Fans of North American Counter-Strike know very well how much the region’s scene got affected by the online era. In the past two years, organizations closed their Counter-Strike divisions, players moved to other games, and the overall investment in the scene simply disappeared.
However, 2022 is here, and while the online era isn’t completely over, it seems that North American CS is starting to get back on its feet. Make no mistake, it won’t suddenly get to the level it was before the pandemic, but the news we got so far are positive enough to make fans hope for a better year than what we had in the past two.
But why exactly is the outlook better now? Which teams will be fighting to bring North American back to the table? It’s time to do a quick review of the teams in North America coming to 2022 with high expectations.
LEADING THE CHARGE FOR NORTH AMERICA: TEAM LIQUID
In the past few months, Team Liquid was the last remaining North American team competition at the highest level in Counter-Strike. However, even then, Team Liquid was barely scrapping to keep themselves in the top 10 of most CSGO world rankings, and after months of disappointments and underwhelming performances, the organization closed 2021 in a low note.
Still, even before the final tournaments of 2021, we knew that Liquid was going to be part of the shuffle season. With some rumored names such as ex-FURIA Vinicius “VINI” Figueiredo being part of the earlier rumor mill, Liquid’s roster is close to be finalized now. The organization is keeping Jonathan “EliGE” Jablonowski and Keith “NAF” Markovic, both who can be considered veterans in this team by now. Then, Liquid brought in Joshua “oSee” Ohm, which made his name as Extra Salt’s AWPer last year.
To fill the remaining spots, Liquid brought in French veteran and ex-Vitality role player Richard “shox” Papillon. While not confirmed yet, the man that will lead this squad will be none other than Nicholas “nitr0” Cannella, which is returning to Counter-Strike after a stint in VALORANT.
POTENTIAL CLOUDED BY UNCERTAINTY
It’s hard to deny the potential that this roster has. When you have two players like EliGE and NAF, you already got a pretty interesting them. But then you add someone like oSee, which was demolishing his opponents in Extra Salt, and you got something even more interesting. And then you add nitr0, the man who was in charge of Liquid when it reached its peak in CSGO, and shox, an incredibly versatile veteran who can be the role player Liquid needed for the entirety of 2021, and you have a strong formula.
However, it’s also undeniable that there are some questions surrounding this roster. The most persistent one is regarding nitr0, the captain. Can the captain repeat his success with TL? When he left for VALORANT in 2020, nitr0 was in an individual slump, and CSGO changed plenty since then. Can he adjust back to the game in order to lead a team aiming to break through the best teams in the world?
Furthermore, there are some smaller questions going on too. Is shox the man Team Liquid needs? Initially, he may be essential as he complements nitr0’s calling, but over the time, his individual level might weight more than his contributions. Then you’ll also see some questioning oSee. The 22-year-old crushed his opposition while playing for Extra Salt, but he’s now going to face the best teams in the world. All these are fair questions to be asked.
CLEARING THE CLOUDS
Still, it’s hard to think of any other team that did roster moves in these past couple of weeks that doesn’t also their own questions to answer when they return back to the game. Instead of focusing on those, it’d be good to acknowledge the potential here. As we said above, EliGE and NAF are incredible players. Shox and oSee might also end up as clear upgrades in this team.
The only real incognita in this squad is nitr0. We can’t simply expect him to take Liquid to the top immediately after joining the team, but how much time to give him? How much time he’ll take? Fortunately, as we saw above, shox might be the man Liquid’s counting on to step when nitr0 needs him to. Then, when nitr0 is comfortable, shox would be freed to fully support the squad main fraggers. It’s an interesting setup that could work. And it could be very dangerous.
In any case, it shouldn’t be long until we see Team Liquid back in action. The squad returns to action on the last Thursday of January at BLAST Premier Spring Groups.
NORTH AMERICA’S MOST DANGEROUS GAMBLE: EVIL GENIUSES
Evil Geniuses is making an extremely dangerous bet for their squad in 2022. The team is keeping two players from their previous roster, Tsvetelin “CeRq” Dimitrov and Vincent “Brehze” Cayonte. Joining these two are the trio that won the ELEAGUE Major Boston 2018 with Cloud9. Jacky “Stewie2K” Yip, Timothy “autimatic” Ta and William “RUSH” Wierzba. It has been a while since this trio played together, though. Stewie2K played for Liquid in 2021, while RUSH played for Complexity. Autimatic, in the other hand, is returning from a run in VALORANT.
The reason as to why this roster should be considered a dangerous gamble is painfully clear. While Stewie2K and RUSH are still strong players – especially the former – the remaining of this team has a lot to prove. The remaining duo of Brehze and CeRq both had an incredibly underwhelming year in 2021. Then you have autimatic, which is returning from VALORANT, and much like nitr0, will have to show that he still can compete with the best in Counter-Strike.
