Written By PeeKay - 2022-05-22
A resurgent TSM FTX and XSET grabbed solid wins against 100 Thieves and NRG Esports respectively, while The Guard’s woes continued against Ghost Gaming in Week 2 of VCT 2022 - North America - Stage 2 - Main Event.
The first Group A match of the weekend saw Ghost Gaming pull through a 2-1 win over The Guard. The former VCT 2022 - North America - Stage 1 - Main Event winners seem to be sinking without a trace as they now sit at the bottom of the table with an 0-2 record, while their opponents hold firm at 1-1.
Haven is a map that Jacob "valyn" Batio and co. love playing, having played it the most out of any other in their pool with an impressive 72% win rate. All that went out the window on the pistol as GianFranco "koalanoob" Potestio, playing Chamber, bullied them with the Headhunter on A and got his team off to a flying start. He was joined by Marki "NiSMO" Tayar subsequently, as the Canadian worked miracles with the Spectre to give Ghost an early lead. The firepower of The Guard had seemingly disappeared, as their opponents pulled off retake after retake without resistance. The response came in the ninth round, where Jonah "JonahP" Pulice finally held off the retake to put his team on the board. Yet again, the Raze of NiSMO did one better, getting a 4k the following round to shut The Guard down and Ghost sailed ahead to an 11-1 half.
After such a brutal attack side, valyn and co. had nothing much left in the tank, as Alex "aproto" Protopapas, who led the scoreboard with 18 kills and a 1.99 rating, found two opening kills to put his team on map point. Ghost’s innovative composition, with Fade and Raze who is very good in the meta right now, truly paid off, as the Atlanta-based organization wrapped things up quickly on the next round with an A take and went 1-0 up.
If there was one thing going for The Guard, it was that the map veto was favorable for them, and even despite Ascent being Ghost’s pick, the former were still in the mix for a comeback. They started off smoothly, converting the pistol and anti-eco without a fuss. The rifles are what The Guard struggled against, but an intelligent clutch by Trent "trent" Cairns saw them steal the bonus and gain not just a round but also an economic advantage. trent’s Sova on Ascent has been a win condition for his team and he certainly was stepping up to the plate, as was the Jett of JonahP. He has caught some flak as of late for his lackluster performances on the agent, as has Ha "Sayaplayer" Jung-woo, whose transition to Chamber has not gone as planned. Regardless, The Guard were excellent at preventing Ghost from taking space, even forcing some 5v3 saves as the latter struggled to make anything happen in rounds. Eventually in round 10 the B duo of JonahP and trent fell and Ghost got themselves a couple rounds, but it was too little too late as the score was 10-2 at halftime.
Ghost Gaming needed to grab the pistol if they were going to mount a comeback and they did just that, executing a great A retake to make it 10-3. Slowly yet steadily NiSMO and co. made their way back, using the Fade and Astra combo to make retakes much more doable. Six rounds in a row and it was now 10-8, and The Guard were starting to feel the heat. They used that to light a fire under them, as JonahP barreled his way onto A and held it down with three crucial kills that secured an 11th round for them and switched the momentum back again. Some good calls by valyn on the last couple rounds focusing on B ensured that his team had the map in the bag and were back in the series at 1-1.
Not many would have expected Ghost Gaming to drag this series to a third map, and even fewer were ready for how dominant of a start the squad had on Fracture. They lost only one player in the first two rounds, and that’s exactly how many rounds they lost out of the first eight. koalanoob was stellar on Chamber, finding five opening kills and dying first only once, while at the same time putting up a monster 307 ACS. Everything was going right for Ghost, with great utility usage on executes and individuals winning all the duels they should be winning. The Guard put an end to that with a thrifty win and grabbed a few cheeky rounds of their own toward the end, with Sayaplayer and neT finally activated, and closed the half at a respectable 5-7.
A vital second half pistol round went the way of Ghost, as Brock "brawk" Somerhalder heroically stuck the defuse in the midst of a chaotic retake to give his team an advantage. The Guard bounced back a couple rounds later thanks to a neT 1v2, but koalanoob’s Chamber was unplayable on the defense as he found three kills to take Ghost to double digits. It felt like the only executes that were working for valyn’s squad were standard B hits, but Ghost were almost perfect on their retakes there and that is where the map eventually ended as brawk held the defuse to win the map and the series 2-1.
In a match that put two newly rebuilt teams up against one another, TSM FTX held off the threat of 100 Thieves 2-0, moving both squads to a 1-1 record in Group A.
