Ranking the most impactful EU players that played in NA
In 2022, all three of North America's biggest Counter-Strike teams have signed (or have had extended stand-ins) from Europe in order to bolster their teams. Liquid brought in star rifler Mareks "YEKINDAR" Gaļinskis, Complexity signed Norwegian AWPer Håkon "hallzerk" Fjærli from Dignitas, and Evil Genuises acquired IGL Sanjar "neaLaN" İshakov from K23. While it is too early to judge any of these players' tenures in their new homes, it's worth looking at some of the names that have preceded the three newest NA adoptees and look at some of the most impactful Europeans that made a splash while North America.
In order to rank the most impactful players from Europe that were imported to NA teams, let's first make the framework clear. Firstly, the player must have been an official signing for the team, so no one-off stand-ins. Secondly, the player must have joined or played in a North American core, which means that three of the five players on the lineup must have been either American or Canadian for the majority of their time on the team. The final part of the framework for ranking these players is that they will not be judged on their entire career and name value, they will be judged on their impact and performances on their respective NA teams.
In 2021, Liquid signed legendary French player Richard "shox" Papillon. Although the Major winner came in with a lot of promise, he failed to live up to expectations. Four years prior, however, another French player made the jump across the Atlantic when François "AMANEK" Delaunay joined veteran IGL Sean "[email protected]" Gares at Misfits alongside fellow Frenchman David "devoduvek" Dobrosavljevic.
Replacing the departing Russel "Twistzz" Van Dulken who was Liquid bound, AMANEK's time in North America would last around nine months, being released shortly before the organization departed CS altogether. During his time in NA, AMANEK and Misfits qualified for the ELEAGUE Boston Major after coming second in the Minor to Liquid. The most impressive result from this iteration of the Misfits roster came at ESL Pro League Season 6 Finals, where the NA/French lineup placed 3rd-4th, only losing in the semifinals to eventual winners SK.
Back in 2017, many years before winning ESL Pro League Season 13 in the epic fashion that he did, Casper "cadiaN" Møller was a 22-year-old player who found himself moving to Rogue, a struggling NA team. At the time of his arrival, Rogue was on the brink of relegation from ESL Pro League and ranked 101st in the world on HLTV. While cadiaN was not signed to be the IGL, he would soon find himself leading the team which contained NA legend Spencer "Hiko" Martin, following the departure of Josh "shinobi" Abastado.
During his time in Rogue, cadiaN would help elevate the team to heights that would have been far-fetched at the time of his arrival. The team peaked at number 22 on the HLTV rankings, with the Dane leading them to the finals of Dreamhack Open Austin 2018, posting an insane 1.30 rating in the process. Perhaps the biggest achievement for cadiaN and Rogue would be qualifying for the FACEIT London Major. While he would eventually return to Denmark after signing for North, cadiaN's leadership and presence in Rogue resulted in an exciting team that helped further develop talents such as Hunter "SicK" Mims and Daniel "vice" Kim.
Rory "dephh" Jackson was so much of a stalwart in the NA scene, it might be easy for people to forget that he actually came from Britain. For anyone who may be unfamiliar with dephh, he joined Complexity in February 2016, and would remain on the roster until the infamous "Juggernaut" announcement in October 2019. Signing alongside the previously mentioned shinobi, dephh would play with Daniel "roca" Gustaferri and legendary 1.6 player Danny "fRoD" Montaner in this initial squad.
Playing for the Dallas based organization for nearly four years, dephh witnessed many different rosters. During his time there, dephh would reach the semi finals of tournaments such as International Gaming League 2016 and Dreamhack Open Atlanta 2018. The peak of dephh's Complexity run came toward the tail end of 2018, beating Rogue to win the Minor for the Faceit London Major, before going on to make playoffs after going 3-0 in the New Legends phase over established international teams Fnatic, G2, and BIG. Although dephh was unceremoniously set aside in favor of the juggernaut lineup, he will go down as "one of us" in terms of NA CS history after all his contributions to Complexity.
