paiN put on a impressive underdog run to reach the second round of playoffs

Grading North America's ESL Pro League performances

With the event wrapped, it is time to evaluate our region's performance.

Overall, North America had an ESL Pro League season to forget, with paiN, FURIA and Liquid being the only teams our of the seven from the region to make it to playoffs. However, it is fair to remember they all came into the tournament with differing expectations. Therefore,' grades of teams' performances will be based on not only their final placing but their pre-event expectations, the strength of their opposition, and their performances in the server.

Evil Genuises - Grade: F

ESL Pro League Roster:

  • United States Vincente "Brehze" Cayonte

  • United States Timothy "autimatic" Ta

  • Canada Jadan "HexT" Postma

  • Sanzhar "neaLaN" Iskhakov

  • United States Jerric "wiz" Jiang

  • Denmark Daniel "Vorborg" Vorborg (Coach)

Much of the dialogue surrounding North American Counter-Strike over the opening months of 2023 has revolved around the Seattle-based organization. After their shock win over Heroic in their first LAN match of the year, the team has been on a continuous downward spiral going winless at IEM Katowice, losing in the opening match of CCT North Europe, and failing to make it through the Open qualifier of IEM Rio 2023. The most painful result has to be their failure to qualify for the Americas RMR, losing in the closed qualifier to yur, MIBR, and oNe as they went out with a 3-2 record and loss in the decider.

Two days after this disappointing result, EG were in Malta and seeking to course-correct their season by putting up some wins on their record and maybe even sneaking into playoffs in a group that had no clear fourth place team. The reality for EG was they were unlikely to beat Cloud9 in their opening match, and this proved to be true when the NA team failed to get double digits across the two maps combined losing 16-5,16-4. EG showed signs of life in match two, as on the second map against Eternal Fire, EG put together a remarkable comeback from 2-13 down to nearly steal away Overpass. Despite falling just short losing 16-14, EG showed the kind of fight fans were desperate to see. In particular, wiz demonstrated the potential he has, posting a 1.27 rating on Overpass.

The team failed to carry these positives into their next match however, as despite winning their first map of the tournament, they lost to IHC who themselves would only beat EG at Pro League. Once again wiz was near the top of the scoreboard for EG, it could be said this suggests that the AWPer might be getting more comfortable with the system and level of tier one CS. Outside of that, EG's Pro League performance was almost as bad as it can get for a team/org that should be aiming to be tier one. With just one map win, no matches won and no competitive games against top opposition EG get a F for their tournament run.

MIBR - Grade: C

ESL Pro League roster:

  • Brazil Raphael "exit" Lacerda

  • Brazil Matheus "Tuurtle" Anhaia

  • Brazil Breno "Brnz4n" Poletto

  • Brazil Henrique "HEN1" Teles

  • Brazil Felipe "insani" Yuji

  • Brazil Bruno "BIT" Fukuda Lima (Coach)

MIBR's biggest talking point so far in 2023 is their newest addition Felipe "insani" Yuji, the 18 year old has turned heads with his performance at IEM Katowice, which was his first-ever LAN. Despite the odds being against a novice player at such a prestigious event, insani posted a cool 1.27 rating at the event despite MIBR only winning one match.

MIBR's Pro League journey started off with a 2-0 loss to Fnatic, probably the team most favored to take the fourth spot in the group and whilst the Brazilians weren't close to either map, they didn't get blown out either. MIBR then managed to secure their first win, beating IHC with Henrique "HEN1" Tele having a throwback performance as the AWPer posted a 1.22 rating.

Their next match was a loss to G2 before falling to Eternal Fire in a similar fashion in the last-chance match. While the team's overall run was relatively poor, seeing insani continue to perform well while HEN1 also had a decent showing are positive signs for the future. Additionally, losing to two eventual playoff teams isn't that outlandish, netting MIBR a C grade in' gradebook.

