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NA CS:GO fails at IEM Cologne – what went wrong?

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North America’s two representatives fell flat on CS:GO’s biggest stage and first international LAN back. In the past year, NA CSGO has suffered immensely. As teams moved to Europe, talent left to competing games, and organizations pulled out of the scene, the future for NA CS:GO looked dire. Though teams such as Bad News Bears and Team Liquid gave hope, those were quickly diminished. With only a single player representing NA left, we are only left to wonder – what went wrong?

Bad News for the Bad News Bears

The Bad News Bears emerged from the wreckage of several promising, upstart NA CS:GO teams. At the beginning of the year, Chaos, Triumph, and Yeah all showcased promising talent. A large majority of these rosters quickly dissolved and left only fragments of talent left. With the best players remaining from these rosters, Bad News Bears found success domestically but failed to replicate such internationally.

Bad News Bears failed to find a single map win in their 2021 IEM Cologne Play-in. The first international LAN for many, the level of experience in these players variety wildly. Consequently, the team appeared in far out of their league. A great deal of European talent consolidated or developed during the online era of CS:GO. Though losing some talent to VALORANT, the European scene took far less of a hit.

When comparing the Bad News Bears to their competitors, they simply seemed outclassed. With no domestic competitors even on the same level, it came to no surprise that the squad failed to qualify. Domestic success is not enough for NA to regain their status at the top of the table. The Bad News Bears were an inspirational story, though ultimately with a disappointing ending.

Team Liquid and Evil Geniuses – How to (not) maintain success

For most of the year, Team Liquid and Evil Geniuses have stood as the two pillars of North American CS:GO. Despite both organizations undergoing several roster changes, Team Liquid and Evil Geniuses managed to maintain relevance while on their extended stays in Europe. Something happened to both of these teams in 2021 IEM Cologne however, as both had incredibly disappointing finishes. While Team Liquid failed to make playoffs, Evil Geniuses didn’t event make it to the main event.

Evil Geniuses initially struggled to onboard their new roster changes of Owen “oBo” Schlatter and Michal “MICHU” Muller. Though MICHU has adjusted well, and often found the top spot of Evil Geniuses’ leaderboards, maintaining consistency in the rest of their lineup has been a challenge. Both among longstanding members such as Peter “Stanislaw” Jarguz and new additions to the lineup, the team has varied dramatically. With an incredibly low winrate (23%), EG’s current map pool is incredibly small. Only Mirage currently heralds an above 50% winrate for Evil Geniuses.

Team Liquid similarly struggle with consistency, but within the more specific context of an isolated game. Their series against BIG, which ultimately eliminated Team Liquid, highlighted this issue. Michael “Grim” Wince had multiple strong starts, but could not replicate his success into the next half let alone into the next map. Team Liquid have shown that they have all the potential for success, although they haven’t found a way to maintain their performance.

What North American CS:GO teams can learn

One vital problem in North American CS:GO is the fact that domestic tournaments are few and far between. Perhaps more importantly, these features often fall to feature North America’s biggest teams and strongest opponents. Throughout their European stay, Team Liquid and Evil Geniuses have made several returns to North America for relatively short periods of time. The last time Team Liquid competed in an NA based tournament was back in March during the DreamHack Open.

In the past, domestic tournaments were two horse races between Furia and Evil Geniuses. Now, when TL and EG seldom compete domestically, ‘tier 2’ and ‘tier 3’ teams have regularly challenged top teams. Entering into domestic tournaments more often could benefit both the larger organizations as well as up and coming teams. Providing invaluable experience to teams such as Bad News Bears or Extra Salt, Team Liquid or Evil Geniuses could similarly build momentum.

There is no one cure for North American CS:GO. The online era of Counter Strike has massively damaged the scene, and what we are witnessing now is the recovery stage. It was certainly a far fall from winning the Boston Major, however now teams can only play the hands they’re dealt.

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Image Credit: IEM / ESL