Long before Alvaro "SunPayus" Garcia set the world alight with his sensational Spanish sniping for Movistar Riders, there was another Spaniard slaying the scene. Oscar "mixwell" Cañellas joined Optic in April 2016, replacing Shahzeb 'ShahZaM' Khan on the AWP, playing with the organization until February 2018. The departures of Tarik "tarik" Celik and William "RUSH" Wierzba to Cloud9 in September 2017 would result in the last five months of mixwell's time in Optic being in an EU lineup, however, his peak undoubtedly came in the notorious NA side.
In 2016, mixwell posted an average rating of 1.17 as he helped Optic to one of the best runs of form that an NA team has produced in international competition. Optic claimed victory against the French giant, G2 in the final of Northern Arena 2016 - Montreal, before defeating Astralis a few weeks later to win Eleague Season 2. Although they would fail to repeat their triumph against Astralis a week later in the finals of ECS Season 2, this would earn Optic and mixwell the number 2 rank on HLTV's rankings. Although they would not be able to maintain this insane level of form, Optic's run is often looked back on as one of the most exciting teams NA produced, and the Spanish star who produced explosive, yet consistent, AWPing displays played a big role in doing so.
Ok, hear me out. Oleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev is undoubtedly the greatest player to touch Counter-Strike. When he joined Hiko at Liquid in February 2016 he was already showing glimpses of the greatness that was yet to come. Unfortunately for NA fans, his time on Liquid was incredibly short, stepping down from the active roster in April 2016 and spending time on loan at the Ukrainian team Worst Players for a month due to homesickness. The young Ukranian did return to the active lineup in June before playing two final events for the North Americans.
With such a tumultuous and short run in NA, you may be asking yourself: "How does s1mple rank at number 2?" In the short span of time he spent in NA, s1mple elevated Liquid to heights that no NA team had reached before. Prior to MLG Columbus, no North American side had reached the semi-finals of a Major. s1mple was a man possessed in Columbus, dragging Liquid to within one round of a Major final and putting up MVP level numbers at age eighteen, before the legendary Marcelo "coldzera" David jumping AWP 4k would change the game entirely.
After returning from his loan spell, s1mple would get his second shot at a Major with Liquid at ESL One Cologne 2016 which would be his final tournament with the team. Falling from heaven on Cache to double noscope Freddy "KRIMZ" Johansson and Dennis "dennis" Edman in a 1v2 would show the confidence and swagger that the teenager exuded in his gameplay. Beating the three-time Major champions Fnatic in the semi-finals, s1mple and Liquid had gone one step further than they had done in Columbus. They had made North America's first Major final, an accolade that has only been accomplished one more time in the six years that have followed. While painfully short, s1mple's run in NA will go down as one of the most impactful runs in history.
To newer fans, Tsvetelin "CeRq" Dimitrov may just be the underwhelming AWPer for a lackluster Evil Genuises team, but there is a reason that so many fans and pundits hold out hope that he can return to form. Mastermind IGL Damian "daps" Steele brought the Bulgarian babyface into the fold at NRG at the age of 17, replacing Peter "ptr" Gurney on the roster in August 2017.
Five years later, CeRq still remains in NA and has acquired an impressive amount of accolades for his collection. Winning his first MVP during his team's triumph at IEM Shanghai 2018, NRG would go on to claim victory at cs_summit 3 in 2018. A semi-finals appearance at the StarLadder Berlin Major and a run of good form would catch the eye of Evil Genuises who acquired the team from NRG in September 2019. Victory at IEM New York 2019 and StarSeries & i-League CS:GO Season 8 would land CeRq the 18th spot on HLTV's top 20 players of the year.
The move to online CS would not slow down CeRq and Evil Geniuses, with CeRq earning his second MVP by winning BLAST Premier: Spring 2020 American Finals before the squad would defeat Liquid in the final of ESL One: Cologne 2020 Online - North America. During his time on Evil Geniuses, the team would peak at number 1 on the HLTV rankings two separate times, first in November 2019, and for the second time in September 2020.
Wielding the most important weapon in the game, CeRq proved integral to the success of NRG and EG, CeRq averaged a 1.16 rating between 2018 and 2020, and only had a negative rating at three out of a staggering sixty events in that period. Although the CeRq of old is gone and does not seem to be coming back, his incredible performances and consistency during the peak of his powers make it hard to dispute that he has been the most impactful European to play in a North American team.