By: Zachary Lange

For the final time in Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, eUnited will Stand United when the team travels to Los Angeles for the 2019 Call of Duty World League Championship.

Months of nonstop practice and competing will come to a head when eUnited takes the stage at the Pauley Pavilion for the group state of the $2 million tournament beginning Wednesday.

There’s palpable excitement in the room. Fresh off of a win at the CWL Pro League Playoffs in Miami, eUnited finally punched a hole in the proverbial glass ceiling by becoming the fourth organization in Black Ops 4 to win a major tournament.

Coming into the five-day event at the top of Pool A, the quintet will look to use their energy and momentum gained from a recent training session at Gen.G’s headquarters in Los Angeles.

The road to get to becoming champions – entering the largest event of the year with a full head of steam – didn’t come easily. Heartbreak by way of runner-up finishes, roster changes and a surge in the pro league all preceded the triumph.

Beginning on the right foot

Starting off the year at CWL Las Vegas, the core trio of James “Clayster” Eubanks, Alec “Arcitys” Sanderson and Preston “Prestinni” Sanderson were joined by up-and-coming Tyler “aBeZy” Pharris and long-established veteran Jordan “JKap” Kaplan.

The roster’s blend of young and old began with the proper balance. A balance that took eUnited Call of Duty to its first grand finals appearance of the year at CWL Las Vegas.

“It showed that I could compete at the highest level,” said Saug gunner aBeZy, who cited Las Vegas as his biggest personal growing point this season.

A 3-0 defeat at the hands of OpTic Gaming sent the team home with silver medals for their performance to open the year.

Pro league, and the fall

After nearly two months away from competing, eUnited was ready to tackle the CWL Pro League. With several series going the full distance in a best-of-five format, the team wrapped up the first two weeks of play in Division B with a respectable 5-2 record, ready to go to the second event of the year at CWL Fort Worth.

Something was off, however. The chemistry across the board wasn’t fully synced. Despite time away to practice for the pro league, sets that were considered in heavy favor of eUnited by analysts pregame took Game 5 clutches just to come away with the victory. Regardless, the team remained focused on heading to the Lonestar State to build upon their pro league successes, no matter how difficult they came.

That’s when the wheels fell off.

Out of the 12 maps played at Fort Worth, eUnited won four, going 1-2 in pool play before being knocked out of the first round of losers bracket by 100 Thieves.

It was the lowest point of the year. And it was time for a change.

The arrival of Simp

A roster change period directly after Fort Worth brought the addition of Chris “Simp” Lehr to the team, with JKap departing. The change brought with it a breath of fresh air, with a young rookie looking to prove himself.

Sitting atop of the leaderboards is nothing new for the 18-year-old Simp, who has been competing at local tournaments across his home in New York and the Midwest for several years prior to becoming a pro. But going for the top of the leaderboard isn’t always what’s in the team’s best interests.

“What I learned (as a pro this year) was that you can’t just get kills and expect to win,” Simp said. “That teamwork is better than anything else.”

Teammate Prestinni soon recognized that once Simp joined the team, it was a step in the right direction.

“I think when we picked up Simp, we were still in a bad spot mentally,” Prestinni said. “We needed some kind of boost. I think we had a good day of scrims and since then, we knew we had the potential to win again. That’s when our mentality changed.

“As of right now, we’ve been playing the best cod we’ve ever played and I’m really confident in moving forward to champs.”

With Simp’s abilities as a Saug duo with aBeZy, Prestinni transitioned to the Maddox – a flex role that has allowed him to also pick up a Saug depending on the situation, but be multi-faceted and flank the opposition with his primary gun of choice to get kills on rotation. The flexibility and adaptation to his new role has been a crucial, yet unspoken reason to eUnited’s recent success.

Turning up

After a 3-1 week in cross-division play, with the newly-joined Simp getting his reps in as a professional player, eUnited traveled across the pond for CWL London.

With a raucous crowd inside the Copper Box Arena, eUnited squeaked through pool play with a 2-1 record (7-6 map count) before quickly being deposited into the losers bracket by 100 Thieves.

It was the losers bracket run at London that perhaps changed the team’s mojo for the rest of the year.

Sending home Team Reciprocity, Midnight Esports, Team Heretics, Team Envy and OpTic Gaming, the squad had an aura around them that hadn’t been seen in Black Ops 4. Despite the 3-1 loss in grand finals to 100T, the tone for the summer stretch of the season had been set.

It wasn’t about staying afloat and keeping pace. It was about setting the pace and winning.

