Overwatch League quarterfinals preview, part 2: Los Angeles Gladiators vs. London Spitfire

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The first season of Blizzard’s Overwatch League, or OWL, is coming to a close. It’s been a rollercoaster of a debut season, with the champions of the pre-OWL years, Lunatic-Hai (now Seoul Dynasty) and Team EnVyUs (now Dallas Fuel), both crumbling like Ozymandian kings beneath the sands of the 2018 Overwatch era. With neither preseason favorite appearing in the playoffs, the new teams scrambled in the dust for the fallen crown, but only six remain to battle for the throne.

In part one of the quarterfinals preview, we looked at Boston Uprising vs. Philadelphia FusionToday, we will preview this week’s quarterfinal match between the Los Angeles Gladiators and the London Spitfire.

Los Angeles Gladiators vs. London Spitfire (July 11 and 14)

From his confident personality and leadership role within the team, it would be easy to mistake Baek “Fissure” Chan-hyung as the long-standing captain of the Gladiators squad. But Fissure was a transfer from the London Spitfire back in February. Over the first stage of the Overwatch League, Fissure played nine maps for the Spitfire as opposed to Hong “Gesture” Jae-hee’s 47. Lee “Bishop” Beom-joon, then the head coach of the Spitfire, said in a public statement: “Fissure is one of the smartest main tanks in the league, but we’ve struggled to fit him into the team … and while we didn’t want to lose him, he is very competitive and seeks the playing time befitting a player of his caliber.”

It turned out to be an almost prophetic statement. After Stage 1, Fissure transferred from the stage champion Spitfire to the eighth-place Gladiators. By the end of Stage 4, the Gladiators had climbed to fourth in the standings, directly above the Spitfire in fifth, and had defeated the Spitfire in all of their matchups, with Fissure leading the charge and thoroughly enjoying the success against his former team.

The Gladiators are 3 for 3 against the Spitfire, and on July 11 and 14, they will face off one final time in this season of the Overwatch League. This will be their first time fighting in a playoffs format, and it will be a grueling series over what could potentially be 15 maps.

As for the maps themselves, the Gladiators are favored on six of the nine maps, with Eichenwalde, Hanamura and Junkertown as the only maps on which the Spitfire have a higher win percentage. However, Eichenwalde was only played in Stage 1, before the addition of Fissure revamped the Gladiators’ lineup and before the Spitfire began slipping.

If the Spitfire hope to have a win, then they will need a transcendent performance from Kim “birdring” Ji-hyeok. While birdring played an instrumental role in securing London’s victory in Stage 1, he has since struggled, and his lack of impact shows. London went from Stage 1 champions to ninth place in Stage 4.

The odds are stacked heavily against the Spitfire. It is unlikely they’ll be able to match the Gladiators in teamwork and tactics; the season has proven that the Spitfire cannot be relied upon with strategic outplay. For London to gain victory, the Spitfire will have to individually make herculean efforts, especially given the mechanical mastery of Gladiators’ Lane “Surefour” Roberts, João Pedro “Hydration” Goes Telles and Jonas “Shaz” Suovaara. Otherwise, the Gladiators will make them relive Fissure’s famous taunt: “London, are you guys regretting it?”

Prediction: Los Angeles Gladiators will win series, 2-0.

Michael Jeong covers esports. Contact him at [email protected].