nitr0's greatest hits
After coming back to Counter-Strike in 2022, Nick "nitr0" Canella helped stabilize a lost Liquid side; whilst results were spotty to begin with, the addition of Mareks "YEKINDAR" Gaļinskis helped the team reclaim their spot at the top of the scene with two grand final appearances at the end of the year, a top-four finish at IEM Katowice, and their first Major playoff appearance since 2019. Liquid's Captain has called time on his playing career and IEM Dallas will be the American's final event. nitr0, who is affectionately known as "Captain America" by the community, has collected a number of memorable moments and in this article, we take a look at his career highlights.
First Major appearance - 2014
nitr0 had spent most of 2014 playing in the domestic scene with AREA 51 and Denial, however, he joined iBUYPOWER for DreamHack Winter 2014 which would be his first S-Tier LAN which also happened to be his first Major appearance. Whilst iBUYPOWER failed to make much of a splash at the event, finishing in 9-12th place, it was the first of many S-Tier appearances nitr0 would make in his career.
Signs with Liquid - 2015
Possibly one of the most definitive "one club" men in CS:GO history, there are few players who have stuck with one banner as long as nitr0 stuck with Liquid, especially in the modern Counter-Strike space. After iBUYPOWER, nitr0 linked up with the likes of Eric "adreN" Hoag and Keith "NAF" Markovic, who were signed up by Liquid as their first foray into Counter-Strike. After signing Jonathan "EliGE" Jablonowski the team quickly established themselves as one of the best in the region with wins in domestic tournaments like iBUYPOWER invitational - Fall 2015 and CEVO Professional North America League Season 8.
First top four finish at a S-Tier LAN - 2015
It was happy hunting on home turf for nitr0 and his Liquid team as a second-place finish at the iBUYPOWER Cup qualified them to Intel Extreme Masters San Jose. The first IEM on North American soil in CS:GO gave Liquid their first top-four finish at an S-Tier LAN event and was the first sign of them being the dominant team in the region moving forward.
First top four finish at a Major - 2016
Not long after IEM San Jose, Liquid made another statement run at one of CS:GO's biggest tournaments, this time at a Major. MLG Columbus will always be synonymous with Liquid for unfortunate reasons but it's important to remember Liquid's result was the first top-four finish for a North American team since compLexity at DreamHack 2013, the very first CS:GO Major. Their run included an impressive upset win over FaZe in which nitr0 posted a 1.44 rating. Ultimately they would crumble in the semifinal after holding big leads over Luminosity in both maps, losing to the eventual tournament winners 15-19 and 16-19, a match that is remembered for that Marcelo "coldzera" David AWP clip.
Grand Finalist at a Major - 2016
Liquid had a rocky 2016; despite their top-four finish at the previous Major, a period of roster instability and question marks over the future of Oleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev hadn't helped the team. Despite being the region's highest-ranked side coming into ESL One Cologne 2016, few expected them to make much of a run and certainly no one thought they could make the final. However, that's exactly what happened, and Liquid would go on to face old foes SK (the same lineup that played for Luminosity at MLG Columbus), who were in the middle of their dominant era at the top of the CS pyramid. The Liquid side fell to the best team in the world in the grand final, but it was another positive showing for the team and with s1mple out of the team after the event there was hope stability could bring trophies to nitr0 and his team.
First big event LAN trophy - 2018
What followed the team's Major final appearance was a period of being lost in the wilderness, as the team struggled to recapture the form that saw them secure a seat at the top of the scene. However, in 2018, after four years nitr0 finally got his hands on a meaningful LAN trophy at cs_summit 2 when his Liquid team beat out recent Major winners Cloud9 for the title. This Liquid would have four of the five players that would make up the most successful NA team of all time as NAF had been brought back into the roster alongside the addition of Russel "Twistzz" Van Dulken. The result was followed by two top-four finishes at S-Tier events at Starladder & i-League StarSeries Season 8 and IEM Katowice.
Fastest Grand Slam in history - 2019
The missing pieces were found for Liquid when they added rifler Jake "Stewie2k" Yip and Eric "adreN" Hoag as a coach, as nitr0 would go on to lead the team to a magnificent year. The team started off 2019 hot with a win at the iBUYPOWER Masters in Los Angeles, but it would be down under where the team would kick off their Intel Grand Slam streak though as they won IEM Sydney to claim the first of their S-Tier crowns. Liquid would then win DreamHack Dallas to kick off a seven-tournament win streak which included important titles like ESL Pro League Season 9 Finals, ESL One Cologne 2019, BLAST Pro Series Los Angeles, and IEM Chicago 2019. It would be the win at ESL One Cologne that secured the team the Intel Grand Slam in a record 63 days.
Giving North America hope again
nitr0 will be scrutinized for some of his individual form since returning to the game in 2022, however, no one can argue that after the addition of Mareks "YEKINDAR" Gaļinskis, this Liquid team allowed NA CS fans to believe they now have a team who can challenge for titles. A second-place finish at ESL Pro League Season 16 was followed by another second-place finish at BLAST Premier World Finals which were the first grand final appearances for an NA team in a S-Tier LAN since 2019.
In 2023 a fourth-place finish at IEM Katowice demonstrated that Liquid were back, and despite being the victims of an upset loss against Apeks in Paris, they still managed to make the first Major playoff appearance for a North American side since 2019. IEM Dallas will be nitr0's last tournament as a Liquid player and although Captain America's return has not yielded a trophy so far, it has certainly revitalized the hopes and dreams of fans of North American Counter-Strike.