“Every single one of us needed to step up individually before we could take the step as a team,” Clayster said on what it took to improve as the season went on. “And I think that all of us just putting our heads down and getting into the minute details helped more than anything.”

The success at London was proliferated by a late-May run in the team’s return to the pro league. In the second stint of divisional play, the team ran the table with a 7-0 record across two weeks of action, setting themselves up for the top seed in the Pro League Playoffs in the process.

eUnited closed out the regular season of the pro league with a 3-1 record in the final week of cross-division play for a final overall mark of 18-4.

Victory in Vice City

Despite coming into the event with a first-round bye, eUnited weren’t considered the heavy favorites by any means.

But by the time Reciprocity had a chance to blink, the team had blown by them in a 3-0 sweep. Followed up by a statement, 3-1 win against Gen.G in the winner’s semifinals, eUnited had guaranteed themselves a top-3 placement before Championship Sunday even began.

The rest is history.

eUnited won sets against FaZe Clan (3-1) and Gen.G (0-3, 3-0) to secure their first championship of Black Ops 4 a mere month before the biggest event of the year.

Now caught up to speed, let’s run through what to expect at the main event.

Coach’s Corner – Brice Faccento

Understated is the effect that coach Brice “Faccento” Faccento had on the team when he arrived in April. Immediately, the ship was tightened. Practices began running with more intensity. Critical feedback was assessed to each member individually. It began the turnaround process.

“Faccento has played a big role in our development as a team and honestly I'm not sure we could have done it without him,” Clayster said. “He's the first real ‘coach’ I've had in Call of Duty, and I don't mean to shade anyone with that statement, I just mean in the traditional, hard-nosed, actual coach sense. It's been different, but a welcome change.”

Faccento’s abilities in the picks and bans portion of each series since he has taken over have paid dividends as well. He was 10-1 in pro league matches behind the headset, as well as a combined 15-7 across three events (London, Anaheim, Playoffs).

After playing under Evil Geniuses for the first half of pro league, Faccento retired in March and quickly found a home as the coach of eUnited by April.

“As a player my best quality that I brought to teams was my leadership,” he said. “I took pride in creating and innovating different ways to play the game as a team. Player to coach was a very easy transition for me.”

Now analyzing every move, Faccento has carved out his leadership stake in the team alongside Clayster to help propel the team forward. Heading into the $2 million championship, he sees 100 Thieves, Gen.G and FaZe as the teams to beat.

“Scrims have been great since the Miami win,” he said. “We’ve been rolling ever since. We’re sticking to script of what got us over the hump. A lot of film work and talking through situations as a team.”

Breaking down Pool A

Beginning Wednesday, eUnited will head Pool A against Elevate, Celtic FC Esports and RBL eSports.

Winning the pro league playoffs automatically secured the team into the top pool for the group stage portion of the event. Elevate, who finished at the bottom of Division B in the pro league, respectively, will most likely offer the biggest competition.

Celtic FC Esports features a pair of former pro league players in Seany and Bance, with RBL eSports comprised of well-known amateur players who will be sure to come prepared and ready to cause an upset alert.

Here is the schedule for pool play, all times are Pacific.

Wednesday:

eUnited vs. RBL eSports – 10 a.m.

eUnited vs. Celtic FC Esports – 4 p.m.

Thursday:

eUnited vs. Elevate – 1 p.m.

What it would mean

Each player was given a set of questions to help aid the content of this preview. However, each player was given the same question to answer at the end.

In a few words, how does the title of “Call of Duty World Champion” sound to you?

Here are their answers in full:

Arcitys: “Being a called a champion is the goal, but that’s only the first step. I want to be called the best. Not just a champion, but one step at a time.”

Prestinni: “Alec and I aren’t those players that get complacent. So when we hear those words, it doesn’t mean any more than another event to us. We put in the work for every event, not just this one.

“We want to win as much as possible. Putting in the time and effort for just the biggest event of the year is kind of sad in my honest opinion. Passion to win everything is more important than just champs. That’s how we look at it.”

aBeZy: “It would be the best feeling in the world especially since we just won playoffs. It would truly be a dream come true.”

Simp: “That title for me is a dream come true. I’ve been wanting even a shot at playing at champs for so long and now I have a chance to win it.”

(Author’s note: Clayster’s question was slightly modified to indicate becoming a two-time world champion.)

Clayster: “Ha, two-time world champion? Back to back, playoffs and a champs win? Surreal, man, would be surreal.”

eUnited will look to bring home an $800,000 first prize and all the glory of becoming the best in the world when play begins Wednesday. And if it is the final time a world championship as we all know it will be hosted, what better way is there than to go out on top.

Standing United.