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CLG Upset Over Undefeated Echo Fox is Sole Surprise of NALCS Week Three

If wins were money, then the rich got richer this week in North America. With the gap widening between the bottom-of-the-barrel teams and those that actually show some playoff potential, only Counter Logic Gaming got to play Robin Hood by stealing Echo Fox’s hopes of a perfect season. As for everyone else, here’s a look at where the teams stand.

  1. Echo Fox | record: 5-1 | standing: –

It’s hard to say whether this Echo Fox squad deserves a demotion after dropping their first game of the season. To start, CLG proved that they may be able to play at the higher-level expected of them before the season started. Then there was the fact the team played much of the match fairly well. Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnet and Jae Hoon “Fenix” Kim were able to pick on Jae Hyun “Huhi” Choi in the early game, and they were able to shut down multiple plays attempted by CLG without getting killed.

Aside from a solo-kill from Darshan Upadhyaya onto Hoon “Huni” Heo and giving up the first turret gold in the bottom lane, things were looking fine. They even staged a solid hold after CLG aced them around the Baron by delaying their opponent’s ability to take many turrets until after the buff expired. And when the next Baron spawns, Huni picks off Huhi and gives his team the advantage needed to secure the buff themselves. However, when Dardoch gets killed while both teams postured around the Elder Dragon, it starts a chain of events that lead to their downfall.

Ultimately, it was a small mistake that resulted in Fox’s first loss. The team may have been too cocky in expecting the Elder Dragon fight to go their way, but their willingness to instigate team fights has led to a lot of success. If they suddenly stopped playing with measured aggression, would their proactive game plans still work? It’s too early to say, but the team will need to walk the fine line between arrogance and confidence going forward.

  1. Cloud9 | record: 5-1 | standing: –

The main reason Cloud9 isn’t number one is that their two wins this week weren’t against solid enough opponents to offset Echo Fox’s first loss. Clutch Gaming and OpTic aren’t exactly hopeless, but they’ve yet to show up at all in any games against the current playoff contenders. With that being the case, there aren’t that many notes from week three.

C9 made their opponents work for the kills they gave up or, at the least, traded kills for larger objectives. Otherwise, the fact that they are just a better team than OpTic or Clutch let allowed them to take their time wearing down their opponents. And when the enemy made mistakes, Cloud9 capitalized on it, giving them the game as a result. The real question is whether they’ll be able to pull off the same against teams that have a bit more fight in them.

  1. Team Liquid | record: 5-1 | standing: +1

Much like Cloud9, this was an easy week for Liquid. In fact, it was so easy that they were able to set the split record for the fastest win on Saturday (27:34) and then break their own record on Sunday (26:28). That was much more impressive against FlyQuest than it was against the Golden Guardians considering the former managed to eke out a win over TSM earlier in the season — but neither squad ever stood a chance. In fact, it almost looked like Liquid was playing against a pair of academy league teams.

Still, it’s important that good teams demonstrate the ability to dominate when it is expected of them. It helps that everyone on the team did their job well. Jake “Xmithie” Puchero had double-digit assists in both games and Joo-Sung “Olleh” Kim was just one short of doing the same. Eugene “Pobelter” Park carried the team in kills, but Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng still drew plenty of blood himself. Eon Young “Impact” Jeong may have had the most deaths of the team this week (only two), but he still used Ornn well across both games.

Next week is when Liquid will either make it or break it. They’re playing both Echo Fox and Cloud9, and would easily end up as the undisputed best team in the league if they manage wins over both.

  1. Counter Logic Gaming | record: 3-3 | standing: +3

Call this one a stretch (because it really is), but CLG had a good week. They were able to finally crack Echo Fox and avoided being upset by FlyQuest, which beat their 3-3 peer, TSM. And not only that, but they appear to have fixed many of the problems that plagued them in season’s opening weeks. They were far more active as a whole, attempting plays that could net them an advantage. And even when they didn’t work, CLG was able to disengage without taking big losses.

Individually, Yeujin “Reignover” Kim seemed to have a much better sense of what he needed to do for his team. His Nunu was solid, but it was his suffocating counter-jungling as Jarvan that really deserves praise. Trevor “Stixxay” Hayes, meanwhile, not only avoided dying at inopportune times, but he finally started getting kills. Plus, his chemistry with Vincent “Biofrost” Wang seems to be improving. Speaking of Biofrost, his flanks against FlyQuest were huge for cleaning up the game, and exactly what CLG will need from him to keep winning. And Hyun “Huhi” Choi even got his chance at redemption with Zilean, where he used the champion’s ultimate to great effect against FlyQuest.

The team seems to be finally coming together after a slow start, but they’ll have to earn their high standing in these rankings by defeating TSM next week. They’ve historically struggled, but anything can happen in a new split.

