nexa confident OG can “make damage” in lead up to Rio Major despite slump

nexa and degster at DreamHack Melbourne OG CSGOJoao Ferreira for ESL

OG have had a rocky few months. Between missing the Antwerp Major and roster changes, there’s been some glimpses of brilliance ⁠— and some howlers. Despite the ups and downs, captain Nemanja ‘nexa’ Isakovic is confident they can make the Rio Major, and even cause some damage.

DreamHack Melbourne was a tournament to forget for OG. Coming in as hot favorites, the European squad couldn’t get anything going down under as they fell victim to Entropiq before being upset by Chinese minnows Wings Up Gaming in the Group A Decider. They failed to make the playoffs, leaving the stage ⁠— and the country ⁠— dejected.

Not one to make excuses, nexa said the team took on full responsibility instead of pointing to the factors of jet lag or stage nerves. However, he did say one thing, and that was the team’s jam-packed schedule, even over the player break, left them exhausted.

“We ran out of energy,” he simply put to Dexerto. “It wasn’t just the travel. We had a bootcamp right as the season started then we played the RMR qualifier then we played BLAST. We were on the road for 32 days straight up to here, so it took a toll on us. 

“It’s not to make excuses ⁠— we played terribly this whole tournament. You may think there’s some worrisome signs off the back of this tournament but we know why we played badly, what the issues were, and how to fix them for next time.”

It’s that positive outlook, finding something out of nothing, OG is leveraging as they push towards the Major. The squad has had mixed results out of the player break. They clawed their way into the second European RMR for the Rio Major through the first Open Qualifier, and then found an uptick of form at BLAST Premier Fall Groups.

Having those results bookended by a blow-up at Roobet Cup before the roster changes, and DreamHack Melbourne after, isn’t the greatest look. It also comes after missing the Antwerp Major by one game with a loss to Eternal Fire.

The team is adjusting to a new dynamic with 60% of the roster changed in just weeks, and there’s something exciting about the new blood.

“With the change of Degster for mantuu, the team dynamic is way different,” nexa explained. “The one thing we gain with Degster is he has a lot more energy when playing. He’s animated, hyping up everything. There are some things we lost though and we’re trying to make up for it and implement new systems. 

“F1KU and Neofrag are also very green so there’s been a lot of team bonding and getting to know each other, getting to know their playstyles and what they like to do and using them in the best way I see fit. 

“I can also see areas where I can improve myself and help them improve and draw out more of their own potential because there are some maps where everyone is comfortable but there are others where everyone is sketchy. There’s work to do, but the good thing is the vibes are good. Everyone is eager to play and learn and that’s a really positive thing.”

João Ferreira for PGL
nexa’s return to Australia at DreamHack Melbourne was a disaster for OG, bowing out in Groups.

It’s all part of the OG project nexa was put at the helm of at the start of 2022. The former G2 Esports IGL gave the existing roster six months to make it work with the old foundation. It was evident it wasn’t going to, and he shifted the team into a different direction to find a more synergistic fit ⁠— even if the players didn’t hold the same name value.

“We had some more stable, experienced players and a foundation was set. I was coming into that and trying to do what I could with the team I had and seeing if that roster could work. What I told OG when I joined was I can work with this team for six months and reevaluate and see if we can keep going or not.

“The change came from me wanting to play with younger, hungrier players that will speak to me more, that want to play the game more ⁠— they’re passionate about it and want to prove themselves. 

“Now with my role as the most experienced guy on the team, everyone is looking at me and is comfortable with coming to me and speaking to me about what they want. I feel comfortable in that role, comfortable knowing I’m an open person and they can always come to me and ask whatever is troubling them, even outside of the game like a big brother figure.”

It’s the sea change nexa needed at this point of his career too. Being a young IGL on a veteran roster clashed with the hierarchy. Now he’s the veteran IGL on a young roster, and there’s a better flow in the server. 

The 25-year-old needed to gain some control and steer a team in a direction, and now he’s finally realizing that dream with this second reckoning of OG.

“It’s helped me gain confidence in myself, my calling, and as a player as well. They come to me for advice and I know whatever I tell them they take it as the truth and try to do it that way. 

“Previously in G2 or in the previous iteration of OG, I was the young guy ⁠— especially in G2. As the IGL it’s not always easy to gain respect with older players than yourself, so right now I have this power and confidence that whatever I say, these guys have my back no matter what and they’ll follow through.”

The question for OG from here though is do they have enough time before Rio to shore up everything? With the Major approaching in a couple of months and the RMRs kicking off, OG has a sprint ahead of them to reach the biggest stage in CS:GO. Given they were out of energy at DreamHack Melbourne, there’s not much time to recoup.

They have shown glimpses of brilliance too. OG’s runs at BLAST are a testament to that ⁠— both before and after the roster swaps. According to nexa, the team plays better on the bigger stages, “with a lot more energy and confidence”, compared to the lower-stakes events.

“We showed it at BLAST how animated everyone was ⁠— we were fist-bumping and screaming even though it was a studio event, giving it everything we got. In contrast to [DreamHack Melbourne], we’re playing on stage in front of a crowd and we’re just dead inside.”

It’s just about finding the click to really kick things off: “I know we can challenge any team in the world right now. We have the firepower, we are tactically sound. We know how to beat every team and it’s just about this one thing that clicks for us. 

“Once it clicks and everyone is on fire with a lot of energy and we just start speaking to each other ⁠— it’s not dead in the comms ⁠— we actually play some really good CS. If that clicks and we play at the same level we did at BLAST, I could see us making some real damage at the Major.”

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