Four Storylines to Watch in OWL 2019 Stage 2
Fri 5th Apr 2019 - 7:18pm
Can Vancouver Continue to Dominate?
The Vancouver Titans emerged into the OWL with an ear-splitting bang, winning all seven of their contests during the first stage of the regular season, only to stomp through the stage playoffs en route to the team’s first title. Led by the prowess of DPS player Min-soo "SeoMinSoo" Seo and the precision of its support Lee "Twilight" Joo Seok, the team has looked like the unquestionable dominator of the league up to this point. However, as we move forward into Stage 2, is it too much to expect the Titans to continue their run at the top?
No - not at all, actually. Expecting anything else would be downright foolish.
If anything, it wouldn’t be completely outlandish to say that Vancouver might just get better during the season’s 2nd stage. A team fresh off the most convincing championship the league has ever seen can only be more polished, more stalwart, more complete. The Titans have only matured since Stage 1 and show no signs of slowing down at all. Don’t be shocked if the team looks even better in the coming weeks. Perhaps a shot at back-to-back stage titles could seriously be in the works.
How Will the Reign Move on from Dafran?
After taking the entire league by storm, Daniel “Dafran” Francesca of the Atlanta Reign left the professional Overwatch scene as quickly as he entered it. The Atlanta DPS player retired on March 28, signaling the end of a month-long career that sparkplugged a team that desperately needed some sort of catalyst to springboard itself off the starting block in 2019.
Throughout the course of his illustrious 41 day run in the Overwatch League, Dafran played for 6 hours and 47 minutes while posting an E/10 of 20.37 - a mark which was good enough for 9th among all qualified OWL players and 7th among all qualified DPS players. Additionally, his DMG/10 of 10,831 was 6th in the entire league after just one stage.
Of course, we could discuss Dafran’s highlights and triumphs forever, but now the question rises: How does Atlanta move on?
With Dafran’s departure in mind, it’s now time to start looking at who can fill the biggest shoes of the 2019 OWL season so far. It’ll certainly be no easy task to compare to the man who generated the most excitement, sold the most jerseys, and created the most hype in the entire league - all while playing an incredibly crisp game. Perhaps Joon "Erster" Jeong could take the reins at the DPS position while Ilya "NLaaeR" Koppalov comes into his own. Or the team could find options outside of the organization to boost the roster in the DPS department. Regardless, the team has a gaping hole where Dafran once stood and filling it will be a major task for the young franchise.
Can LA Get on the Board?
Quite possibly the biggest disappointment Stage 1 had to offer was the regression of the Los Angeles Valiant. Everyone from analysts to fans had expected the Valiant to regress after a solid inaugural season - but no one expected this.
The team failed to win a single game throughout the entirety of the first stage, kicking off one of the greatest falls from grace in esports history in the process. Just last year, the Valiant closed out Stage 4 of the inaugural OWL season with a stage title and a playoff appearance, so to see them collapse so quickly and to such an immense extent was definitely a shock to OWL fans across the world. What’s even more odd is that the Valiant’s roster turnover wasn’t exactly all too extensive. Of course, the loss of the team’s prime DPS player in Terrence “SoOn” Tarlier to the Paris Eternal was a big blow to the franchise but with the core of Indy “Space” Halpern, Brady “Agilities” Girardi, and Scott “Custa” Kennedy still intact, it’s undeniable that there’s still a surplus of talent on the Los Angeles roster.
In order for the Valiant to string some wins together and redeem itself from an underwhelming opening stage, those aforementioned players will need to step up to the plate and show shades of the team that excelled throughout all of last year. There’s potential in this L.A. team, as their losses have been respectable and the cusp of victory is within reach. The squad even took the undefeated Excelsior to the brink in a decisive Game 5 on back on February 22. If those brief moments of greatness can be capitalized on during the second stage, perhaps the Valiant can start to turn the tides and redeem the broken season that the organization has already put together. Still, it’s not too late and a fresh slate is exactly what the team needs.
Will New York Live Up to Expectations?
Since the dawn of time supposedly, the New York Excelsior has been hyped up as the single-greatest team in OWL history. And still, the team invents new ways to fall short when it matters most time and time again. Most recently, the NYXL marched to the tune of a 7-0 Stage 1 here in 2019, only to get bounced by a Seoul Dynasty team that barely clawed its way into the stage playoffs to begin with.
In Stage 2, it would behoove the team to finally climb the hump and get back to the level of dominance that they were promised and expected to achieve earlier in the season. There’s a massive monkey on the back of the Excelsior - a team that was expected to dominate the season and run the table wire to wire. Above all else, it’s time for the NYXL roster to pick itself up and dust itself off. There’s still plenty of opportunities left on the table and with one of the most talented squads in the entirety of OWL, it’s clear that the team still has the potential to dominate and succeed at the highest level. Now more than ever, the NYXL needs to head into Stage 2 with the same fire and power that propelled them to an impressive first go of things. The potential is certainly in the tank - it’s just a matter of slamming the door.