Split was the first map of the series, one which the old-school TSM were famously lethal on. They showed signs of that early on, shutting down a fast pistol round hit and making quick work of 100 Thieves on the anti-eco. The important rifle round saw the defenders trade B Heaven control for B Main control, and that didn’t end well for TSM, as Brenden "stellar" McGrath’s squad exploded onto the site and cleaned things up to open their account. Yet another B hit by 100 Thieves led to the same result, but third time wasn’t the charm for them, as TSM hit back with an awkward buy to shut them down and regain a slender lead. They extended that advantage over the upcoming rounds, thanks to the excellent performances of Anthony "gMd" Guimond, who dropped 23 kills with Astra and looked sharp despite this being his first official VCT event since VCT 2021 - North America Last Chance Qualifier in October last year. 100 Thieves were only able to gather a couple more rounds in the half, B Heaven control yet again being key for them, but otherwise were mediocre as they were down 4-8 at the break.
100 Thieves took the first couple rounds of the second half with ease, flexing their defender side advantage and narrowing the deficit to only two. stellar and co. might have lost the bonus, but they made it expensive for TSM, and 100 Thieves were right back at it the next couple rounds, dominating the B site to take it to 9-10. Yassine "Subroza" Taoufik switched things up and took the fight to A and that worked like a charm, with his team not losing a single player in the 5v5 retake. They won two more and now were on 100 Thieves’ pick’s map point. They fired back to make it 12-10, but it was just a consolation, as gMd opened the next round with a collateral 2k and his team went on to convert the thrifty and win the map 13-10.
Haven was set up to be an interesting battle, with both teams running the same composition save for Johann "seven" Hernandez on Neon and his counterpart William "Will" Cheng on Jett. And the former agent’s impact was felt immediately on attack, as her ability to take space quickly and disrupt defenses were crucial for TSM’s pistol and bonus round wins. After losing four in a row, Derrek "Derrek" Ha’s Breach’s Rolling Thunder finally enabled the A site retake and put his team on the board, but the victory was short-lived, as Subroza and co. answered back with a flawless 5v5 post-plant. Other than a thrifty win, TSM were imperious on the attack and they went into the halftime break up 9-3.
100 Thieves tried to replicate TSM’s pistol round at the start of the second half but things went south very quickly, as corey and seven stood firm and gave their team the 10th round. stellar gave the B site a bit of attention and it paid off thanks to heroics by Asuna and Derrek, and they used their economic advantage to win the following round as well. But TSM were far too good with rifles, multikills yet again by gMd and corey, who was his team’s best performer with 24 kills, prevented 100 Thieves from even planting the spike. Subroza and co. finally ended their opponents misery in the 19th round with early A Main aggression and a C site retake that closed out the map 13-6 and series 2-0.
The final Group A match of week 2 featured a confident XSET squad getting the better of NRG Esports with a 2-0 scoreline. The result put the former at the top of the group with a 2-0 record, while the latter now are in the middle of the pack at 1-1.
NRG got us started on Bind, a map they’ve not played as much of late but still hold a 75% win rate on, and they looked to improve that with a flawless A execute on the pistol round. But disaster struck just the round after, as they tripped up against the Classics and Shortys of XSET and handed over the economic advantage. It took both Sam "s0m" Oh’s Showstopper combined with Daniel "eeiu" Vucenovic’s Nightfall to convert a round and the back and forth continued until 3-2. Rory "dephh" Jackson and co. were able to string a trio of rounds together thanks to big plays by Matthew "Cryocells" Panganiban on A and Brendan "BcJ" Jensen on B, and NRG responded with a trio of their own to level the scores 6-6 at halftime.
With how back and forth the first half was, XSET really tightened things up on the second. They picked up the pistol and anti-eco, and then converted the bonus to move to a 9-6 lead. Surprisingly, they lost to a thrifty buy but were not deterred, as their explosive and impulsive hits on either side of the map bore fruit. dephh led from the front, with the British in-game leader finishing the map with a 1.30 rating and 20 kills on Breach. With their backs against the wall as XSET hit map point, Ian "tex" Botsch finally had a high-impact round with a 3k that took them to 12-8, but there would be no more, as XSET punished NRG’s aggression and claimed the round and the map 13-8.
Things were about to get a lot harder for NRG, considering they moved into XSET’s pick of Split. Their saving grace was the fact that they started on the defense, and they started with an early 4-1 lead thanks to a pistol and bonus round conversion. XSET took a timeout and looked much better, executing a contact play on A and catching NRG off guard despite their inferior weaponry. dephh and co. were starting to play with confidence, winning early engagements and punishing NRG’s aggression, stringing six rounds in a row to close out the half 7-5.
NRG grabbed the second pistol round of the map and followed up with the anti-eco, equaling the scoreline at 7-7. Zachary "zekken" Patrone hit back with an ace on the B site retake to put his team back in the picture, but XSET faltered against NRG’s pistols, allowing them to level things at 9-9. dephh’s side responded with a thrifty of their own and didn’t look back, with zekken and Cryocells dominating their opponents and combining for 42 kills between them. XSET won four in a row and capped the win with a 2v2 A retake to seal the map 13-9 and the series 2-0.
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