Complexity - Grade: C-

ESL Pro League roster:

  • Johnny "JT" Theodosiou

  • United States Ricky "floppy" Kemery

  • Canada Justin "FaNg" Coakley

  • United States Michael "Grim" Wince

  • Håkon "hallzerk" Fjærli

  • Tiaan "T.c" Coertzen (Coach)

At IEM Katowice, the team went on an impressive run, one that has propelled them into the limelight as they look to qualify for the upcoming Paris Major. The team have shown their highs, but in this event, they unfortunately showed their lows.

Complexity would face off against BIG to open up their campaign, the same team that would send them down in the IEM Katowice Play-in. The Germans showed up today and easily took down Complexity in the opening match with a 2-0 scoreline. With a lower-bracket matchup against Movistar Riders, it looked like Complexity would surely move on, but that was also not in the cards as the Spaniards also dispatched Complexity in a 2-0 fashion.

For Complexity, it meant they had to rematch against Imperial, who had beaten them in the final qualification match for IEM Rio, however, this time the NA side would win the series to move on to face BIG once again. The rematch went similar to the first as Complexity came within a couple of rounds of knocking the Germans out losing 16-12, 16-12 on the last two maps to be knocked out.

Now whilst it was ultimately disappointing for the team to not make the playoffs, especially considering the Spaniards made it, there are some factors that show it was not the worst-case scenario for the Americans. Also, the team's Katowice success has altered the community's perception of the lineup. This is still a team whose most experienced player at the tier-one level is Grim who before Complexity spent barely over a year on Liquid. Complexity will be disappointed with their run but it was more of a blip in an upwards journey rather than a seriously poor performance hence their grade of C-.

# ATK - Grade: B-

ESL Pro League roster:

  • Gareth "MisteM" Ries

  • Sweden Jonathan "b0denmaster" Bodenmalm

  • United States Michael "Swisher" Schmid

  • Canada Jonathan "djay" Dallal

  • Aleksandar "cacaNito" Kjulukoski

  • Daniel "Sprayxd" Kogan

Yes, they didn't win a match. However, ATK had much lower expectations coming into the tournament than Complexity, EG, and MIBR. The side was also playing with a stand-in and had the hardest three games out of all the NA teams in attendance. ATK had picked up cacaNito for the tournament and the former BLUEJAYS star would make the most of the opportunity given.

ATK were drawn against ENCE in their opening match, who have solidified themselves as a top fifteen team. The addition of Guy "NertZ" Iluz has taken them to a completely different level, although no one was to know just how good they would perform at Pro League. ATK would take them to all three maps, although they would end up losing. The performance they put up against the international squad was a positive sign for the team, it was just unfortunate that Liquid ended up getting upset in their opener and would be ATK's next opponent.

Whilst the Liquid game was not close, the following match against Astralis was incredibly close. The Danes needed overtime on the decider map to manage to beat the inexperienced ATK side, especially when they were down 10-2 at one point. ATK even had match points, but the experience on the Danish side proved strong at the end of the game. Regardless, it was another seriously impressive performance for the team against top 20 opposition. With the performances of Swisher and cacaNito, the level of teams they faced, and how close the games were, are the factors behind ATK getting a B- despite not winning a match.

# Liquid - Grade: C-

ESL Pro League roster:

  • United States Jonathan "EliGE" Jablonowski

  • Canada Keith "NAF" Markovic

  • United States Josh "oSee" Ohm

  • United States Nick "nitr0" Canella

  • Mareks "YEKINDAR" Gaļinskis

  • United States Damian "daps" Steele (Coach)

Liquid have been back at the top recently their performance at IEM Katowice, which ended in the semi's after a loss to eventual winners G2, backed up their Grand Final runs at the end of 2022. Coming into ESL Pro League, hopes were high that Liquid could maybe go a step further. The opening match was against massive underdogs Rare Atom, and in one of the shocks of the tournament, Liquid lost 2-0, including a 16-3 battering on Overpass.

Liquid recovered though, beating fellow NA side ATK, Spirit, and getting revenge on Rare Atom to setup a playoff decider against Astralis. Liquid overcame their former nemesis, with a 2-0 win displaying an impenetrable defense on their CT side of Mirage putting up 11 rounds to close the map out. However, disappointment would follow as despite being given, in theory, a weaker playoff opponent, the team found themselves on the hands of another shocking upset.

