Throughout the previous four years, Counter Logic Gaming had never opened up a split losing more than 6 of their first 10 games. In 2018, they’ve managed to close the first half of the spring split with a frightening record of 3-7. And although CLG has plenty of ground to make up if they want a spot in the playoffs, their hopes of turning around a potentially lost season could get a whole lot easier this weekend.
After five weeks of play, Counter Logic Gaming currently sits in 8th place. Although the team is just one loss away from a potential share of last place, they are also just one win away from a spot in the playoffs. Needless to say, the bottom of the NALCS barrel is packed to the brim and any team could potentially climb up into the final playoff spots. However, if CLG is going to be one of those teams, a potential turnaround of an already difficult season needs to start this weekend.
On Saturday, CLG faces off against Clutch Gaming, a team that has been surging the past few weeks and have thrust themselves into 4th place. With big wins over TSM and FlyQuest, CG have separated themselves from the bottom half of the standings and will look to begin their playoff push. However, a meeting with CLG on Saturday might just be the most important game of the entire weekend.
The last time these two teams played, Counter Logic kept it close throughout the course of the early game, but it was only a matter of time until Fabian “Febiven” Diepstraten’s Azir reached its full potential. After CLG destroyed the first tower, Clutch quickly responded with a kill on the Infernal Drake, but only 7 minutes later, a deadlocked tie in gold was quickly shattered with a clean pentakill from Febiven.
While Febiven’s 12/0/3 scoreline was certainly an issue for CLG, a bigger problem was the performance out of their own bottom lane. Trevor “Stixxay” Hayes and Vincent “Biofrost” Wang failed to amount any sort of lead throughout the entire game, and even when the gold was equal, the bottom lane was still behind. By the time the game had ended, the CLG bot lane posted a combined score of 0/8/3. If CLG is going to come out of Saturday’s contest with a win, Stixxay and Biofrost can’t let a performance like that happen again. The bottom lane will need to step up and help the team not only amount a lead, but maintain it. Apollo “Apollo” Price and Nickolas “Hakuko” Surgent have provided a sense of stability for Clutch in the bot lane, but if Stixxay and Biofrost can outwit and outplay their opponents, then Counter Logic’s lead can stem upwards from the bottom lane. As long as CLG’s duo laners can contain their opponents, their chances of securing a win against Clutch should increase drastically.
On Sunday, CLG will face off against Golden Guardians, a team they routed earlier in the split to earn their first win of the year. Both squads were winless and tied for last when they first squared off, and four weeks later, both teams are still meandering near or at the bottom of the standings. However, CLG and GGS both have immense amounts of potential, and with the NALCS in a full playoff push, anything is possible.
For their January contest, Golden Guardians were coached by Yoonsup “Locodoco” Choi, who led the team to the tune of an 0-4 record during his tenure as head coach. Since Week 3, Golden Guardians have been coached by Tyler Perron, a former analyst and assistant coach for Fnatic, Immortals, and Phoenix1. Perron has delivered Golden Guardians to their first two wins of the season, including an enormous upset over Team Liquid just last Sunday.
Golden Guardians actually looks like a cohesive unit under Perron, and now with four weeks to play, they sit 2 games back from a spot in the playoffs, and only 1 game behind CLG. On Sunday, it would be foolish for CLG to underestimate them, as they have clearly shown signs of improvement under their new head coach and seem to be joining the race for a playoff spot with the remainder of the teams in the LCS.
For this game, keep an eye on Darshan “Darshan” Upadhyaya, as his 7/0/7 performance on Gangplank during CLG’s last meeting with Golden Guardians propelled his team to victory. However, this time around, Samson “Lourlo” Jackson won’t be as easy of an opponent for the veteran top laner, as Lourlo’s gameplay has certainly evolved over the course of the past few weeks. With wins on Illaoi and Gnar, as well as a solid 7/3/3 scoreline on Camille during a loss to 1st place Echo Fox, Lourlo has been on a consistent uptick for the past few weeks and will prove to be a much more difficult opponent for CLG this time around. However, if CLG can do their best to win the game through Darshan, they should have no problem walking out of Sunday’s match with the win.
Although there are still plenty of obstacles for CLG to overcome between now and the end of the split, a playoff berth is still very much attainable. However, Week 6 will certainly be a defining moment for this team, as they could move themselves into prime position for a late season push, or fall flat and plummet into last place.