The 2021 iteration of Liquid was, in a word, forgettable. After falling flat to end the 2020 season with a departing Russell ‘Twistzz’ Van Dulken, the Liquid core sought a means back to their winning ways by finding an in-game leading AWPer like tenured Liquid captain Nick ‘nitr0’ Cannella, who had left the team to try his hand at VALORANT. Their search was over before it began, as legendary Brazilian in-game leader Gabriel ‘FalleN’ Toledo was tied to the organization as a replacement before Twistzz left for FaZe. In a snap, Liquid fans were looking at a similar team construct, except backed by a two-time Major winner in FalleN.
The familiar core of Jonathan ‘EliGE’ Jablonowski, Keith ‘NAF’ Markovic, and Jake ‘Stewie2k’ Yip had a reason for relief, knowing both major positions had been filled by one reputable talent, and rookie Michael ‘Grim’ Wince would now be led by the winningest individual he’s ever played with. For good reason, the entire Liquid base had something worth being excited about. Unfortunately, the roster could not find any sense of chemistry together and made more headlines with their lows than their highs. When we look back at Liquid’s championed history in North American Counter-Strike, 2021 will unfortunately not be a year worth remembering.
The turmoil of this iteration was well-documented, and Liquid acted diligently in their venture to rebuild the roster to move away from it. Just eight days after the team’s final event, Josh ‘oSee’ Ohm was announced as the final piece of the new-look Liquid core with EliGE and NAF, marking the fan-favorite AWPer’s first true test at the upper echelons of global Counter-Strike. For those unfamiliar, oSee has been a budding talent in the North American trenches that hit an otherworldly form in 2021 with Extra Salt while doubling the number of maps played and playing tougher competition. oSee was good enough to be on Liquid’s radar during the Twistzz exit, and another year in tier two has allowed for him to grow exponentially and separate himself as the best pure AWPer in North America. There is no telling how the 22-year-old’s talents will translate against top competition on Liquid, but oSee’s growth stands strong as one of the major prerequisites for the former Grand Slam winners to return to their winning ways.
Although Liquid has not officially found their five for next year, the dots have been all but connected with their recent signing of French legend Richard ‘shox’ Papillon. Reports have tied nitr0 to the roster, and his signing would complete the new-look Liquid. With everything but the final announcement tying these five together for 2022, fans and spectators alike have mentally tuned into this theoretical version of Liquid CS:GO as the once titan of North America hopes to reclaim its sole ownership of the region. Their core gives fans a lot to be excited about, and the make-up of the team could have exactly the necessary pieces to give them everything they need to reach new heights for Liquid. However, a few things need to be done differently this time for them to achieve their glory:
AWP Must Find Impact
In the current landscape of professional Counter-Strike, scopes reign supreme. AWPers are demanded to carry the fragging weight inside the server, allowing for a majority of the world’s cream of the crop to become primary AWPers. Every top team in global CS strives to land an impactful AWP to lead the charge on the scoreboard, and the scoped position above all is proving to be the most detrimental to lack at the top level. Looking back at the previous Liquid roster, FalleN finished third on the team with an uninspiring .99 kill-death ratio as the primary operator of the big green. The lack of impact was something that the team felt throughout the year, and it showed in the individual and team performances all the way.
When looking at the new-look Liquid, oSee cannot fall into the same deflated level of impact that FalleN was producing. With oSee surging into the offseason and looking to kickstart the season in a honeymoon period, all signs point toward an optimistic start. However, Liquid has to ensure this young stud gets off on the right foot at this stage in his career. This movie has played out many times in CS, and the young talent starting their career off with a strong performance out the gates can give them the stability they need when facing day-one jitters. Although facing different competition, oSee finished 2021 with an eye-popping 1.41 kill-death ratio, a night and day difference from FalleN. With impact missing from the last team, the pressure will be on the tier-one rookie to find it immediately. To ensure this happens, Liquid has to ease the growing pains whenever they come.
osee has to fit in (and out)
One component of professional CS that is often overlooked is the team-building exercises and activities that happen outside of the server. These assorted day-to-day activities are what allow the players to grow with one another not only as teammates but also as friends and sometimes roommates. A major component of team chemistry in a LAN setting is ensuring the personalities of these players and people mesh well inside and outside of the server. When that does not happen, turmoil can form, and performance can be affected. Furthermore, the chemistry inside of a team with a young player trying to find comfort in a new sphere is doubly important to take care of. A lack of support can shatter the confidence of the player and even damage the potential growth prospects of the player and team.
Unfortunately, the necessary care was not provided in the second iteration with Grim, and internal frustrations toward the youthful talent spilled over into the public light. Between admitting he was not a primary target to fill the roster, making him play a role unknown to him, bashing his work ethic, and ultimately putting the rookie in a position to defend himself on stream, the whole thing was a mess considering all the veteran presence involved and was underserved for a player that was making the most of a poor situation they did not create in the first place.
The past is the past, and Liquid will have to ensure the processes this time around are done much better to ensure oSee is given every resource available to him to maximize his growth. That means doing the right things the right way inside and outside of the server so he is comfortable in every aspect of the team so as to not repeat what happened on this previous attempt. Shox’s arrival could have a massive impact on this department, not only because he is a major veteran presence but because he prioritizes developing his young teammates. On HLTV Confirmed, shox said the duties of making Kévin ‘misutaaa’ Rabier comfortable in the lineup were important to him and that he took it personally. Applying this inside the Liquid lineup could offer significant benefits to the team’s success. Perhaps the hardest part of maintaining success in professional CS is ensuring everyone on the team is on the same page in all aspects of the game. When mistakes are made, egos start to show, and the real problems begin to reveal themselves.
Egos cannot prevail
During the tail-end of this roster, the frustration with one another was becoming more apparent with every video and text-based interview provided to the public. Comments from players cast doubts regarding the chemistry, and the concerns were validated when EliGE confirmed the team did not get along or practice with one another towards the end of the season, and the frustrations spilled into the live matches and post-game interviews.
The end of this roster was a documented disaster, and there is a reason for concern as we loom closer to the next attempt by Liquid to get back to the top of the mountain. Liquid fans can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that the core of EliGE, NAF, and nitr0 is documented to work should it come to fruition. These three players help set the standard for what it means to wear a Liquid jersey in CS through tenure and success. Shedding the tumultuous stigma that currently exists with the team is important and will allow the rookie AWP to grow the way he should. Shox’s arrival is an appealing one considering his experience and ability, but it is unclear just how he will fit with the rest of the lineup. Comfortably fitting the French Major winning legend with three Grand Slam winners without having egos collide would not only propel oSee, but allow the team to reach new heights.
Ultimately, these are the hurdles that Liquid will have to overcome to get back to its championed ways. Otherwise, we may be looking at a changed roster that produces the same results, and falls short again.