• Lukas DeWitt

Players with Something to Prove at ESL One New York

ESL One New York is just about ready to kick off and it is jam-packed with storylines. Just about every team coming into the Big Apple has an overarching story surrounding them as they prepare to close out September with a victory. For these players, New York will serve as a place to prove themselves, and for different reasons. To preview ESL One New York, let's take a look at five players coming into the event with the biggest chip on their shoulder:

NiKo (FaZe)

World-class talent Nikola ‘NiKo’ Kovac has been unable to return to his peak individual form for months now and the FaZe roster felt underwhelming for some time. After some changes, FaZe comes to New York with a brand new lineup consisting of prospect Helvijs ‘broky’ Saukants and Brazilian star Marcelo ‘coldzera’ David. The addition of these two players means that NiKo moves back into the in-game leading role that arguably factored to his regression as a player. However, playing in this lineup may lead to different results for NiKo as a leader and for FaZe as a team.

Over the course of the year, NiKo earned himself a 1.16 rating at big events. Impressive for most, but a considerable dropoff in performance from his 1.25 rating at big events in 2018. More recently, his performance regressed even further from that. His average rating over FaZe’s previous three events is a mere 1.08. NiKo ended lower than a 1.10 one time each in 2017 and 2018. In 2019 he ended four of the nine events attended below a 1.10.

NiKo is back to calling and coldzera has finally found his way onto the FaZe roster. It feels like FaZe has something positive to work off of for the first time in a long time. With a certain level of excitement surrounding the lineup, there also comes expectations. Like previously mentioned, NiKo is performing poorly as of late and is once again the caller. He needs to find himself individually, as well as maintain the team tactically. It is a tall task and only the world’s best players could handle it. ESL One New York serves as the first test for what could be a new era of NiKo and company.

suNny (ENCE)

ENCE played their first official matches with ex-mousesports rifler Mikka ‘suNny’ Kemppi under two weeks ago at BLAST Pro Series Moscow. The debut of the newest ENCE lineup was underwhelming, to say the least, and almost the entire lineup played poorly. It is not all bad though. After having the rest of the month to prepare, the new look ENCE should be ready with a better product with increased firepower.

Although suNny was on the shelf for the entire year prior to BLAST Moscow, there are huge expectations for him moving forward with this lineup. He was a star for mousesports last year, ending 2018 with a 1.13 big event rating and landing No. 16 on HLTV’s Top 20 list. There is no doubt that suNny is an upgrade in firepower, but will his addition be enough to outweigh what you lose by removing in-game leader Aleksi ‘Aleksib’ Virolainen? If suNny can return to form sooner rather than later, than absolutely. Just like previously mentioned with NiKo, suNny’s first test is in New York.

MarKE (eUnited)

After being with eUnited for well over a year, star rifler Kaleb ‘moose’ Jayne chose to step down from the lineup, which led to eUnited bringing Ryan ‘freakazoid’ Abadir to the lineup. This eUnited lineup will make its big event debut at ESL One New York, and the competition stands to be extremely tough for them considering they are the underdogs with a fresh lineup. Many are looking for this team to be an early exit from the event, but in order for the team to avoid that, they’re going to need a player to step up and take over for moose.

The player ready to take over that responsibility is rifler Edgar ‘MarKE’ Maldonado. He is the best rifler on the team and looks to be the most capable player in the lineup to takeover as a star player. On the eye test alone, MarKE is clearly the most talented player on the eUnited roster, but the data also says the same thing. MarKE’s 1.16 rating over 23 maps at LAN is far and away the best on his team, making him the readiest player to step up for the team as the No. 1 option.

eUnited is coming into ESL One New York as an extreme underdog and many are going to be quick to dismiss them. Now is a perfect time for the lineup to step up and prove everyone wrong. This is an opportunity for MarKE and company to really put their name on the map, let's see if they are up to the challenge.

Ethan (NRG)

Entry-fragger Ethan ‘Ethan’ Arnold had impressive growth as a player in 2018, closing the year with a 1.13 big event rating and looking like a bonafide top 20 player. Through the first quarter of 2019 we got to see glimpses of that same performance, but as of late Ethan has been a shell of himself individually. His big event rating on the year is currently at 1.09 and his impact has noticeably decreased in the server. He declined over the course of the year, but as of late it has gotten even worse. Over the last three events, his rating averages out to a pedestrian .97. His detailed stats are equally as unimpressive. 71 ADR, .62 KPR, .70 DPR, and less than 70% KAST is certainly not good enough for a player of his caliber.

ESL One New York will be the fourth event with in-game leader Peter ‘stanislaw’ Jarguz in the lineup. The first three were less than stellar for Ethan, but like the players mentioned before, New York will serve as a proving ground for him. Ethan very much has to have a good event here otherwise it may be time to start raising concerns toward the lineup.

kennyS (G2)

G2 is once again fielding a different roster, and this time around, there is only one-star player to lead the charge. Kenny ‘kennyS’ Schrub now stands alone as the sole star in the G2 lineup and there are no more excuses for him when it comes to his underperformances. With star rifler turned in-game leader Richard ‘shox’ Papillion removed from the lineup, the game plan can be specifically tuned for kennyS to blossom within the server.

Who knows how Kenny will perform at New York, but the previous formula between the two was absolutely not working and their individual performances were suffering. Kenny’s performances were especially boom or bust within this lineup. His extremely powerful 1.25 performance over 17 maps at ESL Pro League Season 9 heavily skews an otherwise average portfolio for an AWPer of his statistical caliber. Overall, kennyS is sitting at a 1.11 rating on the year at big events. If he wants to be the definitive No. 1 guy on a world-class team, he is going to have to elevate his game beyond that.