August 6, 2020

Nicholas “Nitr0” Cannella – A retrospective on ‘Mister Liquid’

For most of his Counter-Strike career, Nicholas “Nitr0” Cannella has been part of Team Liquid. Unfortunately, all good things come to an end as Nitr0 has decided to step down from the active roster after almost 2000 days with the American organisation.

Joining Team Liquid

Before joining Team Liquid, Nitr0 played for the Chill Guys line-up and was picked up by the organisation in early 2015. Back then Nitr0 was the entry fragger for the team being led by In-Game Leader and AWPer adreN. Nitr0 later took over the roles of adreN, the latter having returned to Team Liquid in 2018 as the coach. Whilst being in charge of these key roles, Nitr0 has been a stable force for his team, taking numerous titles.

Nitr0 and his team quickly rose to the top of the American competitions and qualifiers. They took first place in multiple league stages and most notably topped the board in the ESL ESEA Pro League Season 2- North America, a big improvement on their fifth place finish in the inaugural season earlier that year. The team did struggle on the international stage however as in this period of the game the European scene was stronger than the American. During this 2015 year, Nitr0 had an HLTV rating of 1.10.

A year to forget?

The year 2016 did not treat Nitr0 and his team to a lot victories but their performance at the majors was very good. Placing third/fourth at the MLG Major Championship Columbus 2016 (losing 0:2 against Luminosity Gaming)  showed they were able to win against the European teams and that the world of Counter-Strike was becoming more and more competitive. This was not their best finish however, as in the second major of the year at ESL One Cologne 2016 they finished second behind SK-Gaming, the same Brazilians playing for Luminosity at MLG. 

his online rating has always been better than at his LAN performances

Despite these good results at the most important events of the year Nitr0 did not manage to win a tournament in 2016, eventually finishing the year with a rating of 1.01. It is worth noting that since 2015, his online rating has always been better than at his LAN performances.

The Astralis rivalry

The Danes of Astralis were the number one team in the world for about half a year, starting at the end of 2016. They were at the start of their path to becoming one of the strongest teams in the history of Counter-Strike. Unfortunately for Nitr0 this Danish lineup also became a sort of gatekeeper, often stopping them from progressing through a tournament and more than once preventing them from getting the win. During Nitr0’s time at Liquid, his team had a bad head-to-head against Astralis, winning only 19 out of 75 maps without needing overtime. 

Astralis first ended the dreams of Nitr0 at the ELEAGUE Major Atlanta 2017 Swiss stage, kicking them out at the decider match. Liquid had to qualify again for the next major. Nitr0 was not able to take any big titles in 2017 but he did once again get second at multiple events such as ESL One New York 2017. His rating for the whole of 2017 eventually came at 0.97, his first year with a rating lower than 1.00 during his time at Team Liquid.

Another year, another set of second places

Starting 2018 with another disappointing result at the first Major of the year, Nitr0 was able to bounce back relatively quickly, winning cs_summit 2 less than a month later. The Astralis Rivalry was stronger than ever during this year. Nitr0 and his team lost five grand finals against the Danish powerhouse that started their second term as world number one. Astralis also kicked out Nitr0 at the second major of the year leaving them third/fourth at the FACEIT Major London 2018.

The big wins still eluded Nitr0, but finishing in the top four of most S-tier events they competed in showed promise and underlined the progress they had made. Without Astralis, their dominance this year could have been way more impressive than it was now.

Breaking the curse

With the growth and good performance of 2018, it was only a matter of time before Nitr0 and his team would finally get their win in S-tier events. In 2019 it was time for Team Liquid to dethrone Astralis and win against them in the first event of the year, taking home the iBUYPOWER Masters IV title. A mediocre performance at the IEM XIII Katowice Major 2019 did not hinder them too much, as they were quickly back on their feet taking second place in both the BLAST Pro Series of São Paulo and Miami. Not to long after they were able to get the quickest Intel Grand Slam to date, winning their first S-tier event with the IEM XIV Sydney, followed by DreamHack Masters Dallas 2019, ESL Pro League Season 9 Finals and ESL One Cologne 2019. Two quick titles came soon after, only to cement their place as number one in the world and bring out the potential that was always there.

Nitr0’s performance over this stellar year was a rating of 0.99, dropping down to 0.86 in 2020, where he was only able to win ESL Pro League Season 11: North America. He never got tournament MVP’s or HLTV top 20 commendations, but Nitr0 was the stable force behind a strong Team Liquid for five years. Nitr0 has not yet commented on what his plans for the future are.

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Image Credit: Twitter @Nitr0
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