Final 4: Overwatch League Season 1 semifinals preview

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The quarterfinals of Blizzard’s inaugural season of the Overwatch League have been completed. The Philadelphia Fusion took the victory over the defiant Boston Uprising, and the London Spitfire upset the Los Angeles Gladiators in a shocking sweep.

Now the final four will duke it out at the Blizzard Arena in Burbank in the last matches held on the West Coast. After six grueling months, the teams face one last hurdle before the grand finals at the Barclays Center in New York.

New York Excelsior vs. Philadelphia Fusion

The New York Excelsior are the towering titans of the Overwatch League. Boasting a 34-6 win-loss record, with a +83 map differential, the New York Excelsior had such a commanding lead that not only did they come in as the No. 1 seed, but they’d secured that position in the second week of Stage 4. Four-time stage finalists who twice emerged as champions, the Excelsior have been favorites to win the league for months.

In contrast, the Philadelphia Fusion have been a rollercoaster. Bouncing back and forth between the top and bottom six each stage, the Fusion barely squeaked into the playoffs as the bottom seed. Notoriously inconsistent despite the individual playmaking ability, Philadelphia will need to find its footing if it hopes to proceed to the finals.

In this semifinal on July 18 and 21, the theme is, fittingly enough, explosive nuclear fusion. The wealth of talent between these rosters means that there will be plenty of highlight-worthy plays. However, the series will be decided by consistency, and that is something firmly in New York’s ballpark.

While the Fusion are an unstable reactor, the Excelsior are a storm in a bottle: a chaotic whirl of energy that is contained, controlled and more reliable. Despite the Excelsior’s dip in performance near the end of the season, this match will still be likely to see the Fusion emulate the journey of local hero Rocky Balboa: a bruised and battered heroic rise, but ultimately a loss in the end.

Prediction: New York Excelsior will win series, 2-1.


Los Angeles Valiant vs. London Spitfire

The Los Angeles Valiant may talk of wings, but in spirit, they’re more akin to the tortoise in a league overrun by hares. Aside from a dip in Stage 2, the Valiant have been consistently in the top four and came in as the second seed, but their low-profile style that prioritizes team play and coordination over flashy brilliance meant they rarely shined like their symbolic valkyrie.

However, slow and steady did indeed win the race, and the Valiant emerged as Stage 4 victors off their mastery over the game’s fundamentals and boosts in performance from the DPS lineup of Terence “SoOn” Tarlier and Brady “Agilities” Girardi. The tortoise has yet to sprout wings, but it has developed a very nasty bite beneath its iron shell.

On the flip side are the London Spitfire, who might as well be the hare in this analogy, but only if the hare were prone to spontaneous combustion. After a dominant start to the season, the Spitfire have steadily dropped over the season before finally sputtering to a ninth-place spot in Stage 4. Their presence in the playoffs could be attributed mainly to their spectacular initial half, but they looked unlikely to recapture their former glory. But then the dwindling hare apparently had some kerosene dumped on it, because the Spitfire were an absolute blaze on their day two showing in the quarterfinals and ran rings around the beleaguered Los Angeles Gladiators.

In this semifinal on July 18 and 20, the Spitfire are going out of the frying pan and into the fire as they face the Valiant after beating their Los Angeles compatriot. If the Spitfire’s form was a refueling of the engine, then the Valiant might find themselves outclassed by a team overflowing with individual talent and an explosiveness to match. But if the Spitfire’s performance was more than one last supernova before the fires died out, then the Valiant can be expected to roll through a ramshackle opposition battering itself to pieces against the rock-solid core.

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

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