Starting Off With a Bump
This journey has been a long one.
Months ago, the debate was whether or not eUnited would be the top team in the Pro League or just make top three -- the idea of not even making playoffs wasn't in the conversation.
Heading into the league, eUnited CoD were expected to grab a playoff spot with ease. They were coming off two top six finishes at the previous open events, CWL Dallas and CWL NOLA and looked primed to cement themselves as a top team in COD: WWII, per these expectation.
However, nothing can truly ever be predicted.
The beginning of the Pro League for eUnited was was quite the contrast of what everyone thought would happen.
Despite a victory in their first match against Splyce, the boys fell to FaZe and LG to start the league at the bottom of the standings. This trend continued into the next week, as eU CoD fell to Team Envy, Evil Geniuses and Unilad, only getting a victory against the last place Epsilon.
The team's play was the polar opposite of what it had been in the events previous.
Going into CWL Atlanta and the final weeks of Pro League, a change was in desperate need to help the guys regain and refocus.
That change came from new head coach Brian "Saintt" Baroska.
“When I first started helping the team they had a gap between S1 and Atlanta so I was spectating all their scrims in game and focused on helping them fix a bunch of fundamentals in hardpoint and CTF…” said Baroska. “...after a day or 2 they were looking much better in scrims.”
Baroska’s addition was a natural one because of his degree of experience and prior relationship with the players on the team.
“Deciding to join eU was a pretty obvious choice for me. I'm really good friends and have a good relationship with everyone on the team so it made the most sense,” he said. “Once I stopped playing earlier this season I knew I wanted to start coaching so I contacted Clay and Justin since they brought up me coaching them early in the WWII season and that's basically how everything came about.”
In Atlanta, the work with Baroska shined as the team remained resilient and despite a slow start in pools, made an incredible losers bracket run to once again place top six. This top six placing was despite the weeks of frustration and turmoil that had accumulated prior to the event.
While a degree of disappointment was to be had that the the loser's run wasn't longer, spirits were still at the highest point they had been in months. The team had banded together, ignored the rumors, moved past any drama and stood united in Atlanta.
"AND CLAYSTER'S ROARING!"
Confidence was back once the team returned to Columbus for the final two weeks of the Pro League. In the first week back, the team dropped their series against Luminosity but stayed positive on the week with victories over Unilad and Epsilon.
Then….. the run.
The final week of the Pro League was upon the team and they controlled their destiny. Win out and they’re in, drop a series and they sit on the sideline until Stage Two.
It was Baroska’s job to do all he could to ensure the team came out on top.
“With pro league I knew they could still qualify even though they were in a really bad spot off the start.” explained Baroska. “I focused on studying other teams and reviewing film to help them veto around their weaknesses while also getting a map pool that didn't favor the other other team.”First, it was FaZe who had previously swept eU CoD at the beginning of the stage. This time around, it wasn’t as easy. The teams battled back and forth, with gripping game after gripping game, until ultimately eUnited came out on top in a game five Search and Destroy that saw Arcitys go 10-3.
The guys from this point forward had a fire lit under them that blazed a trail throughout the entire league. They took on Evil Geniuses in the next set, who they dispatched in a 3 - 1 victory -- but it wasn't an easy one.
EG took it to eU CoD in every map and came ten seconds from forcing a game five with their play in map four's Hardpoint on London Docks. However, eU CoD pulled off one of the most dramatic map finishes the CWL has ever seen and secured the series win.
It came down to Splyce, this time playing with their full roster. Both teams were in the same spot, win and you're in. Nothing was left off the table and everyone was going to give every ounce of what they had.
As it turns out, everything eUnited Call of Duty had was far too overwhelming for Splyce. In what could be called the team's best performance of the Pro League, they took out their opponents in a sweep: a 250 - 209 Hardpoint win on London Docks, an intense 6 - 5 Search and Destroy win on Sainte Marie du Mont and a final victory in Capture The Flag on Flak Tower, where eUnited held off against the comeback to secure the series victory.
Against all odds, eU CoD took the final spot in the Stage One Playoffs completing the most unlikely of journeys. A journey fueled the natural drive of these competitors, the fans that stuck with them and of course, just a little bit of Redbull.
Baroska's work with the team has paid off thus far, but he understands that even in the hour of victory there are still many things to work forward on.
"They honestly should have gone 7-0 those last 2 weeks but they still did a really good job going 5-2 and being the only team to beat FaZe," he said. "In the end the playoff spot was all that mattered. I think the playoff run was fueled a lot off the FaZe win. That was a huge confidence boost for everyone after getting reverse swept by nV. This team knows how to be the best and can be but a lot of it comes down to them being confident in themselves and each other."
The Road Forward
Now comes what these competitors have been fighting for: The CWL Pro League Stage One Playoffs, a shot at a piece of $500,000 and a Stage One Championship.
Every one within the team stood together to make their run with each player contributing something unique to every series.
Two of the factors in the turnaround success are the play and resolve of Alec "Arcitys" Sanders and Justin "SILLY" Fargo.
Arcitys gave map after map of high level play, something he says he can consistently do because of a simple mentality: belief.
"You gotta believe you're one of the best to be the best..." he said. "...ever since I was told I was going to be a flex I watched gameplay and just believed I was playing a role I enjoyed and was good at."
SILLY stayed strong and continued to play his game through every series loss and despite some harsh and bitter criticism from analysts and community members, showed a level of composure unmatched in the league.
"I try to ignore opinions and views from people outside of my team," Fargo said." I know I’m a good player and I do well when I need to. I just always try to keep my cool and be level headed in and out of game with my teammates. That’s a major key."
That level-headedness shined in the final week of the Pro League, where SILLY posted some of his best maps and played a role that helped ensure his teams spot in playoffs.
"I’m the most confident with myself, I have been all year." he explained. "I finished out doing very well individually in Stage One, and Birmingham as well. I’m hoping I can carry this momentum into the big tournament."
That momentum continues this Friday as the Stage One Playoffs kick off for eUnited at 4PM EST against Rise Nation.
Catch the final chapter of eUnited's Stage One adventure on Twitch!