Six Facts from NA's time at Pro League Groups
Ever since ESL Pro League was ripped away from North America unceremoniously, it's been a bit of a hard time for the region to compete. North America lost valuable practice time against worldly opponents and has seen organizations flee the region as financial opportunities have become more fleeting. Despite all that, America perseveres because it must. While ESL Pro League has become harder for teams, there are times when we do well. However, so far at this edition of the event, it's been sort of a mixed bag.
M80, who earned their spot at Pro League thanks to being the remaining core of ATK, unfortunately fell in last place as they lost to Apeks, 5yclone, and 9z, the latter of which was able to make a miraculous run and ended up qualifying for playoffs. Evil Geniuses met a similar fate, but they didn't finish in last this time around thanks to a victory against Rooster. Finally, Liquid also failed to make it past the group stage. They had a difficult path, but you really gotta win against teams like Eternal Fire. You just can't do that.
With all that said, let's look at some of the interesting and notable takeaways from this edition's group stage.
#1: NA had three players in the T-Side Top 20
Russel "Twistzz" Van Dulken, Ricky "floppy" Kemery, and Michael "Grim" Wince all featured in the Top 20 of best statistically performing players so far at ESL Pro League Season 18's group stage. Twistzz makes his appearance at #7 and a 1.27 HLTV Rating, with floppy following at #11 and a 1.23 HLTV Rating, and Grim rounding out the trio at #17 with a 1.21 HLTV Rating. Brazil and South America also got in on the action with several players littered around. Conversely, it was Jadan "HexT" Postma that was the only North American to feature in the Top 20 on the CT-side, as featured at #16 with a 1.32 Rating.
#2: YEKINDAR was 4th in T-side Opening Duels
Randy "YEKINDAR" Smith, otherwise really known as Mareks Gaļinskis, had a rough ESL Pro League Season 18 with Liquid. The team did not perform to the standards held for them and questions are now coming up about how this Liquid team will advance forward. Beyond that, individually, YEKINDAR performed mostly okay, with a 1.04 HLTV Rating. However, where the player truly shined was during the T-side, where YEKINDAR was involved in the opening kills approximately 31.7% of the time, coming away with a 55.1% success rate and a 1.30 opening kill rating, which was the 4th best.
#3: Swisher and NAF the best NA Pistol T-side players
We haven't gotten to talk much about M80, as they unfortunately placed last and had a pretty unfortunate tournament overall. However, one of the bright spots is Michael "Swisher" Schmid who proved his worth during the pistol rounds. His 1.82 t-side pistol rating is 7th highest amongst all players. Joining him closely is NAF, who ended up with a 1.73 pistol rating.
#4: Liquid record worst-ever Pro League placing
It hasn't been the easiest time for Liquid and their North American contingent. For the first time since the creation of the organization, the squad has finished in 17th-20th place. It's an awful sign for the squad and the team that they haven't been able to show the improvement they've needed, but even worse for fans when they were promised improvement as they went European. The previous low for Liquid was 13th-16th and happened... just last time around at ESL Pro League Season 17. Before that? It was 9th-12th at ESL Pro League Season 13 in April 2021 during the online era.
#5: JT and floppy almost beat G2 for the second time at ESL Pro League
It was almost perfect for Complexity at Pro League. Floppy finally found his form, hallzerk was looking like a beast, and EliGE had seamlessly fallen into the team. Everything was clicking and suddenly, they were dominating G2! They had the first map put to bed and then a 15-10 lead on Inferno, just needing the single round. Then it all fell apart, with G2 coming back from that deficit and then winning the decider. This, however, would have been the second time for JT and floppy to beat G2 at Pro League, with the first win coming against them back in 2019 while on ATK. At the ESL Pro League Season 10 finals, ATK would lose the first map, but then go on to reverse sweep. floppy once again topfragged as the team would beat Kenny "kennyS" Schrub and his teammates in an upset for the ages.
#6: Evil Geniuses didn’t finish last!
Having finished last three times in a row from Season 13 through Season 15, Evil Geniuses improved upon their placing by winning two games in group play at ESL Pro League 16, bumping them up to 13th-16th place. The squad have had their issues, and the organization is in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons, but hey, they came away with one win and don't have the spotlight on themselves constantly for the wrong reasons.