Following their loss to FlyQuest, the excitement around CLG began to dwindle. Despite their team maintaining an impressive 3-1 record, CLG fans were ready to hop off of the hype train after just one loss. What makes this particularly difficult to understand is that that loss could have very easily been a win. In fact, CLG held the lead for the majority of the game. At one point, they had accrued such an advantage that they were able to make a push all the way to the enemy nexus, destroying every turret in the top lane to reach it.
While this push was obviously unsuccessful, it goes to show that the game was nearly CLG’s for the taking. The turning point, however, came after a team fight in the mid lane went south and cost them the Baron. Prior to that point, CLG held a nearly 5,000 gold lead. A throw from this point warrants some criticism, however, CLG were still drastically outperforming their preseason expectations.
CLG was almost unanimously considered to be the worst team going into summer. Analysts and critics alike cited a lack of roster changes to an already weak team. Their singular top lane switch-up appeared, on paper, to be heavily outclassed by the changes made by the likes of TSM and Immortals—the two teams below them in spring. Without an apparent answer to the multitude of other issues they experienced outside of the top lane, the spring 8th place team was expected to hold the 10th place spot this split.
Defying all expectations, CLG pulled off their first 3-0 opening since summer 2017. Despite them holding first place, many critics pointed at CLG’s “strength of schedule,” indicating that CLG had only played “bad” teams and was yet to face a top five opponent.
Let’s not forget, however, that CLG was expected to lose against everyone. They came into summer as the perceived underdogs; meaning that winning against anyone would be an upset victory.
With the 0-18 losing narrative shot down by their 3-0 record, the criticisms about their strength of schedule set the foundation for punching down on CLG once they “inevitably” lost to “better” teams. Unfortunately, for the critics primed with their “I told you so” remarks, CLG rebounded from their FlyQuest loss in the most impressive way possible: by taking a win off of the reigning champions.
CLG wasn’t the only team to defy expectations and go 3-0 in the opening weekend. The reigning LCS champions, Evil Geniuses (EG), were also expected to put up losing numbers in their summer opening, but not for the same reasons. Despite flawlessly eliminating the top three teams in playoffs and competing at the international MSI (Mid-Season Invitational), EG was expected to lose the majority of their opening matches.
This is due to the historical precedent surrounding returning MSI competitors. Since 2015, every LCS team returning from MSI either lost or tied in their opening weekend. The most likely reasons for this are fatigue due to a lack of downtime. The non-MSI teams start their breaks immediately after playoffs; however, those competing in the event still have to play for multiple weeks after that, leaving very little time for the players to rest and then get accommodated with the newest patch.
EG were different. They made history by becoming the first team to put up a winning record post-MSI. What’s even more impressive is that they did it against some of the best teams from spring: 100 Thieves (3rd place) and Cloud9 (2nd place).
With the reigning champions picking up where they left off, it seemed unlikely that a hot CLG would be able to take a game off of them. However, the underdog roster pulled off quite the upset. Seizing first blood prior to minion spawns, CLG’s mid laner had acquired a significant advantage in lane. While EG would strike next, neither team managed to secure a noticeable gold lead until the 21 minute mark, where CLG found themselves on the winning end of a team fight over the Baron. With Baron and four extra kills in hand, CLG were in a winning position.
The two continued to exchange blows, with EG slowly chipping away at the CLG gold lead. A fight over the second Baron swung the gold lead back in EG’s favor, granting them baron and priority over the Elder Drake (which they took as well). With Elder buff, EG was knocking on CLG’s gates, and nearly won the game; however, the buff expired, giving CLG the chance to take an inch off of the advantaged Evil Geniuses. Instead, they took a mile. After fending off EG from destroying their nexus, CLG found two kills in the mid lane just before the second Elder spawned. Seizing the Elder and its buff, CLG was able to run through the remaining members of EG and spread their lengthy respawn timers just far enough apart to end the game.
With their victory over EG, CLG are now in a three-way tie for first with Team Liquid and EG. Are CLG a legit contender this summer? Tune in to the LCS next Saturday, July 2nd, as they take on C9 and Team Liquid with hopes of keeping their winning record alive.
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