After the way 2020 has gone so far, it’s clear a lot can change in seven months - even in the world of Rocket League.
In December 2019, we had the Rocket League World Championship in Madrid, the site of THAT overtime goal from Justin "Jstn." Morales, and the caster's cries of "THIS IS ROCKET LEAGUE" as NRG finally ended their wait for their first world championship.
As we entered January we had the long wait for the start of RLCS Season 9 - too long according to some - with noises coming out of the competitive community that Psyonix's communication and overall strategy for their esport was not the right one.
Then we had the COVID-19 pandemic putting a spanner into esports, and life generally, in a way never seen before. In early March, Psyonix, to their credit, acted quickly moving the format entirely online and cancelling the World Championship set for Dallas. The RLCS season would be truncated but it would continue.
While the outlook now looks more positive, with the newly revamped RLCS and the move to free-to-play set to bring aboard a new wave of players, some things over these transformative months have stayed the same.
The new RLCS format is set to give players and teams greater opportunity to compete and earn money. (Picture: Psyonix)
An example? As shown in the ESPN Invitational, Justin "Jstn." Morales' proved he is still the king of the clutch moment, scoring in overtime in the grand final, avoiding a Game 7 and defeating an impressive Rogue side. This is Rocket League indeed.
This tournament was the last community tournament before the start of RLCS Season X. Rosters had been locked by the start of the weekend, and this was set to be the last chance for, North American sides at least, to see who are the frontrunners heading into the new season.
By the end of it, few things are certain. Rogue look impressive with wunderkind Jason "firstkiller" Corral proving time and again to be an asset at both ends of the field.
G2 Esports, while not looking like the same side that won the RLCS Season 9 Regional Finals and Spring Series and having made no roster changes look on shaky ground with their weekend cut short after finishing last in their group. Only a fool would rule them out but you suspect they can't wait for the RLCS' return in August.
Spacestation Gaming, who controversially (at least in this writer's eyes) dropped Alexandre "AxB" Bellemare for Slater "retals" Thomas on the eve of the tournament, looked disjointed with retals taking up much of the space areas that Tshaka "Arsenal" Lateef Taylor Jr likes to do his best work. They reached the semi-finals but Rogue looked a class above.
Then there is Team Envy who have signed the hugely experienced Turbopolsa, and reached the semi-finals where they were defeated 4-1 by NRG. They looked solid, if unspectacular, but they're a team on the up and with Massimo "Atomic" Franceschi on the team they can beat anyone on their day.
Then, of course, is NRG, who since signing Mariano "SquishyMuffinz" Arruda have gone 26-2, reach four grand finals, winning three of them and having just two series losses, one against Rogue here in the Group Stages and one against Team Envy in The Brawl Grand Final.
They've earned the right to be called the No.1 team in North America, but a lot can change in seven months and then again some things never change.