The North American roster once floundered when it mattered, but now they are the greatest show Counterstrike: Global Offensive has to offer.
How Team Liquid Turned It Around
Team Liquid is well on their way to becoming the most successful team in CS: GO History. After a dominant 3-0 victory over ENCE in the Grand Final of IEM Chicago, Team Liquid continued to prove their dominance last weekend and are the heavy favorites for the upcoming Berlin Major.
But things weren’t always this way. At the end of last year, it looked like Liquid had an unshakeable tendency to choke in big finals and was destined for a lifetime of playing second fiddle to Astralis. Here’s how the North American side became an unstoppable force in Counterstrike: Global Offensive.
The addition of Stewie2k and adreN
In late December of 2018, Team Liquid made the all-important roster move that would cement their position as the best team in the world. TL traded Epácito "TACO" de Meio and coach Wilton "zews" Prado to MIBR for the infamous American player Jake "Stewie2k" Yip. Liquid would sign their new coach, Eric ‘adreN’ Hoag, the next day. While they may not have known it themselves, this roster change was the vital component that they needed to race up the rankings to number one in the world.
Hoag has undoubtedly been a significant tactical benefit to the TL squad. In an HLTV Interview at IEM Katowice, Hoag said that he was most focused on the strategic element of coaching. Indeed, Hoag’s career as a player, along with video content he’s created, suggests that he has a logical mindset and approach to the game.
Hoag's secret weapon, however, is that fact that he played with both Jonathan “EliGE” Jablonowski and Nicholas "nitr0" Cannella in 2015. Finally, Team Liquid had a strategic coach that could connect with the players on a personal level.
Yip, on the other hand, was a major addition of firepower to the roster. He’s an insanely skilled hybrid player, showing mastery over both the rifles and the AWP. He's even kept his form despite facing some troubles after the decline of Cloud9 and his subsequent transfer to MIBR. His addition to the team has provided the roster with an incredible entry fragger who can also hold his own in clutch situations.
On the 28th of March this year, Cache was removed from the competitive map pool in favor of the newly refurbished Vertigo. Cache had been a staple member of Liquid’s map pool, despite having mixed results on it and losing it in the 2-3 upset loss in the Grand Finals of ESL One New York 2018 against Mousesports.
As a result, Liquid had to find something to fill the void that Cache had left behind. Overpass ended up as the replacement, and it has certainly contributed to their position in the world rankings. Team Liquid is currently world-renowned as the Kings of Overpass. In fact, they have an 85% win percentage on the map. In addition, both analysts and players alike tout their double AWP CT as unstoppable. Their T-side on Overpass also proves to be too much for their opponents, as evidenced in their recent 16-2 victory over ENCE last weekend.
— Intel®ExtremeMasters (@IEM) July 22, 2019
The addition of Overpass to their map pool has allowed Liquid to replace a troublingly inconsistent Cache with what is now the crown jewel of their map pool. In vetoes, TL’s usual early removal of Train, and their opponent’s reluctance to play Vertigo, has meant that Liquid regularly gets to play Overpass against top-tier opposition. This continual practice on the map, in conjunction with the depth of their overall map pool, usually puts Team Liquid at an advantage in any series before players even enter the server.
An overflowing arsenal of firepower
Earlier this month, veteran French player Nathan “NBK” Schmitt speculated as to whether there had ever been a more skilled team in Counterstrike history than Team Liquid:
The thing is, Schmitt has the right of it. Team Liquid now has an unprecedented level of firepower, especially considering that they’re a North American roster. Jonathan “EliGE” Jablonowski and Russell “Twistzz” Van Dulken were already a terrifying duo to go up against prior to December’s roster changes. The addition of Yip to the team (in addition to a resurgence in form from Keith ‘NAF’ Markovic) has created one of the most individually skilled line-ups in CS: GO history. This incredibly skilled core has given in-game leader Nicholas "nitr0" Cannella some valuable breathing room, especially when it comes to his level of performance, which some called into question before the roster found success. It appears that the result of this decreased pressure on Cannella has led to Liquid having a much firmer tactical grasp of both their opponents and themselves.
The sheer technical mastery that Team Liquid has over the game has allowed a playstyle that not only lets them trample their opponents but also creates a spectacle for the viewer and is guaranteed to produce several highlight moments on any map that they play.
Force Buy Proficiency
Their skill is reminiscent of Finn “Karrigan” Andersen’s old FaZe roster at its beginnings; the same roster that would streamroll Team Liquid 3-0 in the Grand Finals of ESL One Cologne 2017. Thanks to their high level of teamwork, Team Liquid has developed an unnatural ability to win rounds despite not having the best weapons available to them. Their dangerous proficiency at forcebuys is the reason that Team Liquid can convert so many second-round situations in their favor, and it also allows them to keep a tight grip on their opponents’ economy.
Team Liquid’s skill is currently unparalleled by any team in the world, and it will take some incredible individual performances if anyone is to defeat them.
The end of the Astralis Era
Astralis were perhaps the only team capable of stopping Liquid from reaching this position. Analysts and fans still debate and theorycraft as to whether Liquid could have defeated an Astralis in the Danish team’s prime. However, the fact of the matter is that Astralis currently exists as a remnant of their former selves, and only occasional highlight plays remain to fuel fans’ memories of a bygone era.
Team Liquid once had a reputation for choking against the Danish side and often seemed wholly unable to defeat them in a best-of-three format. Perhaps, if Astralis had held on to their skill, we would be seeing one of the greatest contests for a number one world ranking that esports has ever seen.
— Team Liquid (@TeamLiquid) July 22, 2019
However, it seems that Astralis’ drop in form has provided Team Liquid with a smooth rise to the top of the rankings. Maybe if Vitality can overcome their shortcomings then fans could see a true contest for the world number one.
At the moment, however, Team Liquid seems all but guaranteed to continue their incredible run of form; as they set their sights on a Major title, a second Intel Grand Slam and the greatest era in Counterstrike: Global Offensive history.
Images VIA: ESL, Team Liquid