IEM San Jose is a $150,000 tournament, the largest of the three this week by far. This is an international tournament so we will be able to see these top NA teams duke it out with some of the top European teams. The format is single-elimination, Best of Three format, meaning if you lose one Best of Three set, you are out of the tournament. Overall, I think each of these 8 teams has their own reasons to try for this tournament, whether it be for money, pride, fans or some combination, they will be giving it their all at this tournament.
Cloud9 is an interesting beast. They were the best hope for NA for a long time. After picking up Freakzoid and Skadoodle during the summer, they seemed to be on a role and even kept a few of the European teams at bay. But eventually, the European teams figured them out and since then, they’ve been struggling even against NA teams. Recently however, they look like they have been practicing hard and preparing for this international showing. Looking at their online results and their IBP tournament play, they look better than they have in a while, but they are showing some chinks in their armor. They did win the IBP Cup, but it was not an easy journey, especially when it came down to them and Team Liquid. If they cannot shut it down in the NA scene, they will continue to have trouble against these European teams, especially in these Best of Three situations. If there were Best of One games, I would expect C9 to pull off an upset here or there, but in these Best of Threes I just don’t see them winning a game against the Euros, expect against Na’vi perhaps. But even that is a long shot. Their first match is a strange one, going up against TSM. Most people would instantly assume TSM will take the game no problem, but… we’ll get into that when I talk about TSM.
LG is the closest “NA” team capable of showing up a European team in a bo3. They have come close, taking Na’vi down to the wire in their bo3 at Cluj. After the Major, they slumped like so many of teams do after big LANs, but they quickly picked themselves back up and continued to dominate the NA scene with only Liquid and C9 serving as challenges to their position. They have shown in the past as being the closest team to the Euros with major upsets in bo1 series and even coming close to winning a bo3. But there will be no bo1’s in this tournament, so they will either have to finally defeat a European team in a bo3, or fall quickly out of the tournament. They fell out of the IBP Cup in the semifinals to C9 which was disappointing to see, but I like to chalk that up to the fact that they were focusing on IEM, as they tend to focus on the bigger LANs, and they had already made a bit of money so they were content. They are playing Na’vi in their first bo3, a rematch from Cluj. They will most likely be fired up and have probably been prepping for this series since it was drawn. This could be the squad that pulls the major upset in the first round so be wary.
The NA team that qualified for the last spot of the IEM tournament through their 2nd place finish at the IBP Cup. Overall, an impressive showing by Team Liquid to come back from a slump since Cluj and their abysmal performance at the CEVO LAN. They had a good set of online matches leading up to the IBP Cup with even their losses coming in close games, and at the IBP Cup itself, despite early struggles against a surprising compLexity showing, they played some solid games and came close to winning it all. Liquid always seems to be teetering on the edge of being the best NA team and this may be the tournament where they get a chance to show everyone how good they are. However, Liquid do not look as good as they did going into Cluj, so this could spell disaster for them. Liquid are playing Virtus.Pro in the first round, and they played a pretty close game against them at Cluj, so this could turn out to be an exciting game. Liquid have a real chance at winning this first game, not only based on their form, but another factor I will discuss later.
Team Solo Mid is the only top 4 team in the world that has not won a Major. It is a sad fact of life that despite the large amount of talent they have, they cannot close the deal and win a major LAN. Their best chance was at Cluj, but they blew it against a weak NIP squad and fell in the quarterfinals. People were calling choke, and I would have to agree, they looked nowhere as good as they did in the past and have been struggling even against lesser teams as of late. This tournament will need to serve as a revival for TSM. They will need to really show up here to keep their top spot, otherwise they may fall down out of the top 4, maybe even the top 5 depending on how they look. Their first match is against Cloud9 who should be an easy win for TSM. TSM need to have a convincing victory over C9 to show us they still got it, but it will probably end up being a close game as Cloud9 are pretty good at anti-stratting the enemy. But keep in mind, TSM have not been playing many games recently, so any new strats they conceived between Cluj and now should not become to apparent, unless they show something during their ESL ESEA games. If TSM do somehow manage to LOSE to C9 in the first round, they will have to seriously rethink their strategies, positions and possibly even a player change to get back to the high horse they were on earlier this year. This first game will be an important one of TSM.
Virtus.Pro has been pretty inconsistent recently. They struggled at Cluj, but seemed to find their rhythm at CEVO and won it all. But their recent online performances have been all over the place. There are a lot of factors at play besides their skill, so it is tough to say if they are slumping at the moment. Their scores did improve over the last few days, so it seems to be whether or not they care about qualifying for the many end of the year tournaments. It is hard to say how good or bad VP are doing at the moment, but suffice it to say, the biggest issue VP have going into this tournament is that they will be playing will MICHU instead of Snax. Snax is suffering from some eye issues which could explain his lackluster play the past few days. This could spell disaster for VP as having a stand-in can mess up their strats if MICHU isn’t well-versed in the ins and outs of his position and role. Without solid teamwork, I worry they could lose to Liquid here. They played an extremely close bo1 at Cluj with their full squad, so having a missing link could mean the chain falls apart. Be careful with this match
Gamers2 are becoming a team I enjoy to watch. They seem to be confident and enjoy playing the game. They have a fire to play which seems to have faded in many of the older teams. This is all backed up by some crazy firepower that can outfrag even the best teams. They surprised everyone at Cluj, their first Major together, with a stunning run into the semifinals and playing EnvyUs, the eventual champions, in their closest series of the entire tournament. However, Dennis soon left to join Fnatic in hopes of revitalizing the Swedes, but they picked up aizy, the Dignitas player. You could argue that this raises the fragging ability in G2 considering the amazing form of aizy as of late despite the horrible record that Dignitas hold. There is a lot of hype surrounding G2 at the moment, and I feel they have been living up to it until now. We will see if the addition of aizy can push G2 into the top tier. Their first match is against the newly added CLG. They have never played this team before so the matchup will be interesting to observe. I expect a G2 stomp however considering how good they are looking even against the best of Europe. I doubt CLG will pull 2 maps off of this red hot team.
Na’vi are in desperate need of help. It seems the internal issues are playing a big role in their dysfunctional play the last few weeks. From how it looks, there is a lot of blaming and flaming within the team and it looks like roster changes are in the future for this CIS squad. The only player who look strong right now is Guardian, and he cannot carry a dying team by himself. If Na’vi want to save themselves, they will need to perform well at this tournament. Their Cluj performance didn’t seem to do much for them, but maybe a second good showing will bolster their confidence. They will get to play Luminosity Gaming. It will a tough match for sure, as the last one went down to the wire. They will need to pull out all the stops here, or it could be the end to Na’vi as we now it.
Counter Logic Gaming
CLG did not qualify through the IBP Cup, but got a second chance to prove themselves here. EnvyUs had to unfortunately withdraw due to the situation in France, so CLG was picked up as the replacement. CLG are always a tough team to bet on. They have potential and have, like LG, beaten top tier European teams in a bo1 before, but then all of a sudden, they lose to low tier NA teams. They seem to only play when they feel like it and tilt quite easily if they are behind, which is going to happen a lot against good teams. They also sometimes throw leads by playing too aggressive instead of building their lead. I’m sure CLG will care about this tournament for the pride and the prize pool, but they are a really inconsistent team to bet on and I don’t see that changing for this tournament. They are going up against G2 first which will be interesting to watch. G2 may underestimate CLG going in, so they may lose a map, but I doubt CLG can pull out two map victories here.
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