Stewie and FalleN Aim For a CS:GO Rebound on Team Liquid
Jake “Stewie2K” Yip and Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo have both found tremendous success in their respective careers. One a smoke criminal, an underdog who defied the odds and proved doubters wrong after his signing to Cloud9 was deemed unimpressive. The other a captain, an icon for an entire country who sets and exceeds the high expectations he sets for himself. They’ve each won a major, they’ve each been a focal point of a team considered the best in the world.
But often forgotten is the fact that they’ve also been teammates, long before their recent reunion on Team Liquid. The Stewie2K-FalleN partnership in MiBR mercifully ran its course in less than a year in 2018. This formation of a dominant duo with an all-star cast was a dream team on paper, but was an underwhelming result in reality. The team struggled to produce results that were even close to expectations. Most egregiously of all, the experiment robbed fans of seeing how far Cloud9’s post-Boston momentum would’ve taken them.
But why did Stewie and FalleN’s first shot at an in-game CS:GO connection falter? And what’s going to be different the second time around?
Can’t Right the Ship Without Proper Leadership
The biggest issues with the MiBR/SK lineup can be traced back to a lack of proper leadership and structure, it took the team a while until they even made an attempt to correct it. Stewie himself said in a 2018 interview that were prevalent issues with leadership and structure from the day he arrived on SK.
“There was really no one trying to step up and take the leadership role. You’d expect FalleN to do this but when I joined the team there was really no guidance or anyone to help me understand their style, help me understand how they like to play the game. There was no structure in terms of practice, and we were just playing to play and expecting me to understand how they like to play, and that was super hard for me.”
Stewie would go on to say that when MiBR picked up his former Cloud9 teammate Tarik “tarik” Celik, the issues would present themselves again. Additionally, he said the team would forget to speak English and would instead speak their native Portuguese, which neither ex-C9 player were familiar with. Stewie did acknowledge that coach Janko “YNk” Paunović brought in some structure when he joined in August 2018.
“I think the one big impact was picking up Janko. He’s creating structure for the practices, he’s creating plans and making sure we’re disciplined, making sure we’re following the rules and if we don’t there’d be punishment. [Janko]’s the one doing most of the dirty work and making it easier on FalleN.”
And Janko’s presence was very quickly making a difference, at least in the short term. They won the ZOTAC Masters Cup, lost a close grand finals to Astralis at BLAST Pro Series Istanbul, and reached the semifinals of the FACEIT London major. But the performances that followed would trade-off between disappointing (coming up short at ECS and ESL Pro League Finals) and downright embarrassing (IEM Chicago and BLAST Copenhagen).
More of the in-game leading responsibility shifted from FalleN to tarik during this time, and therein lies the biggest mistake; skipping over the ideal main in-game leader in Stewie. There’s no questioning FalleN’s in-game intelligence, but that combination of smarts and sense is a better contributor to his status as a rifler, an AWPer, and a clutch player. FalleN’s numbers and performance improved with the IGL roles off his plate, but they got moved onto the wrong plate. Not only did they fumble leadership, but the talent surrounding the duo wasn’t up to par either.
The Fault in Our Starpower
So let’s take a gander at the two different teams (2018 SK/MiBR and present-day Team Liquid) in terms of their composition. Both teams have FalleN and Stewie2K, obviously, but the Liquid versions have a great deal more experience with hardly any fall off in fragging output, and are playing their comfortable roles. Yes, obviously this isn’t 2016 FalleN that dominated Counter-Strike, but ever since then, he’s never had a dramatic fall-off in production, just a very slight gradual decline that most players go through when getting older. And he showed at the BLAST Premier Global Final that he can still produce. The same goes for Stewie, as Liquid’s success has never been dependent on his statistical output, just his strategic shotcalling.
Both 2018 MiBR and present-day Liquid are driven by the output of a top ten player, in Marcelo “coldzera” David and Jonathan “EliGE” Jablonowski respectively. But if you compare 2018 coldzera to 2020 EliGE, while cold has just the slightest overall statistical advantage, EliGE’s HLTV impact rating that measures clutches, opening kills, and multikills is considerably superior. Basically, while cold was notching a few more kills per game, EliGE was winning more rounds. The same can be said for the years they were in their prime: 2016/2017 for coldzera and 2019 for EliGE.
Even coming off a down year for Team Liquid in 2020, EliGE was still a top-ten player in the world. And he’s got help in NAF, who after just narrowly missing the Top 20 Players list for 2020, came to the BLAST Premier Global Final with something to prove. He notched a 1.26 rating across eight maps, behind only the consensus number one and two players in the world in Mathieu “ZywOo” Herbaut and Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev. And he did so without his trusted AWP in his hands. When your rifling on par with this kind of company, you’re in good shape.
Tarik’s numbers dipped considerably in 2018 after joining in MiBR, and while Fernando “fer” Alvarenga had a good year overall, it was still a big drop off from what he provided in 2017 when he was a top-five player, and he’d only get worse year-after-year.
If you’re looking for a team to buy stock in, it’s hard to not take a good look at this Team Liquid. A superstar at the peak of his powers, a co-star who might be as good or better with a rifle than he is with an AWP, and one of the brightest in-game leaders, all of which are only 23. Now add a savvy veteran with the experience to contribute statistically and strategically, and then add a young talent with high potential to learn from all of them on top of it.
The mixture of Team Liquid is good, but the pressure of making sure it’s poured out without spillage falls on coach Jason “moses” O’Toole. With the tools at his disposal, it would be inexcusable for Liquid to relinquish the ground they’ve made to end 2020 and start 2021. But don’t be surprised if Team Liquid regains their North American crown this year, amongst other accolades.