So, while it’s fair to have some questions about Team Liquid, it’s hard to not outright doubt that this EG roster will work. Keeping CeRq alone is already a questionable move, let alone keep him alongside Brehze and autimatic. Yet, it’s obvious that this wasn’t the original project EG had in mind as Liquid’s NAF confirmed he was approached by the organization in late 2021. Missing NAF must have caused some drastic change of plans for EG.
Surviving the odds
The key element for this all-but-confirmed Evil Geniuses line-up is to start slowly as possible. Unfortunately, Stewie2K and RUSH will most take supportive roles on the team. This means that the remaining trio – two which have to leave a slump and one returning from another game – are the ones supposed to bring the frags. So, it’s essential the Evil Geniuses focuses on giving these three players time.
More importantly yet, it’ll be very important for them to participate in lesser tournaments. Events such as Relog Media’s FunSpark ULTI will be very important so this team have time to build something from the ground up. For EG, managing expectations have never been this important. However, it’ll also be very important for the management to give the squad objectives to reach, and be ready to make changes if these aren’t meet in time.
Finally, there’s a real possibility that this Evil Geniuses roster doesn’t break through the ten best CSGO teams in the world. This wouldn’t be a surprise, and to be fair, it wouldn’t be a complete disappointment either. If Evil Geniuses stay on the same level as teams like ENCE, FNATIC and GODSENT, it’ll be fine too. At this point, having a team able to compete with those squads in the same level would be already be positive news for fans of North American CS.
NOW WITH LESS SALT: COMPLEXITY
Originally, Complexity was reportedly interested in the Danish squad currently playing for Copenhagen Flames. Plans changed, and now rumour has it that the organization is looking to build a team around the current Extra Salt core.
In case you missed, the rumored roster is composed by Johnny “JT” Theodosiou, Justin “FaNg” Coakley, Michael “Grim” Wince, Paytyn “junior” Johnson and Ricky “floppy” Kemery. FaNg, floppy and JT have been playing for ES for sometime now, while Grim is coming from Team Liquid and junior is mostly known for his time at FURIA.
It’s clear that from these names, Complexity isn’t aiming to reach the top of the world rankings immediately. However, there also some very interesting pieces here, and they could definitely become one of the best squads in NA. Grim and junior might have failed to impress when they had a major opportunity in bigger teams, sure. However, we have to consider how Liquid used Grim, which saw the player in difficult roles. Then, it’s important to think about the many factors that held Junior back in his time at FURIA.
Then you add those to the Extra Salt core, which had some good moments in 2021, and will certainly be benefitted by these additions. This isn’t a team supposed to compete against G2, Natus Vincere or Vitality. Instead, it’s a squad that will develop over the months, and slowly climb the world rankings. Give this new Complexity time and we’re in for a treat.
If you can’t wait to see this roster in action, then you won’t have to wait much. This roster will be playing at FunSpark ULTI Finals next Tuesday. The squad will be still playing as Extra Salt, but reliable sources have confirmed that it’s a matter of time until they enter the Complexity family.
FROM THE GROUND UP: DAPS’ NEW PROJECT, PARTY ASTRONAUTS & MORE
Finally, one last project we can’t forget about it’s the one helmed by ex-Evil Genius Damian “daps” Steele. According to Dust2.us, daps was, alongside with RUSH with now is linked with EG, building a new roster. This team is now seemingly formed by daps, Brendan “Bwills” Williams. Gage “Infinite” Green. Marshall “Minus” Sedowicz and Michael “Swisher” Schmid.
These players are mostly coming from the lower-tier of competition in North American, but that doesn’t mean that this isn’t an interesting project. With daps on the helm, this team could bring some gems to light, and with Extra Salt reportedly picking them up, this squad would have enough resources to developer over 2022.
To keep the lower-ranked, in-house North America scene alive, there’s also other projects worth mentioning. Party Astronauts, for one, have been on the grind for a long time, and so have been RBG and Triumph. These squads deserve a lot of praise for their dedication to the game if anything else.
GOOD NEWS INBOUND
Having three, perhaps even four teams competing in the international scene is great. However, there’s a chance that even better news is on the way.
During ESL’s recent announcement of an extension to the Louvre Agreement, both the Commissioner’s officer and the partners involved in the agreement come together to announce their support towards North American Counter-Strike. Hopefully this signifies that there are some plans to rebuild the scene in the works. While it might not be immediate, such a plan would actually be a great start for the region.
However, while we don’t get more concrete news, we’ll have to content ourselves with what we have here. And to be fair, this is arguably far better than the outlook for the scene one year ago.
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