Before they even got the chance to play their first game, Echo Fox were deemed mediocre. Their 2019 roster seemed to suffer from a distinct lack of star power, and it was hard to imagine them being anything other than a bottom-2 team in the league.
Now, three weeks into the 2019 LCS Spring Split, Echo Fox are surprisingly competent. They get early leads, secure Dragon control, and pull the trigger on teamfights and skirmishes. And while their 3-3 record doesn’t exactly scream “top of the league”, there’s no denying that Echo Fox are performing much, much better than expected.
It’s easy to look at the potent duo of Apollo and Hakuho, or the strong lane presence from Fenix as the main reasons behind this momentum. However, there’s another figure guiding Echo Fox from the shadows. That’s head coach Kim “SSONG” Sang-soo, who’s doing everything in his power to set them up for success and redeem his past failures.
When SSONG made his North American debut on Immortals, the odds were heavily stacked against him. Immortals were coming off a seventh-place finish in the 2017 NA LCS Spring Split. They also just parted ways with their main carry Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett and brought in an (at the time) underperforming CLG jungler—Jake Kevin “Xmithie” Puchero—as a replacement. By all means, they were destined for failure.
But SSONG didn’t believe in destiny.
It took him a single split to build up Immortals from missing the NA LCS playoffs to qualifying for the World Championship. Combine that with him winning the coach of the split award, and SSONG’s stock was at an all-time high by the end of 2017. It’s clear from his interviews that he wanted to stay with Immortals and keep the momentum going into 2018, but fate had other plans.
The off-season saw Riot Games rejecting Immortals from NA LCS franchising, and suddenly, the best coach of 2017 ended up on the job market. He didn’t stay unemployed for long.
TSM quickly swooped in to pick up the promising prospect, and SSONG found a new home on the most accomplished team in the region. In many ways, this should’ve been his moment.
The 2018 TSM roster was stacked with experience and individual talent, so SSONG had more resources than he could’ve ever imagined.
Yet, inexplicably, everything fell apart.
His team displayed a staggering inability to navigate a game of League of Legends. Their drafts were shaky, their gameplans were hectic, and their synergy was almost non-existent. On top of that, there were so many strong voices and conflicting ideas among the players that SSONG struggled to get everyone on the same page.
Things got so bad that TSM had to promote their assistant coach Ham "Lustboy" Jang-sik to take over the pick/ban phase and bring in their previous head coach Parth "Parth" Naidu to spearhead post-match discussions. It didn’t matter.
TSM went on to have the worst year in organization history, and SSONG, who joined them as the hottest coach in the region, left as the man who ran the best team in North America into the ground.
Which brings us to Echo Fox.
Their 2019 lineup is lacking in more ways than one. It doesn’t have the pre-existing synergy of Cloud9, the veteran expertise of 100 Thieves, or the raw firepower of Team Liquid. Yet, it’s exactly this absence of definite strengths that puts SSONG in the perfect position to start his redemption arc.
Echo Fox are a clean slate. There are no superstars or overbearing personalities on their roster, so they can get molded into any shape imaginable. With that, their success will largely come down to their ability to work together as a unit and the level of coaching they receive throughout the season.
Another thing to note is that Echo Fox's team structure has a surprising resemblance to that of 2017 Immortals. Once again, SSONG is working with a carry solo laner from Korea, a utility-focused solo laner from North America, and a bot lane consisting of a solid marksman and a playmaking support. And while Rush doesn’t exactly resemble Xmithie, SSONG should still know exactly which direction to take with this team.
Of course, lightning doesn’t strike twice.
Echo Fox have a long way to go before they can challenge the top dogs of the league, and it’s hard to imagine SSONG taking another ragtag bunch of misfits and turning them into title contenders. But he doesn’t have to. Even making playoffs would be a huge milestone for this roster, and SSONG’s ability to reach it might very well determine the future of his LCS career.
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