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Overwatch League Stage 4 playoffs recap

Los Angeles Valiant 3 – New York Excelsior 1

The Los Angeles Valiant finished the final stage of the inaugural season of the Overwatch League with a 3-1 series win against the New York Excelsior to capture the Stage 4 title on Sunday at Blizzard Arena in Burbank, California.

Up until about halfway through Stage 4, it was painfully clear that the Excelsior was the best team in the world. Stacked with MVP-caliber talent across almost every role and led by a top-tier coaching staff, the NYXL quickly rose to dominance, capturing the Stage 2 and 3 titles and locking up the No. 1 seed for the overall season playoffs.

On the other side of things, the Valiant had a turbulent first half of the season, going through well-documented internal struggles. But New York’s recent struggles opened the door for LA to capture the championship Sunday.

The Valiant engaged New York with a game plan focused around defensive mastery and refused to give up any space to the Excelsior’s frontline. Indeed, the Valiant tank duo of main tank Koo “Fate” Pan-seung and off-tank Indy “SPACE” Halpern were crucial to LA’s win, controlling the battle lines well and enabling the rest of the team.

With space to operate, the rest of the team shined. DPS Brady “Agilities” Girardi showed why he might be the best projectile/flex DPS player in the league with his Genji, Pharah and other heroes. Flex support Park “KariV” Young-seo, who volleyed through New York as Zenyatta, managed to rival MVP-caliber Zenyatta and NYXL support Bang “JJoNak” Sung-hyeon. And a Los Angeles team that not only overcame adversity early in the season but came together to form the best team currently in the Overwatch League soared into the season playoffs and sent a statement to the other five playoff teams that the Valiant is for real.

New York, meanwhile, had one of its worst performances in quite some time. All of the DPS players seemed to take turns struggling to find kills, the aforementioned JJoNak couldn’t carry in the face of a strong Valiant frontline and New York’s frontline got surprisingly stuffed by the Valiant time and time again.

Over the course of the past few weeks, the NYXL went from an unstoppable force to a team that relies solely on out-muscling opponents, but this series showed that if New York isn’t on-point, other teams in the league can certainly take it out. All that remains now for New York is which team shows up to the playoffs: the NYXL of the first 35 matches or the one that showed up late in Stage 4.

Both teams will next take to the stage for the season playoffs, which begin July 11 at 8 p.m. ET with the Philadelphia Fusion taking on the Boston Uprising.

Noah Waltzer

Semifinals

Los Angeles Valiant 3 – Los Angeles Gladiators 2

In a close series fit for an Overwatch League playoff, the Los Angeles Valiant took down the Los Angeles Gladiators 3-2 to win the Battle for LA once more and advance to the Stage 4 finals on Sunday at Blizzard Arena in Burbank, California.

The Gladiators, having secured the No. 1 seed in the Stage 4 playoffs, got the luxury of picking its opponent for the opening round. While many would have expected the Dallas Fuel’s number to get called because the Fuel narrowly made it into the playoffs, the Gladiators threw a curveball by selecting the Valiant as its opponent.

It was a curveball that almost worked out, but the Gladiators simply couldn’t rise above the Valiant.

After being full-held on the opening map of Watchpoint: Gibraltar, the Gladiators dug its heels in with a pair of solid performances on both Horizon Lunar Colony and Lijiang Tower. On both maps, main tank Baek “Fissure” Chan-hyung did it all for the Gladiators while showing why many have put him in the season MVP conversation. Whether he was on Winston or Reinhardt, he landed timely ultimates that always turned the tide of battle. There wasn’t a stray Earthshatter or Primal Rage from Fissure as he helped the Gladiators take a 2-1 lead going into King’s Row.

It was at that point that the Valiant woke back up with a pair of blistering performances on King’s Row and Dorado.

As has been the case for much of Stage 4, the DPS duo of Brady “Agilities” Girardi and Terence “SoOn” Tarlier put in major work for the Valiant on these final two maps. They thoroughly outplayed the Gladiators’ Joao Pedro “Hydration” Goes Telles and Lane “Surefour” Roberts, as the latter was constantly pressured and outdueled by SoOn.

Fissure frequently tried to put the Gladiators on his back to turn things back into his team’s favor, but he often pushed too deep into Valiant territory and got ripped to shreds as a result. It certainly wasn’t pretty, but things never are when these teams meet. All that matters for the Valiant is that it picked up the win and is on to the Stage 4 finals to face the winner of Sunday’s second match between the Dallas Fuel and New York Excelsior.

Wyatt Donigan

New York Excelsior 3 – Dallas Fuel 2

In another five-game series, the New York Excelsior defeated the Dallas Fuel 3-2 on Sunday at the Blizzard Arena in Burbank, California to secure a spot in the Overwatch League Stage 4 finals.

With the Excelsior playing below its normal level during the last few weeks, the stage was set for an upset of epic proportions. Dallas, once the laughingstock of the OWL, had a shot to take down the best and most-decorated team in the league.

Try as it might, though, Dallas couldn’t get over the hump against this New York team, even in its seemingly weakened state.

As has been the case for much of Stage 4, New York looked to be relying on its raw skill instead of its teamfighting and adaptability. It frequently ran the same team compositions over and over again regardless of the result in a perceived attempt to save something for the season playoffs in July.

Even though Dallas managed to push New York to the very brink, that raw skill from New York eventually won out. On Dorado for the decisive Game 5, the NYXL tank duo of Kim “Mano” Dong-yu and Kim “MekO” Tae-hong once again stood tall and pushed through the Fuel to punch New York’s ticket to its fourth straight Stage finals.

Despite being handed a loss, this was a strong ending for a Dallas Fuel team that had little hope of ever seeing a playoff game earlier this season. From the continued Brigitte prowess from flex tank Pongphop “Mickie” Rattanasangchod, to flex DPS Timo “Taimou” Kettunen holding his own against the flashy Kim “Pine” Do-hyeon, to main tank Son “OGE” Min-seok keeping the pressure up from the frontlines, this Dallas team has showed marked improvements from its lows in stages past.

The Fuel might have to watch the rest of the season from the sidelines, but the players can do with their heads held high and a bright future ahead.

The Excelsior will now turn its attention to the Stage 4 finals Sunday evening where it will face the Los Angeles Valiant in a matchup between the best team of the entire season and one of the best teams in Stage 4.

Wyatt Donigan

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