After Team Liquid’s disappointing loss in the finals of ESL One New York 2018 to mousesports, many members of the community have unleashed sharp criticism on the players. A number of these critics have gone as far as to call for the drastic move of changing key parts of the roster. There are good arguments for change being made within the confines of the current lineup — ones that will be explored in this article —but it would be a mistake for Liquid to end this iteration of the team’s story now.
Liquid’s Distinguished Place in NA
Team Liquid have amassed the best tournament placings seen by any North American team in the history of Counter-Strike Global Offensive. This era in the team started in February of this year with the essential talent acquisitions of Keith “NAF” Markovic and Epitacio “TACO” de Melo.
Apart from DreamHack Masters, Marseille 2018, their first tournaments together as a roster and ESL One Cologne and StarSeries i-League, S5, Liquid have reached the top 4 in every tournament they have participated in. They have also finished second in numerous tournaments, always thwarted by Astralis — apart from ESL One New York where they were bested by mousesports — the former of which is mostly understandable because of the iron grip that Astralis has over the Counter-Strike scene.
The average age of Team Liquid’s roster, excluding coach Wilton “zews” Prado, is exactly 21-years-old and this makes them the youngest top 5 team in Counter-Strike. Success in youth is a hallmark of quality players and strongly hints at future potential. For example, when the seeds of today’s team Astralis were under the banner of Dignitas in 2016, they were a great team at a very young age but faltered at key moments preventing them from winning tournaments. In the present day, Astralis are crushing the competition, and Liquid can look to them as a guild in how to take that last step in achieving dominance. However, there are issues that have come to characterise Liquid which need to be solved first.
Liquid’s Mental Game
As far back as MLG Columbus 2016, Liquid have been poor at closing out games. When the pressure is high, Liquid buckle and lose. For example, they choked in the semi-finals against Luminosity Gaming on both maps. Most recently, they failed to close out the ESL One New York, finals against mousesports, despite at one point being only one round win away from the trophy. Their capitulation is not due to anything but their mental game, which has been highlighted as their main weakness. Many prominent figures in the scene have commented on this, such as this insight pertaining to Liquid from analyst Duncan “Thorin” Shields on Twitter:
“The difference between champion and would-be champion can be so small in the game but so big between the ears.”
As has been commented on many times by Liquid players, they always stick to their own style instead of adapting to different teams. This was directly addressed after the semi-final victory at ESL One New York 2018, when in the post-match interview Jonathan “EliGE” Jablonowski commented that they ‘play their own game’ and that this tendency was responsible for their victory. However, this resistance to shape their play to their opponent is why Astralis are their kryptonite. Astralis have honed the art of anti-stratting, so when Liquid follow their usual tendencies Astralis are prepared for everything Liquid can throw at them.
The destiny of Team Liquid may very well be to achieve legendary status and rank among the greatest teams in Counter-Strike history. They are young, full of firepower and they seem to have an excellent connection outside of the game. However, there are shortcomings which need to be addressed and can be in two ways. Liquid should hire a sports psychologist, it helped Astralis who used to famously choke in semi-finals, and it would guide the young players to composure when the pressure is at its maximum. In the area of their gameplay, Liquid should change the way that preparation is carried out by increasing the focus on adapting key aspects of the strategy to counter the opponent; in other words, anti-stratting. This would enhance Team Liquid’s already strong play against everyone that they face, and could be the tipping point for them to finally topple Astralis. Team Liquid will bounce back from their shocking defeat at ESL One New York, and their fans have many reasons to be confident that 2018 is the year in which Team Liquid will win their first premier tournament.
Thank you very much for reading. This post was brought to you in affiliation with PreGameGG, use code “PG3DAY” for a free three-day trial. If you like it, use code “ESNESPORTS” for 20% off at checkout. This article was written by Dom “d0m^” Phillips and edited by Thomas Sweggerty.