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Fabio | 31. July 2021

NAL Stage 2 Recap: SSG Back on Top

Just a few days ago, the North American League crowned its new Top 4. SSG, TSM, Soniqs, and DarkZero have all qualified for the upcoming Major in Mexico.

With a considerable headstart, Spacestation Gaming had secured a Top 4 slot two match days before the league had even ended. After winning their remaining matches as well, they held the first place. They’re the uncontested frontrunners on 22 points. Unfortunately, other teams didn’t have it as easy.

THE DISAPPOINTMENTS OF NAL STAGE 2

Oxygen Esports are first in that regard. They are the only ones from the 2020 Top 4 lineup to not have made it to the Major. Even though they were the bottom feeders at the two Major tournaments back then, they at least managed to confidently set themselves on top of every other team. In Season 2 Stage 1, just a few months ago, they even made first place. While their win over TSM on the last match day was proof that they do have the skill necessary, that demonstration came much too late.

The comparison of the final results with those from the fifth match day reveals a shocking descent on the part of Mirage. Back then, they were in third place with nine points and had successfully passed a few favorites on the way there. But on the following four days, they suddenly failed to win a single match and gradually descended in the ranks. In the end, they concluded NAL Stage 2 in seventh place.

With just three points and no victories to their name, beastcoast are dead last. The organization has now followed this shocking result up with two roster changes. Khalil “b1ologic” Pleas has officially retired. So there are major restructuring efforts ahead for the team. After all, this year’s season will relegate someone in the end. Right now, beastcoast only have a one point lead over XSET in the overall standings from Stage 1 and 2, putting them in second-to-last place.

TSM AND DARKZERO RETAIN THEIR SPOTS

After a successful 2020 season and a fourth place at the Six Invitational, Team SoloMid saw no reason to change up players. They were the most successful non-Brazilian team there and so far, no single player had given them any reason to reconsider.

Their trust in the roster has paid off. The team has secured a solid second place. Even though there is some distance to the top spot, they are definitely among the best in the league. DarkZero, on the other hand, had to rework their roster. Alexander “Skys” Magor and Kyle “Mint” Lander both went into early retirement, although the latter has remained with the organization in a coaching capacity. Brandon “BC” Carr gave up his coaching spot in return and entered the server as their new in-game-leader. They recruited Roberto “Panbazou” Feliciano from LiViD Gaming. These decisions have paid off. After a sixth place in Stage 1, they have returned to the Top 4 – even with a former coach and unproven youngster!

SONIQS FINALLY GET SOME REWARD

Their second place in Stage 1 was a real success story. But aside from Six Invitational points and some prize money, the Susquehanna Soniqs didn’t really get anything for their work. The Major was cancelled to make place for the Six Invitational, which still utilized the qualification system and slots from 2020. But now, the team has made the Top 4 again and can look forward to their first international tournament. It’s imperative for their region to develop new talent and expose it to EU and Brazilian competition. So it’s quite important to have a team like the Susquehanna Soniqs on board. With the exception of SSG, TSM, and DarkZero, they have been able to defeat every other team in NAL.

ARE SSG BACK?

Their victory at the Six Invitational 2020 is easily still in living memory. The North American fans haven’t forgotten how Spacestation Gaming secured the trophy in front of a home crowd. To see them back at the top after a horrible first stage must be quite a relief for North America.

In Stage 1, they had to compensate the departure of Troy “Canadian” Jaroslawski by utilizing their analyst as IGL. This obviously wasn’t the best setup for them and so the underwhelming performance at the start of the year shouldn’t come as a surprise. But for Stage 2, they managed to recruit Matthew “Hotancold” Stevens. This player was an absolute beast for DarkZero Esports and slotted in perfectly with the SSG roster. He promptly secured the highest rating for NAL Stage 2.

So Spacestation Gaming are fielding one of the league’s best fraggers. The team has definitely proven itself against national competition. The upcoming Mexico Major will be their next real test. After the EU teams had fallen off at SI2021, North America has a unique chance to go on the attack. A lot of Brazilian teams stand in the way, but after their most recent performances, Spacestation Gaming look to be able to reclaim the top spot – or at least make it far.