Veteran CS:GO head coach Danny ‘zonic’ Sørensen sat down with Dexerto to explain his decision to join Vitality and the thought process behind this international team.
As Vitality confirmed their CS:GO plans for 2022, zonic could finally turn the page.
For two long months, he had been waiting for this day. It might not sound like much, but for someone as obsessed with competition as him — as evidenced by his admission that he almost felt “depressed” during his three years away from the game after retiring as a player —, it seemed like an eternity.
Now the real work could begin.
Zonic has sky-high standards to meet as the new head coach of Vitality. He is expected to make the team a regular title contender again after it had begun fading into the background in the last two years.
The challenge comes after six success-filled years with Astralis, during which he compiled an unrivaled résumé that includes four Major crowns and an Intel Grand Slam title.
Those times were incredibly taxing, both physically and mentally, so one could think that zonic, after winning all there is to win, would take the opportunity to dial it down a notch and enjoy himself a bit more.
But that’s not him.
“I had many offers, some with a bigger salary than what Vitality offered me,” he told Dexerto. “But my decision to join Vitality was because I believe this to be the team that I can win another big title with.
“I have a huge belief in this team. For me, it was never about getting the biggest paycheck or securing the best conditions for my family. I chose the team that I believe the most in.
“If it was about my family, it would have been a Danish team. If it was about money, it would have been a different team. I chose the team that I felt was the most competitive.”
The French connection
According to zonic, talks with Vitality began in the summer, after it was reported that he was considering his options as he was about to enter the final months of his contract with Astralis.
By then, Vitality’s team had stagnated. After going back to a five-man setup when Valve introduced penalties for teams using substitutes in the Major qualifying cycle, the French team struggled for months on end, barely holding on to a top-10 place in the world rankings.
And so Vitality delivered zonic carte blanche to oversee the team’s rebuilding. The Dane, who had carved out a reputation as a trailblazer and a winning coach with Astralis, was widely regarded in the scene as the only person who could be an improvement on Rémy ‘XTQZZZ’ Quoniam.
Zonic has brought in two of his protégées from Astralis, Emil ‘Magisk’ Reif and Peter ‘dupreeh’ Rasmussen, forming an interesting balance between French and Danish talent in what is a new chapter for Vitality in CS:GO.
- Read more: Who is m0NESY, G2 CSGO’s new AWP prodigy?
But as much as the roster is his brainchild, zonic made it clear that he had the full backing of the organization.
“It was my decision, but it was made together with Vitality,” he explained. “I looked at some of Vitality’s players and at the players that I knew were going to leave Astralis. I asked dupreeh and Magisk if they wanted to continue to work with me.
“ZywOo doesn’t need any introductions, and I think apEX has been doing extremely well as an IGL, based on what I saw from the outside and from what I experienced first-hand by playing against his team a lot lately.
“Misutaaa has surprised me a lot lately, he has been playing really well. He has a lot of potential and has grown a lot lately.”
The move to Vitality poses big challenges for zonic, who for the first time will have to communicate with his troops in English.
Zonic will lean on a familiar face in sports psychologist Lars Robl, who was a vital piece of Astralis’ setup for four-and-a-half years.
They are part of a four-man backroom staff that also includes assistant coach Mathieu ‘MaT’ Leber, one of the best French Counter-Strike players in CS 1.6, and team manager Matthieu Péché, a former Olympic medalist.
— Team Vitality (@TeamVitality) January 5, 2022
Vitality are pulling out all the stops to dominate the biggest esports games, having raised $56 million over the next three years in an effort to create European super teams. Given the scarcity of world-class players coming through in the CS:GO scene, even XTQZZZ had said that it was only a matter of time before Vitality were bit by the internationalization bug.
“I feel excited,” zonic said about being part of an international project. “A lot of teams have been going down this road, but I think I will have a different approach to it.
“It’s also a lot about the little things. For example, I don’t want us to meet on January 1 and start working on our playbook. I want us to feel like a team first, to go out and get to know each other.
“There are going to be some rules about the language we’re speaking. So if two of the French guys are sitting with dupreeh, for example, English will be the official language. There will be no speaking French or Danish.
“We’re not going to have dupreeh and Magisk stay together in a hotel room when we have tournaments. We’re going to rotate so that you are forced to speak English.
“I think I’m going to do a lot of things differently. I can’t go into details about most things, that’s between me and the team. I’m looking forward to working with these guys.”
Team setup and goals
Despite the influx of new talent, Dan ‘apEX’ Madesclaire will continue to call the shots, with Magisk serving as his right-hand man and secondary caller as he did for Astralis under Lukas ‘gla1ve’ Rossander.
Another aspect that will not change is that Mathieu ‘ZywOo’ Herbaut will continue to serve as the focal point of the team. After helping Nicolai ‘dev1ce’ Reedtz to elevate his game and credence during their years together on Astralis, zonic is relishing the chance to work with the French sniper, the best player in the world in 2019 and 2020.
“His game sense is really impressive,” zonic said. “Becoming the best player two years in a row, including in your rookie year… He has impressed me quite a lot.
“He is one of the best players in the world, but I also think I can help develop him into the best player in the world.
“But the focus will always be on the team. I’m hired to win trophies and that will be my priority, but in order to win trophies, I also think that you need to push the players individually.”
Now that the announcement has been made, zonic and the rest of the team can focus on the task at hand — getting Vitality back to the top.
— Danny Sørensen (@zonic) January 5, 2022
It’s a tall order, but rising to the occasion is nothing new for zonic. After making history with Astralis and helping to make coaches a vital part of the esports ecosystem, the Dane has his eyes on a new feat: achieving sustained success with an international roster.
“I have 100 percent belief in this team,” he said. “I think we have all the qualities and the right roles. I also think that this team can function really well outside of the server.
“I have known Dan [apEX] for some time, and his work ethic is extremely good.
“Dupreeh and Magisk are really eager. When we were at Astralis and we were winning a lot of matches, I always told them that they had to keep pushing because one day it was going to be over. They are eager to show the world that they are still here.
“Magisk, despite his experience, is still a very young player. You have young players and then dupreeh and apEX with a lot of experience. So I think it’s a good mixture.
“The lineup was thoroughly thought out.”