In a year where we have witnessed teams such as Mousesports, Natus Vincere, and Fnatic win some of the biggest tournaments in the world, Team Liquid has had several opportunities to do the same thing. Yet since recruiting Keith “NAF” Markovic to the lineup, they have only managed to get the job done on one occasion; cs_summit 2, a smaller event in the grand scheme of things.
Coming close is something that has become synonymous with the Team Liquid organization. Ever since the unbelievable “jumping double from cold” in the semifinals of MLG Columbus 2016, Team Liquid has finished top four in seven $250,000+ tournaments, taking second place in four of them. But their roster has never looked as good as it does at the moment.
It looks like Team Liquid has all the pieces they need: a great star trio in the form of Keith “NAF” Markovic, Jonathan “EliGE” Jablonowski, and Russel “Twistzz” Van Dulken, one of the best supportive players in the world in Epitacio “TACO” de Melo, a very competent and versatile in-game leader in Nick “nitr0” Cannella, and finally, one of the best coaches in CS:GO, Wilton “zews” Prado.
Sure, if they were willing to spend a ton of money, it would be possible to make improvements to the roster. But this is a squad that looks like it should be able to win big tournaments.
Stopped by the all-time greats
To be fair to Team Liquid, they have been a little unfortunate when it comes to big finals throughout their history. Their first big final, ESL One Cologne 2016, was right in the middle of the SK Gaming era, and it happened to be one of the most dominant tournaments of their run. ESL One New York 2017 was one of the tournaments that lead everyone to believe that the new FaZe Clan was going to be unstoppable. FaZe went through the tournament without losing a map, beating Team Liquid in the finals. And if we fast forward to now, we are right in the middle of the Astralis era, another team that is looking to cement itself as one of the greatest teams of all time. And a team that has defeated Team Liquid in two finals within the last month.
While this does not excuse the times Team Liquid did not manage to make the finals, it is quite unfortunate that they seem to have peaked at the same time as some of the best teams in CS:GO history.
Lacking a top player on the AWP?
Team Liquid has not had a dedicated AWP player on their team since the removal of Josh “jdm” Marzano from the team. Instead, nitr0 has been the primary AWPer, while players like NAF and Twistzz also pick it up in certain situations. When jdm was removed from the team, zews mentioned in an interview that the team wanted to move away from the traditional AWP system.
The problem starts to show itself when you compare them to the other top teams in CS:GO. Teams like Astralis and Natus Vincere benefit greatly from having some of the best AWPers in the world on their team. Players like Aleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev and Nicolai “device” Reedtz win a direct AWP duel against a player like nitr0 more often than not, giving their teams a big advantage in that regard. While the AWP is not quite as vital for Team Liquid's success, it's an important weapon to have in your arsenal.
When you can make a case for their primary AWP player to be the weakest in the top 10, and certainly in the top 5, it becomes an issue that the team might have to worry about. One option for Team Liquid could be to make NAF more of the primary AWP on the team as he has also shown proficiency on the big green gun during his time in OpTic.
Who steps up in the big game?
To once again make a comparison to other top teams, they all have the one superstar player who is going to step up in the big semi-final or final. Natus Vincere can always rely on s1mple. As soon as he got over his choking issues, Astralis could always rely on device. The same goes for SK Gaming with Marcelo “coldzera” David. And the list goes on for every top team throughout CS:GO history.
Team Liquid does not quite seem to have that player in their squad. Despite having a great star trio on paper, they seem to take turns going missing in big games. Twistzz in particular suffers, averaging a 1.05 rating over his entire career in semifinals and finals.
The player you would expect to stand above the rest and step it up on a consistent basis would be NAF. While he has had great performances in big games throughout his career, particularly during his time in OpTic, we do not always see those performances on Team Liquid. Particularly he seems to suffer against Astralis, the opponent that Team Liquid are trying to get past in many scenarios.
When you combine all of these factors with their inability to exploit Astralis in terms of map pool, it is no wonder they are having trouble beating the Danes.
Just like StarSeries a few weeks ago, ESL One Belo Horizonte was an event where there should have been no excuses for Team Liquid. Astralis was not in attendance, FaZe Clan and Mousesports were both playing with standins, and SK Gaming had shown little consistency in their play. While it was not the biggest tournament on the calendar, it was still an important tournament to win for Team Liquid. And just like StarSeries, they failed to live up to expectations.
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