January 25, 2018. Spectators, commentators, and media were in for a treat as two of the top three teams had shown that they could only hold an undefeated record for so long.
London Spitfire. New York Excelsior. Coming into the third week of OWL with unblemished records, few if any expected any of their opponents to win a series, let alone a map. Korean teams have been known for and have the expectation of being the best.
The opening match was between Boston Uprising and London Spitfire with the latter expected to win. London had defeated San Francisco Shock the previous day coming into this match with a 4-0 record in the league. Boston had come in with a 1-3 record with their only win over Florida Mayhem. After the four-map series, Boston was able to take the win in the tiebreaker game on Lijiang Tower.
The next match displayed a back and forth battle between Philadelphia Fusion and New York Excelsior. Numbani to New York. Temple of Anubis to Philadelphia. Ilios to New York. Dorado to Philadelphia. In a similar fashion to the opening match, Philadelphia won the tiebreaker match 2 points to 0 against New York.
Among the audience there was discussion of what went wrong and an attempt to figure out why expectations were not met. Had the skill gap between Western and Korean teams been closer than what the general consensus believed? Were Western teams able to catch up within just three weeks of competition? Were London Spitfire and New York Excelsior simply not as prepared for Lijiang Tower as their opponents?
Some common factors that teams mention in regards to improvement include communication, practice against the best opponents, adjustment to professional environment, and adjustment to a new culture. Boston Uprising and Philadelphia Fusion have multilingual rosters which creates some difficulties in their communications yet they were able to defeat full Korean rosters. Communication due to language barriers most likely was not an issue for London and New York. What about the quality of their practice? Are London and New York getting the best practice in the Overwatch League, compared to their previous performances in APEX and Korean solo queue?
It’s too early to say that these teams are faltering, but the possibility of defeating them has been confirmed. With the developing meta, it’s exciting to see how teams will adapt to new patches, how they will efficiently use their subs, and the overall growth of Overwatch League.