The Rundown: Americas Road to Rio
The newly formed Road to Rio is set to begin tomorrow, and there is no doubt the North American side of things will be highly contested. The twelve best teams in North America have been split into two groups, with the three best teams from each group set to advance into the playoff bracket. Although there is no trophy to be lifted, there are points to be earned. Teams will earn points from the event as a part of the new Major system, so every game matters. Before we get into the action tomorrow, let's break down the groups:
#1) 100 Thieves [HLTV: #9]
#2) Evil Geniuses [HLTV: #7]
#3) Cloud9 [HLTV: #25]
#4) Gen.G [HLTV: #22]
#5) Orgless [HLTV: #34]
#6) Triumph [HLTV: #42]
North America’s group A looks largely top-heavy on paper, with the top two teams heavily favored in the three-seat race to the playoffs. However, the circumstances are unique enough that underdog teams could find an opportunity to upset the top teams. Each team will play one another in a best of three over the next twelve days, giving plenty of time for those upsets to come to fruition. Each team has a storyline heading into the event that could help or hurt them during a pivotal time in the CS calendar:
100 Thieves - The top of the 100 Thieves roster is two studs in Joakim ‘jkaem’ Myrbostad and Justin ‘jks’ Savage. Although the team lacks a consistent third impact player, these two continue to show up whenever necessary to keep the team competitive at a top-level. They fell short at Pro League, placing fifth, but played their enemies mostly close in defeat. Most notably, their loss against No. 6 ranked Liquid was a two map brawl that went to round 30 and overtime. On paper, they look like the best in the group, and as long as the star duo play well, they should skate into the playoffs.
Evil Geniuses - Evil Geniuses’ performance will largely come down to timing. They recently made a coaching change that brought in former MIBR coach Wilton ‘zews’ Prado and it is impossible to gauge where they are as a unit in that transition. What we do know is that their most recent showing was against Liquid in the finals of Pro League, and they were squashed for the third time by Liquid in ten days. The team needs serious help stepping out of Liquid’s shadows and establishing itself as the undisputed best team in North America, which zews aims to do. But before they get to that point, they need to show they can handle this group.
Cloud9 - It is tough to tell the true ceiling of this lineup, but there is no denying they are a good team that is exciting to watch. When in form, they are explosive on the offensive side. Holding a lead against them can be tricky since they can rack up rounds on teams quickly. The lineup looks their best in officials against fellow North American teams, which bodes well for them. Heading into the five series round-robin, Cloud9 has yet to lose in a series to Gen.G, Orgless and Triumph. Cloud9 are still searching for consistency, but if they come to the event in peak form, they could very well beat everyone.
Gen.G - Few teams have felt the negative effects of moving to online play more than Gen.G. They made their LAN debut at DreamHack Open Anaheim, going undefeated against ENCE, Complexity, North, and FURIA en route to the trophy. After lifting the title, all eyes were on Flashpoint as they were a clear favorite to succeed. Unfortunately, everything transitioned into online play which greatly hurt the team. They never found their footing and fell flat for both phases. At LAN, this team would certainly be a confident favorite to make it to Rio. However, they are clearly struggling to apply what they have practiced for LAN, online. They are currently in a slump, but if they get out of it at the right time, Gen.G can be one of the most dangerous teams in North America.
Orgless - The Orgless lineup is filled to the brim with talent and has a proven leader at the helm. They have played teams close that have organizations, and at times won series against them. Unfortunately, questions linger regarding the lineup’s full dedication to the game, which will continue to hurt the team. Their pure talent is enough to keep getting them on the team lists at events, but putting in the extra hours as a team is what separates the good from the great. A fully dedicated Orgless lineup could see stellar results.
Triumph - This highly unknown North American lineup has seen a few changes recently, but nevertheless, the team is still talented. The core retained the structure that kept them so good, as well as the firepower that makes them dangerous. In-game leader Alan ‘Shakezullah’ Hardeman is a tactical mind worth having, and he has done a great job at steering his prospects in the right direction. Michael ‘Grim’ Wince and Gabe ‘Spongey’ Greiner are the leading forces of impact for the Triumph lineup and have done their best to put their name on the map domestically. Newcomers Paytyn ‘Junior’ Johnson and Rahul ‘curry’ Nemani are hoping to take the team to new heights. It could all start at the Road to Rio.
#1) Liquid [HLTV: #6]
#2) FURIA [HLTV: #12]
#3) MIBR [HLTV: #15]
#4) Bad News Bears [HLTV: #31]
#5) Envy [HLTV: #40]
#6) Yeah [HLTV: #58]
Before any games have been played, Group B does not look as susceptible to upsets as group A. In group B, there are three teams that stick out as obvious contenders to advance into the playoff rounds. With three teams inside of the top fifteen and three teams outside of the top 30, the playoff path already looks clear. However, fans of Counter-Strike know that far too often it feels like what should happen, does not. Like group A, these teams have a set of circumstances helping or hurting them heading into group play:
Liquid - The champions of the North American Pro League are the favorites to not only win the group but also make a strong run at the Rio Major in November. They have the most success of any team in the group as of late, and they by far have the best talent across the board. The bottom three teams do not hold a candle to the Liquid squad on paper, and on paper, only FURIA appear to be a blip on their radar.
FURIA - The No. 1 Brazilian lineup looks well-suited to take their talents into the playoffs, and given their recent success against the other top teams in the group, it is possible they take the whole thing. They have best of three victories over fellow group members Envy, MIBR, and Liquid. The order that FURIA plays their opponents is very favorable for them as well. They play the bottom three teams to start and end against Liquid and MIBR. A momentum dependent team such as this can greatly benefit from this scheduling, as a strong round-four victory over Liquid would be a huge morale boost heading into the playoffs.
MIBR - The continuing decline of the MIBR lineup has been well documented, and it appears there is no end in sight. Their most recent implosion at the Flashpoint final leaves fans wondering if they will ever get back on track. The team has not hit rock bottom, but failing to advance through the group stage would certainly be another step toward it. It is not all bad for MIBR, though. On paper, they have an advantage on three of their opposition in the group. As long as they win the games they are supposed to, they can find themselves into the playoffs. Those three officials could be what they need to finally find themselves as a full team.
Bad News Bears - The lineup has been busy the past month and a half. They were successful in the previous Major qualification process, won MDL and made the most out of a very sudden Flashpoint opportunity. Although the team made one change in the rotation, so far it has not slowed them down. They qualified for DreamHack Masters Spring with a 4-1 record following a consolidation final victory over fellow group member Envy. Although the lineup is unsigned, they took out a salaried Envy lineup in two maps which included a 16-3 victory. This team surpassed expectations from day one, so upsetting any of these top teams in the group would be another day at the office.
Envy - The current version of Envy has yet to give any indication that they can be even an upset team in Counter-Strike. They showed minimal signs of success against teams at Flashpoint and most recently lost to Bad News Bears, a non-salaried team. Seeing a signed team lose to an unsigned team is inexcusable. If that version of Envy shows up to the event, they will not win a game. However, this team without a doubt has talent on its roster. Now would be the perfect time to get synergized.
Yeah - They have a strong record against a notably lower level of opponents than most of the teams in the group. The only team in the group they have played in officials this year is Envy and they failed to win a single map against them. They have not played an official for three weeks, so it is fair to say they have been boot camping. However, there is not enough data to suggest this team is ready to take any of the teams in the group in a best of three.
Group Play Predictions: