30 seconds left in the map, and victory all be assured for the Fusion, Fury’s last chance D.Va bomb ultimate punished the Fusion’s Alberto "Neptuno" Gonzalez and de-meched Gael “Poko” Gouzerch, to open the first point for the Spitfire

“People see the flashy plays of [Jun-Young “Profit” Park] and [Ji-Hyeok “Birdring” Kim],” said Fusion DPS Josue “Eqo” Corona, who was impressed by “Fury’s” play. “But they don’t realize all the space and pressure their tanks create.”

It was a costly mistake for the Fusion, who then watched as “Profit,” one of the league’s best DPS players, dismantled them on point two, ending the map, 2-1, to put the Spitfire up 1-0 in the best-of-three series.

“We don’t specifically target anyone in those situations,” “Profit” said through a translator, when asked how he communicates with his team in chaotic moments. “I just shoot and characters die.”

Being punished for those type of aggressive mistakes was a common theme throughout the night. On maps like Oasis, Eichenwald and Volskaya, in which the Fusion went 0-3, the club thought it had buckled the Spitfire with multiple kills, only to see the competition absorb the punishment and hit back with ferocity. 

The Fusion couldn’t put the Spitfire down, and it cost them Game 1.

“We did make mistakes in dire moments,” said Fusion assistant coach Se-Hwi Go, whose team plays Game 2 on Saturday at 4 p.m. at Barclays Center. “But if we can focus on fixing our mistakes and playing as usual, I think we still have a chance.”