Team Liquid’s chance to defend their LCS title for the fourth split in a row is hanging by a thread. The team’s slump has come as a shock though, and top laner Jung ‘Impact’ Eon-yeong knows it, saying supporters should be “angry.”
For two years, Team Liquid have dominated the rest of North America. The four-time LCS champions have looked miles ahead of their compatriots domestically in recent history, although that success has rarely been translated to international glory.
After a disappointing 2019 saw the team bow out at the final hurdle at MSI, and fail to make Worlds playoffs, there was hope for a rekindling in 2020.
However, it’s fallen flat, with the team sitting right on the verge of not making the cut for LCS playoffs with a 7-9 record heading into the final week. That’s not to say their misfortunes were entirely within their control, however.
First, it was visa issues with import jungler Mads ‘Broxah’ Brock-Pedersen for the first three weeks. Then, star AD carry Yiliang ‘Doublelift’ Peng got sick, before being benched entirely.
Once everything returned to 'normal' though, nothing had changed. Team Liquid were still losing, and the chance of defending their fifth straight title was slowly being cut. Fans were asking questions, and the team didn’t have answers.
Liquid did get back to their winning ways against Golden Guardians in Week 8, but Impact said despite it all, fans have every right to be angry at their performances.
“If I was a Team Liquid fan after watching [our match against Golden Guardians], I would have been like — I wouldn’t think we did well, I’d actually be angry,” he said in an interview with Korizon's Ashley Kang on March 25.
“If you have any eye for the game, you’d have asked: ‘Renekton and Elise didn’t do anything, so why are [Golden Guardians] winning?’” he continued.
There’s already been questions about the team’s attitude in Spring. Doublelift’s comments about “not caring” for results domestically were spun into a lack of motivation across the board.
While Impact disagrees with the team not having the attitude to cut it as the best in NA, the team has struggled with trusting each other since their slump began.
“We lack trust for one another,” he said. “We have to trust each other and make plays based on that, but then we started losing. That’s what happens to the losing team — you slowly lose that trust.”
Not only that, but if they weren’t motivated, they wouldn’t care about results, Impact added. Liquid’s players aren’t there to cash checks, they are there to win.
“If we lose, we’re just as pissed. We’re just as angry as anyone. When we think about the matches, it’s all about the victories and the losses," he said.
The team isn't expecting an instant turn around in results, and the hope is still to go to Worlds at the end of the year. However, they’re aware they aren’t the unstoppable beasts they once were, and they have to prove they are worthy of a fifth title.
“It’s less about winning a certain game so we can make it to the next playoffs — it’s more about us increasing our performance generally," TL's top lane continued.
“We can’t change individuals doing bad or making mistakes. We have to play better as a team. The team atmosphere isn’t bad, and it’ll continue to get better because we are winning [again].”
With Cloud9 and FlyQuest to beat in the final week to even have a chance of getting to playoffs, the road couldn’t be any harder. But, in a best-of-one system, anything is possible, and Impact is still holding onto that hope.
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“I believe they are beatable opponents as long as we work hard. This is the thing about League. Even if you are a strong team, you could drop a game at a moment’s notice. Nothing’s certain if we turn up at these matches.
“We haven’t given up yet. There’s absolutely no point in giving up right now. I’ve spent the last eight years of my life just playing games, so we haven’t given up any of this just yet. We want to work harder as a team.”
Team Liquid will take on FlyQuest and Cloud9 for a spot in the LCS Spring 2020 playoffs in the final week of play starting on March 28.