The Gladiators came into the Kickoff Clash as a third seed, dropping below the Dallas Fuel and San Francisco Shock, two squads that reverse swept Los Angeles during the tournament qualifiers. It was immediately apparent that the coaching staff had fixed those issues that allowed teams to take maps away from Gladiators as they tore through the Kickoff Clash bracket.
Los Angeles prevented a potential Battle for Texas at the Esports Stadium in Arlington by dismantling the Houston Outlaws 3-0. In the upper bracket semifinals, they made relatively easy work of the Dallas Fuel 3-1. That map would be the only one LAG would drop their entire tournament run, as they proceeded to 3-0 the Atlanta Reign in the upper bracket final, and finally, sweeping the Fuel in the Kickoff Clash grand final.
The clash of styles between Los Angeles and Dallas seemed to favor the California reps at every twist and turn. While Fuel heavily relied on Han-been "Hanbin" Choi's expertise in piloting the Zarya, the synergy with the rest of his squad, particularly DPS Tae-hoon "Edison" Kim, who was forced to play Reaper against a highly mobile composition like the one presented by Los Angeles, was simply absent.
Rookie Gladiators seize the glory
The Gladiators opted to play a rush comp, with Rookie of the Year candidate Corey "Reiner" Scoda marking the tempo with his Reinhardt play, switching to Winston or the newly reworked Doomfist when needed.
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One of the big stars of the show for Los Angeles was former Valorant pro Patiphan Chaiwong. The 18-year-old first burst onto the Overwatch scene in 2018 with Team Thailand during the World Cup. Having to wait until he was of age to be eligible for OWL, Patiphan went on to have a prolific career in Valorant between 2020 and 2021, competing at Valorant Masters 2 and Champions.
His early performances felt underwhelming to analysts and fans alike, casting huge doubts on his ability to perform like he once used to after almost two years away from the scene, competing in another title.
Anyone doubting his prowess only has to see his performance during the grand finals to be proved wrong, as he was on point with his ability usage with Mei and tracking consistency when filling as Soldier: 76.
As for the Dallas Fuel, the defeat was a disappointing one to say the least, more so considering they were defeated in their home state, but the quality of their individual pieces is world-class. Once they adjust minor synergy issues, the Fuel will burn bright blue in the near future.
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Featured image courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment.