‘Expect the unexpected’ should be the theme of this year’s Overwatch League playoffs. From the unexpected benching of all-star Chan-hyung “Fissure” Baek, to Boston taking Philadelphia to its limit, to the Spitfire getting the monkey off their back and advancing in the playoffs, the playoffs have been nothing less of stellar. After a 3-game sweep in Match 1 of their series, the Los Angeles Gladiators looked to close it last Saturday. However, the Gladiators did not get to have the last word. After their Stage 1 championship, the London Spitfire faced much adversity from losing Fissure and Dong-jun “Rascal” Kim, to not matching their previous success since. The Spitfire had much to prove going into Saturday, and they knew it.
Throughout Saturday’s matches, the Spitfire had a gameplan to shutdown Lane “Surefour” Roberts. Surefour was one of the main reasons London lost in Match 1 with great Widowmaker plays. Since then, the Spitfire would not let Surefour set up any flanks and plays that the Gladiators drew up. Therefore, the Gladiators could not get the upper hand on the Spitfire in team fights and the Spitfire capitalized on the opportunities they created. The Spitfire swept the Gladiators in Match 2 to run it back, sending the series to one final match. The last match ended almost identical to the previous match, except the Gladiators threw in every ounce of mental fortitude they had. They would not go down easily in defeat. But, the Spitfire displayed the team that won the Stage 1 championship and sent the Gladiators home. After the match, Jun-ho “Fury” Kim stopped backstage for a moment to discuss the match and how the Spitfire mentally came back from Match 1.
“Mentally speaking, I was not affected by the outcome of each match. Going into the match today, we made sure to go over our mistakes and correct them today,” Fury answered the question about whether the first match affected their mentality. In that first match, however, Surefour popped off on Widowmaker. In regards to answering how they handled Surefour in both Saturday matches he said, “Based on the first match, the Gladiators liked to get our attention on one side of the map and Surefour flanked us on the other side. We kept that in mind and made sure that he was not able to do that as freely as before. I think that really worked out well for us… In the current meta, if your team is staggered on the first attack or defense, it is hard to snowball the entire map. Surefour was able to hinder our start and put a brake on our pushes. It was hard to snowball at that time. As you saw today, we addressed those issues and now we’re here.”
The Spitfire had a day to recover in between games and go over what they needed to do in order to win the series. Fury commented on what weaknesses the Gladiators exposed in Match 1, “One of the things we kept in mind was how Void and Bischu swapped in and out based on who is playing on which map. We can narrow down that Void plays Zarya more than Bischu, so it gives us more information on what their team comp will be. We used that to our advantage and surely gave us the win.”
Next week, the Spitfire goes against the Los Angeles Valiant, whom outside the New York Excelsior is the best team in the Overwatch League. Going into the playoffs, the Valiant looked unstoppable on all fronts, containing all-star and World Cup caliber players. Knowing this, Fury is not fazed and ensures that the Spitfire will remain confident, “I am confident that we can match up to any team that qualified for the playoffs. Given how we first got swept in the first match, only to reverse sweep them, gave us a morale boost moving forward. We need to ride this momentum and we should be able to beat the Valiant. Therefore, beating both LA teams.”
Fans and analysts alike should not discount the Spitfire out of this next series against the Valiant. The Spitfire took 2 out of 3 matches from the Valiant in the regular season. Jae-hee “Gesture” Hong showed that, despite not being in the South Korea World Cup team, he still is an all-star caliber tank. Lastly, Ji-hyeok “birdring” Kim and Fury played their hearts out in Matches 2 and 3. This next series should be one of the best matches in Overwatch League this year. Remember, expect the unexpected!