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ESEA Season 5 Final Preview

By Mark 'hazium' Haney
Mar 12, 2010 02:30

ImageThis weekend kicks off North America's most premier Counter-Strike league finals, with the ESEA-Invite division finals taking place in Dallas, Texas. As with previous events, this year looks to be better than ever with the six most talented teams in North America battling it out for the $6,000 first prize.

This season we see some new faces in the finals, and a couple of old ones. The biggest surprise for this season is most definitely Excello US, who barely made the cut last season into the finals, to this season where they held the first place spot for much of the season, finishing with a 13-3 record, second to only 's immaculate 15-1 record. Yet another surprise this season is ULTIMAX-GAMING, formerly known as 9StorM , who almost suffered relegation last season and bounced back to a 11-5 record finishing third in the standings. Besides from the teams, there are also a few other changes to the finals this season, we see the prize pot increase by yet another thousand dollars making the first prize $6,000. We also will see the addition of a new game at the LAN finals, Team Fortress 2, which is the third game ESEA has added so far along with Counter-Strike 1.6 and CS:Source. The total prize breakdown for the CS division is as follows;

1st: $6,000
2nd: $3,000
3rd: $1,600
4th: $1,000
5th: $700
6th: $500

Last season's reigning champions, compLexity Gaming , are far from the same team that won the finals last season, with a major roster change and a rough regular season, many are questioning if the returning champions have what it takes to repeat. To add to the pressure of repeating the championship, coL will also have to deal with North America's largest rivalry between themselves and EG, the last time they both faced each other on LAN was during the Intel Extreme Masters American Championship where we saw EG come out on top in convincing fashion. This season we saw the departure of coL veteran, Jeff 'hero' Mettetal, who played in intricate part in coLs success last year, especially in the ESEA-I Finals. However this season we will see coL with a new 5th, Derrick 'impulsive' Truong, who already has proved himself last weekend in the Intel Extreme Master's World Championships, where coL placed 7th-8th and defeated such teams as Roskilde Ravens and MeetYourMakers swe in the process. Due to coLs rough start to the season, they do not have a bye in the first round, instead they face off against Damage Inc , who features big name players such as Mikey 'method' So and Canadian sensation Garett 'Grt' Bambrough, which a win will have them face off against rival's in the second round, proving coL will not have an easy road to the finals.

Andrew 'Irukandji' Timmerman had this to say on coL's expectations as the returning champions;

"After a somewhat disappointing IEM Finals finish (felt we had the potential to beat WeMade FOX and advance from Group Play), we're looking to come back strong and repeat as ESEA-Invite League champions. There have been quite a few more strong American teams this season (Excello, Loaded, etc) in the online portion so we know we'll need to bring our A game if we want to top out this weekend."

This season's dark horse team is without a doubt ULTIMAX-GAMING, who no one predicted to finish in the top six and make the finals. UMX has proved week after week that they have what it takes to hang with the big dogs, especially during the regular season where they were the only team who managed to take down a then undefeated, Excello US. UMX features a lot of young talent mixed with old, which seemed to fuse together the perfect chemistry of players, but are they perfect enough to take down Loaded ? The former DINC.US squad who finished second last season and have the talent to win it all. Luckily, UMX has the easier half of the bracket, with the chance to make it to the upper bracket finals without having to face EG or coL in the process. A win in the first round will have them face off against Excello US, which will be a battle of dark horses, as both teams were in no way favorites in the beginning of the season.

Tony "xaN" Lo, the leader of ULTIMAX-GAMING had this to say on their first round match;

"All we have to say is that we're going to take it one match at a time. If we're constantly focused every round of every match, I believe we can truly upset some teams. As for a prediction, I don't think predicting our own match is too smart, but we're going to put what we use in practice into the actual game and we'll let the chips fall where they may."

However the team to watch for many is going to be Excello US, who placed a meek 5th-6th last season to finish this one with a 13-3 record, shocking everyone. Many people in the community have stated that their success during the regular season is mainly due to them playing online, and that on LAN is a completely different game, and I have to agree. Although I do believe in this roster and the skill they possess, I just do not think they will be able to take down teams such as EG or coL as easily as they managed to do online during the regular season. Excello US will have a lot of eyes on them during the tournament as they try and prove they are not a fluke, and can in fact "do it on lan". Alex 'hazard' Martins will especially be under the microscope as he once again tries to prove that his online prowess extends to land of LAN play.

Cj 'cJ_B' Banarsee, the leader of Excello US had this to say on the high expectations of his team this weekend;

"We feel confident going into this LAN, we know where we stand and where every other team attending stands. We just need to transfer what we've been doing online to this weekend. Were still an underdog in my eyes until we win the tournament or place accordingly. We have the knowledge needed to win this whole tournament but we'll see if we can transfer it to the LAN setting."

on the other hand is in now way a dark horse and clearly the favorite to win this season's finals. With a number of very strong international showings this year, including a third place finish at DreamHack Winter and a fourth place finish at the IEM World Championships just last week, EG proves they are back and better than ever after a disappointing Season 4 final's where they placed only third. EG has had the most stable roster out of any team in the final's, and have had the most LAN experience as well, which puts them as the favorite for any bookie out there. Both Damage Inc and Loaded come into the finals as the fifth and sixth seed, both finishing the season with a 10-6 record. Loaded placed second at last seasons finals, and now that they have added Scott 'evolution' Cavallero to their lineup, they are stronger than ever. Loaded will be playing ULTIMAX in the first round which will be a very tight match up, as both teams are very even in skill. Damage Inc has a lineup full of crafty veterans with the likes of Mason 'mason' Dickens and Travis 'tuBBy' Bechtol, EG's stand in for last years WCG, it is with no doubt that DINC has a lineup that can put up numbers, but do they have the chemistry to pull off a victory? They will need all the chemistry they can get, as they have the hardest road the finals, having to beat both EG and coL to make it to the upper bracket finals.

Team Rundown:

Lineup: fRoD, Storm, lurppis, n0thing, goodfornothing
Record: 15-1
First Round Match-up: Bye
Seed: 1st

compLexity Gaming Image
Lineup: Irukandji, dboorN, NineSpot, thoMz, impulsive
Record: 10-6
First Round Match-up: Damage Inc
Seed: 4th

Loaded Image
Lineup: evolution, Xp3, Adrenaline, djibouti, flowsicK
Record: 10-6
First Round Match-up: ULTIMAX-GAMING
Seed: 6th

Damage Inc Image
Lineup: zid, tuBBy, mason, Grt, millipede
Record: 10-6
First Round Match-up: compLexity Gaming
Seed: 5th

Excello US Image
Lineup: cJ_B, jstone, pauLy, hazard, Lim
Record: 13-3
First Round Match-up: Bye
Seed: 2nd

Lineup: xaN, Zinger, broodex, TMO, buskey
Record: 11-5
First Round Match-up: Loaded
Seed: 3rd

You can find SK's official tournament page for the event here, with updated brackets as the tournament progresses.



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