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Overwatch League: London Spitfire's Preseason Performance

How did the star-studded roster fare?
Overwatch League: London Spitfire's Preseason Performance
Last week, 6 through 9 December, we were finally able to enjoy some Overwatch League action. The preseason wasn’t without its logistical issues for some of the London Spitfire, but that didn’t stop those at the Blizzard Arena from turning in a strong performance. Owned by Cloud9, the Spitfire’s roster is composed almost entirely of former KongDoo and GC Busan players from South Korea, and they’re expected to do quite well in the inaugural season that begins 10 January. Let’s take a look at their matches with the Los Angeles Gladiators and San Francisco Shock, and see what was behind their 1-1 preseason record.

Spitfire vs. Gladiators

The Los Angeles Gladiators aren’t a powerhouse team. Yes, they have Lane “Surefour” Roberts, one of the best DPS players in North America. Yes, their main tank and support duos have played with each other in the past. However, with just one bench player and no real superstar names other than Surefour, no one expected them to put up much of a fight against London, much less win the set. Alas, that’s exactly what happened after a full five map set went the way of Los Angeles. As the desk said at one point, the Spitfire plan on having the KongDoo and GC Busan rosters play entire sets together until they’re comfortable with their new teammates. Against the Gladiators, it would be the bulk of GC Busan drawing the short straw. Jun-Young “Profit” Park and Dong-Eun “Hooreg” Lee led the Spitfire into battle, but something felt a bit off for the Apex Season Four champions. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what problems the Spitfire were dealing with, but shot-calling seemed to be one of them for sure. Profit was one of the shining stars of the recent Apex and APAC Premier tournaments. Some of his colossal DPS plays had people talking for weeks. Perhaps it was fatigue from traveling or nerves, but his performance against Los Angeles was rather underwhelming. He came up empty on Dragonblades several times, often dying and feeding the Gladiators’ ult bank for no reason. Though Profit did have some flashes in the pan, what we saw against Los Angeles needs to be an anomaly going forward. The team’s communication was also tested by a couple of trick defenses that the Gladiators had no doubt been practicing for some time, one of which was on Junkertown. A popular defensive setup on Junkertown is to play on or near the payload as the attacking team comes out of the spawn room. This can cause positioning errors if your opponents are trying for the typical “sailboat” push - putting Bastion on the payload behind Orisa shields. The Gladiators put a creative spin on this by essentially spawn camping and using Halt! to drag the Spitfire out in the open. It worked, as London was unable to make the appropriate switches in time.

Spitfire vs. Shock

After defeating the Florida Mayhem earlier the preseason, the San Francisco Shock looked leaps and bounds better than many people thought they would. Even with Jay “Sinatraa” Won and Matthew “Super” DeLisi ineligible because of age requirements, the rest of the Shock’s roster stepped up big time in every role. They were absolutely no match for London, however, who took the 3-0 sweep along with an extra fourth map. This time around, the C9 KongDoo roster came out to even up the Spitfire’s record. Chan-Hyung “Fissure” Baek led the way as one of the world’s best shield tanks, with Dong-Jun “Rascal” Kim and Ji-Kyeok “birdring” Kim coming in as one of the most iconic DPS duos in all of professional Overwatch. Unlike London’s previous outing, the match against San Francisco was played with much more precision and confidence. [caption id="attachment_95012" align="aligncenter" width="600"]London Spitfire Image via MLG[/caption] Taking a page out of the Gladiators’ playbook, perhaps, the Spitfire showed some creative streaks against San Francisco. On Temple of Anubis, they had an interesting defensive setup where five people were on the high ground over the capture point, leaving only Rascal on the ground as Genji. Not only was it difficult to deal with, but they eventually baited the Shock into a room and slaughtered them all in one of the most demoralizing plays of the entire preseason. The Spitfire also embarrassed San Francisco on Eichenwalde after the Shock had pushed the payload just inside the castle. Going as far back as the first season of Apex, we’ve been hearing “check your corners for Reinhardt,” and London showed us why. When Fissure once again found himself with a fully charged ultimate, he decided it was time for some fun. After repelling an attack, he hid just out of sight next to the main entryway of the castle, waiting for his prey to come stumbling in. When they did, he pressed Q and hit them with an Earthshatter they never saw coming. That’s certainly one way to show people you mean business!

Looking ahead to the inaugural season

Now that all members of the London Spitfire are in California, they can begin practicing in earnest for the regular season of Overwatch League. Their first games of week one are on 11 January against the Florida Mayhem, followed by a match against the Philadelphia Fusion that Saturday, 13 January. Both of these should be relatively easy wins for London, as the Mayhem have been struggling a bit since their Misfits days at Overwatch Contenders, and the Fusion have yet to play a game in uniform together. London’s move to recruit all-star South Korean roster will pay off in the end. Expect the boys from GC Busan to work out their kinks before the season starts, and watch for more innovation out of the entire roster. If they keep calm and improve their communication issues, there’s no reason they can’t go toe-to-toe with teams like the Seoul Dynasty down the final stretch.