Dallas Fuel ZachaREEE: “I’d say it’s time to stop putting us in the bottom of your power rankings.”

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Even though Zachary “ZachaREEE” Lombardo is in his rookie year of the Overwatch League, he is a veteran in the game of Overwatch. His previous experience has helped lead the Dallas Fuel to 5th place in the standings of Stage 1 — a feat that the team was unable to achieve a year ago.

In an awkward situation, the schedule pegged for the Dallas Fuel and Shanghai Dragons to play in back-to-back weeks. In the second meetup in Week 4, the Dallas Fuel fared better, sweeping the Dragons in a 4-0 victory. After the match, ZachaREEE talked to Inven Global about facing the Dragons again, how he adapted to playing for the Dallas Fuel, and the reality of playing for a Contenders team.

Congrats on the win against Shanghai again. The schedule is kind of awkward to see you face Shanghai in back-to-back weeks. How does it feel for you to play them again so soon?

It’s pretty odd because you’re never expecting to prep for a team and play them again next week. Overwatch League Season 1 never had that. It was like you played a different team each week; but for some reason, we played Shanghai twice this stage. I don’t know how the scheduling worked with that.

We played them the first time last week and then got access to the entire VOD after. Then, going into this game, we can prep, but then again, you don’t know if they’re going to pull out other stuff. They can change their comps, but if they drastically changing everything in a week, they’re going to be weaker in spots. You can exploit it. If they have the same plans, then you can find weaknesses.

It’s weird because when you scrim a team, you scrim them for two days in a row. Then, you pick up the habit that you made the last block, and they punish you for making a special play. It’s like that same type of thing with us; we know each other’s habits.

Was there anything you guys needed to improve upon going into this second match?

With DDing playing Sombra, we were really focused on making sure that we weren’t getting individually hacked a lot. We were canceling hacks more. In our first match against them where it was a 3-2 — aKm, OGE, and uNKOE were getting hacked a lot. We were prepping against teams that play Sombra often, so we can just stop getting hacked. Like, if we get hacked, we figure out how to kite it or play around it properly. 

Also, making sure we negate EMPs properly. In Route 66 in this match, we didn’t do too well in the first half. The rest of it, we fixed it. We were adapting well against their EMPs. Those for sure were definitely things to improve on.

You mentioned that you look for exploits in case things happened spontaneously. Did you see anything from Shanghai to exploit?

We noticed they liked to push in and Gamsu will initiate, so we can punish Gamsu. Diem will stay super far back and try to melt me since I’m a squishy Brig. My job is making sure I don’t push in too far and die to Diem. Otherwise, we can really punish Gamsu since his Zarya isn’t there to tank him with the bubble. At other times, Youngjin will overextend on Brig and I can get bash opportunities on him. Those two are pretty exploitable. Also, we make sure to rotate correctly because we think our team movements are better than theirs.

For these two weeks playing against Shanghai, do you think it sets the team back because you couldn’t prep against another team?

When we’re prepping for Shanghai, it’s not like we’re practicing against them. We’re still practicing against other teams like London, Paris, or anybody for that matter. It’s not like we are improving only against Shanghai, we’re still getting to play other teams and see other styles. I think playing in general and having a goal when you practice will help you improve. I don’t doubt we’ll improve against other teams.

What other things do you think the team needs to improve on since playoffs are almost here?

I think we want to be more decisive. There are sometimes when we take a while to make decisions. Getting better on that will definitely help us from having a 3-3 overtime situation to having a full hold. Working on decisiveness and making sure we manage our ults in the situation both teams all have ults.

How do you approach top teams like NYXL, Vancouver, and now Philadelphia is starting to get hot?

Since most teams are playing GOATS, rather than focusing on them specifically, we want to make sure our roundup is really strong. If you’re going into GOATS vs GOATS and you’re focused on them being the better team, you’re not going to be making plays as you would during scrims. Then, you let them get the upper hand. I think we need to make sure we are confident in our play.

A lot of players told me that they get nervous on stage. Does it affect you guys?

For me, specifically, it doesn’t affect me. As far as the team goes, I think OGE and rCk were a bit nervous. For example, against the Charge and Shock, we got 4-0’d when we could’ve won or took maps off them. Nerves definitely kicked in for the first two weeks. After the first match we lost, everyone said that we need to stop being nervous. Now everyone has that drive to win.

How did you get over the feeling of nervousness?

Since I am an OWL rookie, it may come as a surprise, but I have a lot of LAN experiences like World Cup, Contenders, and Overwatch Heroes Rumble in Taipei. After all that, it doesn’t feel like a big deal. At the end of the day, I just have the mindset that I’m just playing a video game. I try to make myself as comfortable as possible. 

When I’m on stage, I don’t play with my shoes on and adjust my chair, for instance. It’s like, don’t focus on the crowd or the cheering if we hear it, only focus on the game.

So do you think the crowd doesn’t play a role for you personally?

For me, I try my best to ignore the crowd. To be completely honest, I love the crowd and it’s nice — like in between maps, I would wave and say hi. I want to be a crowd pleaser. But when we’re on the map, I don’t notice that they’re there. All my attention is in the game.

Do your teammates help you regain your focus if you feel a little tilted?

We all help each other out. For example, when we had a game in Hollywood, there was a time when someone made a misplay. That person dwelled on it and talked about it. They were worried about it, then everybody just comes in — we’re like a big family — and told that person not worry about it, we’re still playing great.

Since being picked up by the Fuel in the offseason, how did you get acclimated into the team dynamic?

From the instant I got here, everybody was super fun and welcoming. I’m really good friends with everybody on the team. I can sit down and talk about anything with Taimou, uNKOE, or anyone in the team for hours. I feel like I can be myself whenever I’m with them.

The two most encouraging people who tried to get me to join were uNKOE and OGE. They pushed me to keep trying out. When I was with them, I messaged uNKOE a lot — he is my boy. He calls me “Noodle” because there was one time in a comp game where someone said I had hair like noodles. It’s become my nickname. I’m always joking around with uNKOE.

In the beginning, I wasn’t super close with Closer since we just met. But now, I got to know him better, and we hang out all the time too.

How would you compare your teammates now than your teammates back with the Fusion University?

Fusion Uni was a different type of environment. Fuel is more welcoming and everyone is like family. On Fusion Uni, it was a lot more tense and competitive. Everybody wanted to be in the spotlight, so sometimes it would feel like a player wouldn’t heal or peel properly. They’re not going to say that, of course; but, it felt that way. Being on that team felt stressful at times too — it wasn’t the most positive environment even when we won games. 

I think everyone on Fusion Uni was still really good friends, but there was tension. I haven’t really had that feeling being on the Fuel.

Since you mentioned that there’s a positive team environment with the Fuel, do you think it’s made you a better player?

I feel like since I’m still in school, I stress about playing in Overwatch League and doing school work at the same time. My teammates help me take a lot of stress off my shoulders and relax by just playing around and being encouraging.

How do you balance school work along with team activities like practices, scrims, etc.?

I’ve been doing online classes before Overwatch League. Even when I had to be physically present in the school, I was working my way up to be a pro in Overwatch. I learned how to balance all my activities then. My teachers didn’t mind me sleeping as long as I got A’s. 

After signing with the Fuel, I currently take online classes because of the flexibility it provides. I can just come home and go at my own pace. During the day, we have practice blocks with breaks in between. During breaks, I would go back to my apartment and do some assignments. Sometimes, I would finish school work before sleeping because I find the time after our practice blocks end at 7 PM.

I’ve noticed that your mom is supportive of you through social media. What do you think about that support from your mom and how does it motivate you to become the player you are today?

If my mom didn’t support me, I wouldn’t be here today. Originally when I was moving out to team houses when I was 16, she was hesitant at first but gave me the approval. If she didn’t approve, I would’ve gotten dropped from the team. Her approval was important to start my career. 

When I was traveling, it would’ve been on my own, but she found a way to come along with me. After a little bit of learning and watching my streams, she got into it. There are times when I got to teach my mom about Overwatch. She genuinely likes to sit down and was attentive about learning about the game. She just wants me to be happy and do what I want to do in life.

Has she met any of your Fuel teammates?

She’s pretty much met everybody. Her favorite is uNKOE because I duo with him a lot and stream it. We mess around and have a lot of fun. And one time, she made cookies and sent it to us. uNKOE always compliments her baking and I would troll her about it. To her, uNKOE is like another son.

Before we wrap this interview up, the stage playoffs are coming up. Is there anything you want to say to the rest of the teams?

I’d say it’s time to stop putting us in the bottom of your power rankings. When we are at our best, we can win against anybody. Just be prepared when you play us because we are not going down without a fight.

Is there anything you want to shoutout to the fans out there?

Thank you for supporting us, even though the beginning was rough, and you didn’t know if we’re going to be good or not. Thanks for sticking through and supporting us. I’m glad we can show results. Thank you for being there with us.