Rivalry Reloaded: CLG and TSM jostle for third place in LCS
The once classic North American rivalry between the long standing organizations has admittedly grown stale in seasons prior, but CLG’s resurgence this Summer has put Counter Logic Gaming firmly back into the spotlight and currently one game ahead of their rivals Team SoloMid. After two wins in successive weeks against top tier opponents, CLG is back with a vengeance as they look to take away a World Championship slot from TSM in the near future.
Can CLG repeat their era of dominance from 2015-16 in order to achieve that status? Or will TSM eventually regain form in time for playoffs? In an epic rivalry of historic proportions, both teams are putting it all on the line to once again reach their organizations goals. This time, a playoff position and a potential spot at Worlds hangs in the balance.
Return to relevance
CLG’s Summer split seems like a quick fix that happened all of a sudden with the addition of Hyeong-min “Ruin” Kim, but the renovation of this once all-LCS caliber lineup to the roster seen today has actually been two years in the making.
Piece by piece, CLG has had to let go of older generations of players in order to make way for their newest round of talent. What was once the test tube baby of their success has now blossomed into a full grown threat in the form of Trevor “Stixxay” Hayes on AD Carry. Once a rookie to a team full of veterans, Stixxay’s quick rise to prominence as the heir of Doublelift didn’t come without a hitch.
The past few seasons, Stixxay’s dips in performances were always closely related with his teams success. At his lowest he underwhelms, but his potency at peak level has been undeniable and even trophy winning when given the right resources.
After going through an identity crisis in 2017-18, CLG decided to forgo big name imports and pick from within for their newest jungler acquisition. While Raymond “Wiggily” Griffin didn’t have awe-inspiring, immediate impact with CLG in his debut, the slow burn on his career has been refreshing to see in a league where opportunities can often be cut short. Wiggily suffered in the early goings of 2019 due to team synergy issues, but the changes made this split has seen his profile rise immensely throughout the league.
Bringing in a proven and stable veteran in Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage was simply the icing on the cake for a robust roster uniquely strapped with talent. CLG have always been at their peak with a reliable bot lane and an adequate mid laner that can follow up on those lane advantages. With top and bot reformed, and Wiggily performing at an ever-improving level, CLG have put together a formidable record this Summer that have seen them take wins over Cloud9 and Team SoloMid in rather convincing fashion.
While they are by no means a LCS title contender, Counter Logic Gaming have crafted a roster worthy of a gauntlet run, and TSM are once again the team to beat in order for them to reach their goal. In this reinvigorated rivalry, the new chapters being written are prefaced with swings in momentum, and CLG have all of the intangibles riding in their favor heading into playoffs.
Trouble in Paradise?
On the other side of the rift, Team SoloMid are facing unique problems with their roster synergy that stems from their inability to find a jungler that fits their team’s style for years now. Not since Svenskeren have TSM been able to function with a jungler at an elite level. Although Jonathan “Grig” Armao looked serviceable at the end of 2018, his hand injury at the start of 2019 would prove fatal for the team as they have just landed on a full-time starter this last week.
Matthew “Akaadian” Higginbotham has set a better tempo for TSM as a jungler this year, but he is by no means the x-factor for a TSM squad that is regularly misfiring across lanes. Sergen “Broken Blade” Çelik has not taken the league by storm (as predicted) being a raw and still maturing talent in the NALCS, and their bot lane has been just as reliable as both Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen and Andy “Smoothie” Ta haven’t gelled as a unit regardless of their pedigree.
At certain points throughout the season, Zven has hinted toward his morale waning in his sophomore season in North America. With a new duo partner, the identity in bot lane has been altered for Zven and his lane partner isn’t fully to blame, because the problems seem to be rooted deeper than just a few underperforming players. While TSM are by no means having a dismal season, the expectations for the most dominant LoL team in North America’s history have always been high, and this iteration of TSM continue to make crucial mistakes with playoffs on the horizon.
On paper, TSM have the skill across the board to win out against CLG, OpTic Gaming, and the rest of the contending playoff teams besides Team Liquid. But the clutch moments in playoffs are decided by the better functioning unit, and TSM are failing in those departments while teams like CLG and 100T have been soaring with their team fighting ability and map movements overall. Smoothie said it himself that TSM have been playing ‘their own game’ in recent weeks and the results have shown just that.
To cancel out the narrative of a resurging CLG, Team SoloMid have to rally together under the guidance of their staff as they look to derail the hype train that has been building on the other side of the tracks. With the momentum against them, Bjergsen will have to play at MVP caliber level and the rest of the roster will have to mesh with Akaadian in order to bring themselves back onto the World Championship stage. Anything less in their eyes, will be failure.