  1. Team Solo Mid | record 3-3 | standing: –

One of their wins was free this week (sorry Golden Guardians), and they almost pulled off a perfect game by only giving up two turrets. The other required a bit more doing and reminded the NALCS why they’ve won more championships than any other team. Their draft against 100 Thieves worked out perfectly. Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg’s Taliyah repeatedly helped TSM split up their opponents, and Alfonso “Mithy” Rodriguez’ Ornn disrupted any attempt to fight back. Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell was also huge on Gangplank, demonstrating the rare ability to beat Vladimir in lane.

In the end, their ability to zone on offense and defense put them in such good positions that 100 Thieves only walked away with the Rift Herald and a handful of kills. Even the latter only came after TSM pushed deep into their base to take both Nexus turrets. Such a complete win should give the team and their fans a great deal of confidence going into next week.

  1. 100 Thieves | 4-2 | standing: -3

Yes, 100 Thieves has a better record than both CLG and TSM. They also already won against the former. But despite that, their hot streak seems to be cooling. As cool as it was to see Sangwook “Ryu” Yoo draft Twisted Fate against TSM, some recurrent weaknesses have started emerging. William “Meteos” Hartman is great when he’s in the zone, but getting a bit greedy ended up costing his team the game’s first Baron. Chanho “Ssumday” Kim also lost in a matchup that almost always goes in Vlad’s favor, and Ryu couldn’t use his off-kilter pick to catch his opponents off guard. Liyu “Cody Sun” Sun and Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black are probably the best part of this team, and the 100 Thieves’ focus on the bottom lane backs fact up.

The real problem, though, came from their struggle to put away Clutch Gaming. The match was contentious, and 100 Thieves took plenty of map objectives throughout. But for a solid half hour, they didn’t get a single kill. In that same span, Clutch nabbed six. They also gave up the Baron, which gave their opponents the chance to snowball a big gold lead near the late game. If it wasn’t for Cody Sun picking up a pair of kills before they took the second Baron, they might have lost. Fortunately, though, they sieged well and closed things out.

Even more, fortunately, though, 100 Thieves has a pair of cupcake games next week against Golden Guardians and FlyQuest. That should help them bounce back up the standings since those above them have a bit of a harder time. If they should lose either, though, it would be a very troubling sign.

  1. Clutch Gaming | 2-4 | standing: -1

It feels, at times, like Clutch Gaming is on the cusp of becoming a threatening team. Fabian “Febiven” Diepstraten is a beast, and every other player on their team has their moments. The problem is, those moments don’t sync up often enough for them to translate their successes into an advantage.

Throughout this week, Clutch was able to match both Cloud9 and 100 Thieves in terms of kills. Unfortunately, they often come about as an answer to their opponent’s more productive play. If they trade a kill for a turret, that in and of itself isn’t great. But if they don’t start pursuing more kills themselves, they’ll never walk away with anything more than a bit of gold.

At least next week could be better for them. They were able to beat the other 3-3 team in the league and fight hard against two top-tier opponents this week. There is a chance they could topple TSM. OpTic, on the other hand, should be a much easier match for them — though it is one they need to win.

  1. FlyQuest | 2-4 | standing: +1

FlyQuest’s week one win over TSM sure seems like a long time ago, at this point, doesn’t it? Their play as of late also makes it clear that it was less a game they won than one that their opponents lost. Regardless, things didn’t improve for them this week. They never had a chance against Liquid to begin with, but the CLG match at least seemed winnable.

Despite that, Byeong-Hoon “Shrimp” Lee was stuffed at almost every turn. Stixxay casually stole an Ocean Drake, and every FlyQuest attempt to gain any traction resulted in them giving up more ground. They did do an admirable job defending against a Baron buffed CLG team, and Jason “WildTurtle” Tran, in particular, played well to exploit Darshan’s attempts to split push. There just seemed to be nothing they could do to staunch the bleeding.

Until they figure out how to reproduce the comeback against TSM (or how to get ahead early and keep it that way), there don’t seem to be many wins on the horizon.

  1. Optic Gaming | 1-5 | standing: -1

OpTic had a difficult week against the league’s two top titans without a whole lot of good to highlight. Matthew “Akaadian” Higginbotham got a Baron steal against Echo Fox, but it was too late for them to do much with it. They almost got an ace against C9, too, but that also didn’t translate into any objectives. What really stands out as a good sign, however, is their willingness to go for risky plays that could get them back in the game.

Their odds of upsetting either of their opponents in week three was almost nonexistent, but there would be no hope if OpTic refused to try. It just might upend an opponent some time down the road. And if they just improve their overall play, it will help give them an edge that could actually make them dangerous.

Honestly, their biggest hurdle is the fact that they’ve only played a single team with a losing record. When their schedule lets up a bit, they might be able to take a W or two.

  1. Golden Guardians | 0-6 | standing: –

The good news for the Guardians is that a new coach could bring some potential improvement. The bad news is that improvement won’t make enough of a difference for this team to get their first win of the season. Neither Echo Fox nor 100 Thieves is dropping to this squad without divine intervention.

All photos via Riot Games

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