YEKINDAR: "We had a taste [of Vitality] at EPL finals, and we want our revenge"
Liquid came into 2023 with much promise. Finals appearances at ESL Pro League and BLAST World Finals netted them substantial respect, and an optimistic outlook for the first tournaments of the year. However, a stumble at BLAST Spring Groups cast doubt onto whether Liquid were actually the giants that could stand up for North America in international LANs.
Carrying the weight of the region, Liquid came into Katowice with a mission: to achieve playoffs. After defeating FaZe in an arduous three map affair today, they did just that. Taking down FaZe guaranteed a quarterfinals appearance for the American squad and cemented themselves as a force to be reckoned with in the playoffs. After their qualification game, Dust2.us' Liam "Slevo" Slevin caught up with Liquid's European import Mareks "YEKINDAR" Gaļinskis to discuss their qualification, along with some of the troubles that Liquid have suffered recently.
You guys got through that FaZe series in the end. It looked like a pretty tough one. Tell me about it from your perspective.
It was a really intense match. We could never understand if we were gonna win or lose. For example, on Inferno, it went 16-14, but we felt like we could've lost earlier, or we could have won the game. There were rounds where I lost crucial kills, on both T and CT-side. Two times we had misplays where we got into B, but rain was hiding second or triple. It could have gone either way, but we lost 16-14 on their best map, Inferno, which isn't necessarily our favorite. We came in with confidence, on Overpass, especially on T-side, and we understood that we had the necessary rounds to close out that map. We also know that Mirage is historically one of our best maps. But even after that 10-5 half, I turned and said "a 10-5 half is not a win, guys." Then we started losing and I'm like, "damn, I actually jinxed it." I'm really happy for my boys and the mental fortitude they showed in this game. It was well played by FaZe, insane game.
The whole storyline around FaZe is that they're chasing this Grand Slam, and Katowice was the start of their really good run. With it being an elimination game and coming against tough team, you guys, could you see the pressure getting to them during that series?
I think there was some pressure but I'm not necessarily sure it was because of the Grand Slam, or that FaZe aren't necessarily in their best form at the moment. I'm not certain about it, maybe in their heads, yes, but I can't read minds.
Obviously for you guys being able to stop them from going through, was that something you had in mind before the game, or were you completely just focused on the game?
Obviously we thought we could beat them, we would like to beat them. We lost against them every time we've played, and I think we played them once in BLAST. So, we wanted to beat them, since we beat Spirit who we couldn't defeat at the Rio Major. That gave us a bit of confidence going into the game against FaZe. Daps was joking "we're gonna break FaZe's Grand Slam path this tournament, and we were like "well we'll try" and that happened.
It's looking like you guys are gonna play Vitality next, tell me what those guys are like as a matchup for you.
Vitality was always a tough opponent, specifically because of their individual style of play. Vitality players have a different sort of style than say, FaZe players. Obviously, ZywOo is always delivering but not just ZywOo, Spinx, Magisk, dupreeh, apEX, all of them. We had a taste of that at EPL Finals, and we want our revenge. What a story it would be if we beat Spirit, we beat FaZe, and we beat Vitality. Of course, we're just gonna try our best. Vitality is a great team.
Being in that arena, the Spodek, is that something you're looking forward to? Getting back in front of a crowd?
This is my second LAN Kato, my third overall. Last time, I lost in the quarterfinals to m0NESY and G2. Obviously, I want to go further, I think it's time for us to go further. I don't think we're in the best shape at the moment, but after that win against FaZe, we have all the chances to go deep into this tournament, but we will see. I'm happy to be here, I'm happy we qualified, and that's the main point.
In terms of your position in the team, when you first came into the team, we know how vocal you were in helping nitr0 out with calling. Has that stayed at the same level, gone up, or down?
It depends. Mostly, it's Nick calling and it's Nick mid-rounding, but when I see something obvious I usually call. In the spots I play, I can see a lot more information, and depending on mind games, depending on how confident I'm feeling, and depending on my individual level, for example, if I'm playing poorly I try to help my team in other ways, and if I'm playing well and everything is working, I'm not trying to interfere in Nick's calling. It's a matter of the moment.
For oSee, people might have had questions coming into this tournament about his form. I talked to EliGE earlier this week, and he said the one thing he's missing is confidence. What's it like seeing the way he's performing here because his level has certainly stepped up?
I'm super happy about that. Overall, Josh is working really hard. We all see how hard he works, how much he plays, how much he listens, and how much he watches and preps for the games, so everybody believes in him. The one thing we needed was a win, an important win, and I feel like the Spirit game gave him a lot of confidence in his own ability. That's showcased in this game. I think he played really well this tournament and specifically in this game versus FaZe. So, we'll try to elevate him even more and let him play his game.
Another player on this team is EliGE. When you joined the team, EliGE discussed him moving spots. When we talked with him earlier this week, he talked about how he's moved back in some of his spots, and some things have been shuffled around, and it looks like it's really working. What's it like having you and EliGE firing off on all cylinders at the same time?
I've said this before, I see EliGE as a strong pillar of individual force in our team, who can deliver at all certain points. It's really important to have two players who can manage macro around the map. For example, on Overpass, if I'm playing B, I don't necessarily see everything on A, and vice versa. Somebody needs to call there what setups to play, what they're expecting, what utility to use, what's happening on the map, what enemies are doing, so his eyes and his voice are really important in the team. He's been doing really well. At first, you could tell he was uncomfortable with some role changes and having a new role in the team. Before BLAST Fall, I could see him start evolving, and getting more in-depth in his own game and helping himself achieve a higher individual level. I'm not saying he doesn't need to learn any more or try anymore, but he's on a really good right path, and I can see how he's willing to learn, improve and succeed. That's an insane characteristic.
Like you said a little bit earlier, not feeling the best it terms of the overall level, you guys knows that you can get even better. With those two finals appearances that you had at the end of last year, do you think there's a real chance we could see you guys lifting that trophy at the end of Katowice?
I mean, obviously it could be possible. These two wins gave us a lot of confidence. We're just gonna play our hearts out and we will try to perform and we will try to win. I don't want to say anything outrageous since a lot of people can't read exactly what I mean in interviews. People are mad at me for saying some things. I just hope we win. I think this whole team deserves to win and it would be a great moment.
Liquid will face Vitality in their quarterfinal matchup at Friday 09:30AM. If they were to win, they would play G2 in the semifinals at Saturday 01:00PM