Group Yellow was anticipated as one of the most exciting groups of the year, and so far it’s delivering.
A thrilling first day saw incredible come-backs, stand-out performances and five-game showdowns amongst four teams that might all make a case for a playoff spot if they didn’t stand in each other’s way.
It’s still early in the group, and previous outings have proven that much can change over the course of a weekend, but here’s five of the key stories from the first day of Group Yellow in Stage Two of the Global Pro League.
Rise can’t close
A 0-2 day for Rise certainly isn’t the start they were hoping for, but their performance wasn’t entirely without merit. But for a few kills going their way, Rise might have started the group with a 3-0 sweep against eUnited.
On several occasions throughout the day, Rise were set up for success and failed to come through. In both of their Hardpoints against eUnited, they built sizeable leads off of their opponents’ underperformance, and yet still managed to throw the games away.
It’s not just leads they gave up either. A round-11 Search and Destroy against eUnited went against them, and having forced a fifth map from down 0-2 against Red, Rise nevertheless lost the series. Put all the results together, and you have a pattern of a Rise Nation that seem capable of everything except crossing the finish line.
In isolation, each result might be forgivable, but as a collective they imply a systemic shortcoming for which Rise payed dearly on day one. In order to have any hope of challenging for a playoff spot, it is a flaw they will need to fix immediately.
Red Reserve are a playoff threat
As the only team in the pool without an international title to their name this season, it was easy to dismiss Red Reserve coming into this group. All of their opponents had demonstrated a higher skill ceiling than this squad had yet proven themselves capable of.
In another group, however, Red might even have been among the favorites to make it to the Playoffs – in the relatively short period of time since the return of Rhys ‘Rated’ Price, the squad have shown themselves capable of competing with some of the best teams in the world.
Meanwhile, though their Group Yellow opponents may boast a higher ceiling, many squads this season have struggled maintaining their best for more than a few months. Red might be outmatched by these teams in their prime, but not all are in their prime right now.
One squad that have fallen significantly since their own championship victory are Rise Nation, a team that Red were able to defeat on day one. The victory may prove crucial, giving Red a platform from which to launch a bid for Playoffs.
It was in their series against Splyce, however, that Red particularly impressed. In forcing a fifth map against the Stage One champions, the team demonstrated that victory even against one of the most formidable teams in the group is within their reach, and sitting at 1-1 with a solid map count, Red have absolutely established that they are a threat to be taken seriously.
Splyce are mortal
Prior to Stage Two of the Global Pro League, Splyce looked to be in a class occupied only by Luminosity, a distinct step ahead of the rest of the field. Two consecutive grand finals – including victory at the Stage One Playoffs - put Splyce as the favorites coming into Group Yellow, with many anticipating a relatively easy time for the squad even against a formidable pool.
On day one of Group Yellow, however, Splyce looked a little shaky. After fending off a strong Red Reserve in a five-game series, the squad took a beating in respawn against eUnited to finish at 1-1 for the day.
The team have picked a dangerous time to have an off day, let alone an off weekend. We’ve seen countless times now that every map can be critical, and particularly in this pool any slip will be punished. There’s plenty of time for Splyce to secure their place, but they’ll need to return to championship form immediately if they are to avoid an uncomfortably close fight for Playoffs.
A stunning debut for Clayster
While Justin ‘SiLLY’ Fargo and Preston ‘Prestinni’ Sanderson had moments of brilliance on day one, the star of the show in eUnited’s flawless debut was new addition James ‘Clayster’ Eubanks. Exceptional and consistent performance were the hallmark of the former FaZe player’s first outing in new colors.
Not only did Clayster end day one leading in kill/death ratio at a staggering 1.32 overall, he also averaged the most kills per game. Neither did one game mode stand out exceptionally from the rest – Clayster was the top-performing player by k/d for eUnited across the board.
It’s a phenomenal start for a player with a history of competing at his best in situations much like the one he currently finds himself in. Fans of Clayster who were hoping for a boost in performance following his removal from FaZe Clan will be pleased to find that, so far at least, history does indeed seem to be repeating itself.
It’s how you finish that counts
It might seem a painfully obvious statement, but how well teams close out maps or series has an enormous impact on their success. While all strive for victory, the greatest teams are typically those with a well-honed killer instinct.
They’re the teams that will take a mile when given an inch, and give nothing in return until the game is done. They’re the players that thrive under the pressure of a fifth game, that play their best while others are hindered by nerves, cowed by the fear of making a mistake.
On day one of Group Yellow, we saw several examples of how that ability to finish can separate teams. Rise Nation did all of the hard work in their series against eUnited – they took sizeable leads in both Hardpoints, and drew first blood in a round-11 Search and Destroy. All three maps they lost.
In contrast, eUnited gave no such concessions against Splyce. In the three maps they won, the team never let up once they got rolling, unrelenting until the game was won, as a result putting up incredibly one-sided score lines against one the best teams in the world.
It may seem a fairly arbitrary distinction – anyone can have a great game, anyone can throw away a lead. Pay close enough attention across enough matches, however, and you can start to see how teams’ mentality is affected by circumstance. Some let their heads fall when down early, others will lift off the gas a little when ahead significantly. The greatest are those that are just as dangerous with a lead as they are from a deficit.