Evaluating EG's run in Rio
Evil Geniuses have endured a torrid time over the past few years, since the core reached #1 in the world after winning ESL One New York in 2019 the organization has been in free fall. An attempt to rescue the situation by placing Jake "Stewie2k" Yip at the reigns in the end of 2021 done little to stop the fall as the team failed to get anything going.
After the dramatic end to the Stewie2k-led lineup, EG required a big change of direction and they found it in EU IGL Sanzhar "neaLaN" Iskhakov in a move that even the player has admitted was a surprise. To join the revamped roster EG promoted 21 year old rifler Jadan "HexT" Postma from their Blueprint project in the place of the outgoing William "RUSH" Wierzba.
The first test for the new side was ESL Pro League where they had failed to win a single map for the past two seasons, and before that only managed one map win in Season 13. Despite only just being brought together the team showed immediate improvement with wins over Eternal Fire and Movistar Riders and after the EG side breezed through the RMR, even beating FURIA, there was a small hope for NA fans that they might do some damage in Rio.
It started off well for the EG side with a comfortable win over IHC with HexT and neaLaN both showing why they were added to the side, with 1.33 and 1.24 ratings respectively, but most importantly we saw a glimpse of peak Tsvetelin 'CeRq' Dimitrov whose struggles with performance had coincided with EG's tumble down the rankings.
They were drawn a tough match against a MOUZ side that would go on to put together an impressive run to the playoffs, and after a poor first half EG managed to launch a fight back to give the EU team a bit of a scare. Once again neaLaN was showing why he is so highly regarded in the CIS region as he topped the scoreboard for the NA side, this time though both HexT and CeRq went missing.
The team could take heart from their performance in defeat against MOUZ and with their next opponents being a team they had already beaten at the RMR, 9z, they were looking odds on to sit at a 2-1 record and with a healthy chance of progressing. The first big disappointment came for the new EG side as they failed to close out two map points to allow the comeback kings to take the game to Overtime and with all the momentum in favor of the South American side, EG fell heartbreakingly 17-19.
With that loss, the EG side had the unenviable task of facing off against Cloud9 for survival, and whether the CIS team is just a step above at the moment or EG were still feeling the after-effects of the previous defeat, they failed to put up a convincing fight. This time it was neaLaN, who had provided so much of the fragging power in the team's previous games, who struggled posting a 0.54 rating.
Just like that EG's run was over, their dreams of upsetting the Major were finished and they would be going home with just a sole win against the Mongolian minnows of IHC and a loss against 9z whom they really should be beating. It makes grim reading on paper, but in a world where everyone expects things instantly are people over-critiquing EG?
As stated i think its fair to say EG should be beating 9z, especially if they want to reach the kind of heights expected of such a historic CS organization. However, the team's losses to Cloud9 and MOUZ are perfectly acceptable if not expected for a team three months into their lifespan. Therefore I think it's more important to take a look at the individual pieces of the team, rather than the EG side as a whole, and see whether even when the team does click if they have the right pieces.
Starting off with the positives both neaLaN and HexT done their jobs in Rio as far as neaLaN bringing a structure and fragging ability as a fragging IGL and with HexT slotting in to RUSH's support roles. HexT was brought in to be an upgrade in firepower in those roles and whilst he only posted a 0.75 rating across the event as a whole, we saw glimpses of this such as a 1.33 rating in their only map win.
It would be harsh for anyone to criticise Timothy "autimatic" Ta for his performance in Rio, yes he had a poor tournament posting just a 0.88 rating across the Challengers stage but for a player who has consistently been brilliant since coming back to play last year we can write this off as just a blip in the road. EG will want autimatic to regain his form for next season however as he has become a crucial cog in their gameplan.
Now for the negatives and as it has been for the past three years the issues come from EG's former stars not being able to step-up when it matters, Vincent "Brehze" Cayonte struggled again as posted a 0.88 rating with his sole positive k/d performance coming in the team's loss against 9z. Meanwhile fellow former star, AWPer CeRq has been showing glimpses that he is more comfortable in neaLaN's system than he has been for the past few years however he still only managed a 0.90 rating with a 0.79 rating in their loss to 9z really holding the team back from closing out that map.
It will be interesting to see how long EG give both Brehze and CeRq before they are forced into finally switching one or both of their long standing members out, the rosters freshness will only be able to be used as an excuse for so long before the EG higher ups start expecting results and with the core of neaLaN, HexT and autimatic currently performing as expected it is the teams x-factors that need to step-up for EG to become a serious contender by the time BLAST Paris rolls around.
Both CeRq and Brehze have previously been top 20 players in the world and if only one of them were able to regain that level then i think that would be enough to bring EG to the next level. If both of them can refind that form, then dare i say Liquid will have to look over their shoulder as the number one NA team.
EG's Rio run was disappointing on paper but in context, it was surely to be expected at this stage. However, it feels all too familiar for EG to once again be waiting on CeRq and Brehze to regain their star form to help turn the team from top 30 to top 10 for the next season.