Team Liquid fold under “top team” pressure at Valorant Champions

Alan Bernal
valorant champions team liquid
Michal Konkol / Riot Games

Team Liquid are out of Valorant Champions after dominating much of the event before folding in the semifinals against Acend. After being touted as “the best team” in Berlin, the EMEA powerhouse are now grappling with the reality of falling short.

Patryk ‘starxo’ Kopczynski and Mehmet ‘cNed’ Yağız İpek gave the hottest team in Berlin a one-way ticket back home – and it wasn’t even close.

Heading into the first of two Valorant Champions 2021 semifinals, Acend quickly put Liquid in check with a 13-6 dismantling on Bind. TL were expected to lick its wounds and compete on their map of Split but its opponent took advantage of every mistake with a scintillating 13-5 win.

Up until this point, Liquid had been an unstoppable force when the chips were down. But you couldn’t tell after it clashed with Acend, who proved to be an immovable object.

team liquid valorant scream
Michal Konkol / Riot Games
Team Liquid lost to a great Acend team, but the way they lost was stunning for a team that dominated Valorant Champions.

Team Liquid Valorant put on ice in Berlin

Liquid’s one-two punch propelled its 13-match win streak ahead of the semis but Acend made the duo look mortal, denying the Blue-and-White even 13 rounds across two games.

After combining for only 135 Average Damage per Round (ADR) on Split, Liquid needed more than the “brother buff” of Adil ‘ScreaM’ Benrlitom and Nabil ‘Nivera’ Benrlitom to keep them afloat.

“We put in so much effort,” Dom ‘soulcas’ Sulcas said after the game. “We spent so much time refining our playstyle. We put in a lot of time but it obviously wasn’t enough.

“It obviously sucks to go out like this. So fast, like blink and you miss it, how fast we lost the game. It sucked we couldn’t even put up a fight. We were very confident we could make it to the finals.”

nivera scream team liquid
Michal Konkol / Riot Games
Liquid’s “brother buff” wasn’t enough against Acend.

Usually when the offense isn’t flowing, Liquid can rely on Finish Fiend, Elias ‘Jamppi’ Olkkonen. But the 20-year-old event noticed that something on the team just wasn’t clicking under the lights of the Valorant Champions stage.

“I think all aspects [of our game were off the mark today,]” Jamppi said. “I don’t think we played at all like the level we have been in the last few months.

“I’d say new stage, new time. We always had the evening game and now we have the first game. I think many different things combined [and] we just didn’t play our best today or didn’t show up in the whole match. ”

The Benrlitom Bruisers couldn’t give TL a chance against cNed and co. even after they were put on comfort picks of Reyna and Viper, respectively. But the team gave up 19 rounds on defense before Acend ended the series just as Liquid were finding their footing on Map 2.

starxo acend valorant champions
Michal Konkol / Riot Games
Acend’s Starxo was a thorn in Team Liquid’s side through the Valorant Champions semis.

Team Liquid dominated Valorant Champions…until they didn’t

Team Liquid had all the reason to be confident ahead of the Champions semis. Opponents still hadn’t figured out how to deal with Nivera on top of the team’s brightest star-duo, ScreaM and Jamppi.

They easily overcame KRU Esports, the giant-slayers of Berlin who pushed Gambit to five overtimes in their semifinals loss, while also downing two of NA’s best in Cloud9 Blue and Sentinels.

In the head-to-head, TL dominated this exact Acend roster just a month prior in a 3-1 rout at the Red Bull Home Ground Finals.

Regardless, Liquid studied Acend to snuff out their playstyle and even prepare for their curveball comp on Split with a Sage-Omen-Cypher combo but their form couldn’t keep up with the competition.

“Well we’ve been analyzing their game and we had a close game against them in the last tournament we played them,” ScreaM explained. “So we thought we had a chance.

“It goes like it goes. They were better today. We could have played any map and [they] would’ve won [with us] playing like this.”

teal liquid scream valorant
Lance Skundrich / Riot Games
ScreaM and the rest of Team Liquid were an absolute force in Berlin.

At the end of their run, The Headshot Machine boasted a top-five ACS at Champions (251.8). Jampii topped most of his EMEA counterparts with a 25% clutch success while Nivera had the second-highest headshot percentage at Champions (33%), bested only by Vikings’ star Olavo ‘heat’ Marcelo (38%).

Liquid’s support players Travis‘L1NK’ Mendoza and soulcas were arguably the most adaptive parts of the team’s success. Their site setups and extra firepower combined for 109 assists through 187 rounds against aces like Tyson ‘TenZ’ Ngo, Juan ‘NagZet’ Lopez, and cNed.

For all of the success, losing in that fashion just one series away from the Grand Finals was a crushing blow for Liquid’s members.

It’s another disappointing result that comes within touching distance of a major trophy. However, now the EMEA powerhouse has the tools and experience it needs to rectify its woes and come out prepared in VCT 2022.

“That’s how the competition goes, sometimes you have to lose,” Jampii said. “But we’ll learn from this and be back stronger next year.”