NAF on Liquid’s schedule: "Maybe one day playing European CS permanently could be more of an option"
After Liquid's devastatingly close loss against Spirit, the North American squad got shipped off to the lower bracket of IEM Cologne, an unfortunate start to their run with Mareks "YEKINDAR" Gaļinskis as a stand-in. In the lower bracket, the team was matched against Epitacio "TACO" de Melo's 00 Nation, and after another grueling series that saw two maps go to overtime, Liquid came out on top to keep their IEM Cologne run alive.
Following Liquid's win over 00 Nation, Keith "NAF" Markovic sat down with Dust2.us' Liam "Slevo" Slevin to discuss the arduous match against the Brazilian squad, what YEKINDAR brings to the team as a stand-in, and young prospect Eduardo "dumau" Wolkmer.
It was a long BO3 against 00 Nation. Tell me about that series, and tell me about how you are feeling now that you finally got the victory.
Obviously, it feels great to win of course. I mean, it would've felt a lot better maybe if we were closing these games out a little cleaner, and not going to OT every game I play because it's becoming very stressful already and we're only like two games into the tournament. Everything was going pretty well, Overpass; we had our chances on Overpass, obviously a lot better than we did versus Spirit. There was definitely rounds where we could've won it, and versus Spirit, we had no chance. I mean, they played well, they picked Overpass, they clearly saw that it was a weakness when we played Spirit.
Mirage, we were obviously way more confident on the map, but surprisingly they were still playing really really well on the map, but we were kinda able to squeak out the rounds we needed whereas in Overpass they were able to squeak out the crucial rounds that they needed to win. Mirage just went our way, and this is one of those games where it could've been 2-0 for them, it could've been 2-0 for us if we got our Overpass rounds.
We were able to close it out, then on Ancient, a more comfortable map, we studied them and they played exactly the same as they did, and it was so obvious from how they were playing unfortunately that I think they needed to switch it up a little more. We had some reads where, if TACO is somewhere and he dies, we have an understanding that they're on the opposite side of the map. As a new team, that's obviously really hard and difficult for them as they've switched 2-3 players in their lineup, so it's completely understandable to not be able to fix the formula and try and switch it a little bit. We were very confident, we were hitting out shots, everything was going well, and yeah, in the end, we had really good prep and we felt very confident and it just worked out in the end for us.
You guys brought in YEKINDAR for this tournament as a stand-in. We had a talk with EliGE after your previous game against Spirit, and he said that he brought a good vibe into the team, he's been making dad jokes. What has your experience with YEKINDAR been like so far?
With YEKINDAR it's been amazing. It's definitely something completely new because he recently just became a tier one professional player a year ago, whereas all of us have been playing professional CS for seven or eight years already. It's nice to have that fresh blood and fresh understanding, and that newfound hunger when you reach the top scene; I remember those days when I was younger and I just wanted to prove everything, you know, so obviously I can clearly see that with him. He's super motivated, he's super pumped, he gives a lot of great ideas, he honestly reminds me of Stewie2K in a sense, he kinda has the same ideas and the same mindset for the game almost. With more experience, the more he grows, and the more he plays, he'll just become even better and better, so I think he'll just be a hot prospect in Counter-Strike for a long time, as long as he continues to keep doing what he's doing.
Obviously, YEKINDAR came in to replace shox. There was a bit of a role overlap between you and shox, so tell me, playing with YEKINDAR now have you felt yourself being a bit more comfortable in terms of the role that you have?
Before when we had shox I think I had a little bit more stardom freedom in a sense. There was more space, whereas now I play more anchor bomb sites and all that, mainly just kinda sitting in sites and doing my own thing and trying my best not to make mistakes. I already have EliGE and YEKINDAR, who are very aggressive, same with nitr0 and all that, and oSee is AWPing so he's gonna go for plays as well. They need a player to just be chilling while everyone is causing chaos. When we had shox, it wasn't necessarily a big role overlap or anything like that, I think we just kinda overlapped in mindset. If shox and I were to play, EliGE, nitr0, and oSee, they're gonna step forward, but shox and I are gonna step backward. We would kinda step on our toes in some playstyles, so it was a little difficult in some areas, but I don't think we had too many difficulties with shox.
Bringing in YEKINDAR definitely helps because we can clearly see who the slow player is, and who the fast players are. On paper, it makes a little bit more sense, but right now we're still kinda a little bit young with the team and we've only had a few weeks of practice so we just gotta keep going with it and see how it goes, but I think we're in the right steps, and we have the right foundation and the right formula for this team to be a top team in the future for sure.
There was an interview with dumau yesterday, and he said that he turned you guys down to go to 00 Nation. He had a very good series against you guys. What can you say about him as a player and that interview that came out?
We saw the interview, but we never gave him an offer. I think what happened was like, since obviously with shox benching himself we needed to feel out to see if some players were kinda interested, but we never really gave out any official offers to anyone. I'm not really sure where that came from. I can clearly see that dumau is a super strong player on Overpass, he was farming. There was one shot he hit on me where I was jump-spotting and he instantly one-bulleted me, and I was like "Okay this guy's insane I guess, young kids these days". dumau seems like another hot prospect, where when the years come, the more he gets older and wiser, he'll be a very experienced player, and he'll be very strong. I'm confident that he can be a top player, and he could probably help Brazil come back into tier one relevancy.
Now having that win over 00 Nation, you're over the hump of looking for your first victory. How far do you think you can go now in this lower-bracket run?
I think we just lack some things, where we're a little bit disconnected and we don't have the chemistry yet. I was showing some frustration, some stress in the games, and it was becoming really difficult. Sometimes we'd have the upper hand but the positioning would just be wrong and everything would kinda collapse that way, and I can understand we have some young and inexperienced players on the team; to me it's just like, I've been through it so much that I'm just losing my mind at times, but I'm trying to stay composed and all that. We have some inexperienced players, and mistakes are gonna happen, and we just need more time. Sadly the player break is after Cologne, you kinda wish you could keep the ball rolling a little bit more, but yeah I think after the player break I think, back to practice, more tournaments, that's where you really learn how to play in my opinion is at events. I wish I could spend as much time as I can in Europe to just compete versus tier one teams all the time and not have to fly back and forth. Maybe one day playing European CS permanently could be more of an option, but right now just kinda need to go with what we got, and when the tournaments come back I feel like that's where we can learn a lot more.
Can we expect to see YEKINDAR maybe come back in a Liquid jersey after the player break? We know there are complications, but is that something you'd like to see?
I mean, of course, it'd be something that I'd like to see. Obviously, it's out of my jurisdiction to say what's going on with him, that's up to VP and up to Liquid, I'm not gonna talk about it. So much of what YEKINDAR has been doing for us has been really nice for our team, so I'm on board if it happens. I'll be waiting, and hopefully, after the player break, we get more answers because I want to know just as much as you do.
While Liquid can take solace in their victory over 00 Nation, the North American side have a tall task ahead of them in their next lower bracket game, as they're set to face CIS heavyweights Cloud9 tomorrow at 06:30AM.