Liquid lost 2-0 to a paiN side who were never meant to get close to playoffs, let alone win a playoff match. paiN ended the NA hopes of a trophy run at ESL Pro League, especially for a team riding extremely high. Liquid's C- is based off the high expectations of the team coming into the event and the relative weak opponents they lost to. It is not lower because Liquid did manage to recover from their opening loss to put together a strong groupstage showing, which included slaying two dangerous teams in Spirit and Astralis, but failed to take any top names and lost out to paiN in the playoffs. For those reasons, Liquid have to settle for a C-.

# FURIA - Grade: B+

ESL Pro League roster

  • Brazil Yuri "yuurih" Santos

  • Brazil Andrei "arT" Piovezan

  • Brazil Kaike "KSCERATO" Cerato

  • Brazil André "drop" Abreu

  • Brazil Rafael "saffee" Costa

  • Brazil Nicholas "guerri" Nogueira

FURIA went into ESL Pro League as a somewhat unknown quantity. At IEM Katowice, it looked like their slip-up in the Semi-Final of IEM Rio was still haunting the team as they failed to make it out of the Play-In stage. However, their performance at Pro League should give all their fans belief that the team can once again become a top contender. A strong group stage and even a second round playoff run was only stopped by the eventual winners, FaZe.

FURIA's campaign started off against fellow Brazilian side Imperial, with the arT led team taking a 2-0 victory moving onto face MOUZ. They struggled against the European squad as Christopher "dexter" Nong put on a 1.29 HLTV Rating masterclass in the series. This put FURIA into the Lower Bracket where they came up against a surprisingly strong Movistar Riders. However, FURIA managed to ride the wave though as they took a 2-1 victory.

The Brazilians finished their groupstage run with a 2-1 win over BIG and saw themselves matched up against Fnatic in the opening playoff round. An impressive 2-0 victory, with IGL arT managing to grab 15 first kills across the two maps and star rifler KSCERATO posting a 1.27 rating, propelled them into the next round. Here, FURIA's luck ran out as the team came up against a FaZe team that seemed destined to take it all. FaZe proved too strong for the Brazilian side as the Europeans cruised to a 2-0 victory. A win against a top 10 opponent and their bounce back from IEM Katowice are the big positive contributors to FURIA's grade of B+.

# paiN - Grade: A+

ESL Pro League roster:

  • Brazil Rodrigo "biguzera" Bittencourt

  • Brazil Wesley "hardzao" Lopes

  • Brazil Felipe "skullz" Medeiros

  • Brazil Romeu "zevy" Rocco

  • Brazil Gabriel "NEKIZ" Schenato

  • Brazil Henrique "rikz" Waku (Coach)

paiN are undoubtedly the success story of the tournament, from no expectations to a top twelve placing and nearly beating MOUZ to make top eight. paiN had a rough showing at IEM Katowice and their veteran IGL Vinicios "PKL" Coelho stepped down. paiN brought back NEKIZ in his place, giving the leadership role over to biguzera and showing what they had at their first LAN with a new lineup.

Pro League started off poorly for the Brazilian team, losing to a NIP team that have failed to impress in recent times. Despite the opening loss, the team regrouped and returned with a vengeance as they smoked Rooster, took their first upset win against OG, and would put an end to the Australian Grayhound team that were trying to make a shock playoff run of their own.

That should have been good enough for the Brazilian team - making playoffs and beating a OG team that had been experiencing a uptick in form. However, they decided they had one more win in the tank as they took down NA's undisputed number one team in Liquid, who they didn't only defeat, but beat convincingly in a 2-0 fashion. paiN even came close to upsetting MOUZ in the next round, after taking map one they came agonizingly close as they lost 16-13 on the second map. Although they would not be as competitive in the decider, paiN showed much more than anyone expected of them and obviously, they get a A+.

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#1(With 0 replies)
March 28, 2023 08:59PM
Idk, I feel like Liquid and Col deserve worse if MIBR got a C. Both of those teams did waaay worse than what should be expected of them at this point
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