Dylan Falco: “We’re always believing that we can win”
It’s now or never for Schalke 04. The team went on a seven-game losing streak in the LEC Spring Split starting in Week Four, and while they’ve managed to grab a victory in Week Seven, Playoffs are far from locked in. With four teams fighting over the final ticket, Schalke 04 and Head Coach Dylan Falco have to bring their A-game to close it out.
However, being in this situation isn’t new for Schalke 04. Coach Falco stood with the team as they went on their Miracle Run last Summer Split, and he stands by them in difficult times now. After their win over Astralis last weekend, Dylan Falco talked with us about the slump his team hit and how he made sure the team avoided falling into a negative spiral.
Hotspawn: Welcome Dylan, and congrats on the victory against Astralis. That must be a relief, following seven losses in a row.
Dylan Falco: Yeah, for sure. It’s definitely a big relief to win. Loss streaks can be really taxing on the mentality of the team, right? Having something you can build upon, like a win, is pretty good.
Hotspawn: Before we arrive where we are now, let’s talk about the weeks before. After a great second and third week, everything crumbled. What happened?
Dylan Falco: I think, at least from my perspective as the Head Coach of the team, I think that even though we did win many matches in a row earlier in the Split, a lot of it was due to having a very good grasp of the meta. I think we kind of overperformed in a few matches. I think we had some really good plans, we got some really strong champions. I never felt like we were the best team in the league or anything like this. I felt that we were a middle-league team with a huge amount of potential and that we just needed to improve. So I personally wasn’t too invested in all of the hype. I was more focused on trying to fix a lot of the issues that I felt we had.
Hotspawn: Can you point out some of the issues you saw within the team early on?
Dylan Falco: I think one of the things was improving our support/jungle synergy. Improving how we draft and play our early game with certain champion combos was pretty poor. Our objective setups needed a lot of work, things like this. There was a bunch of stuff of which I felt it wasn’t really where I wanted it to be.
Hotspawn: When I spoke to Gilius, he told me that you had some sort of an ’emergency meeting’ after the first week to address some pressing concerns. Then you started winning. When, after the third week, the losses started coming in, how did you approach it with the team?
Dylan Falco: I think we were just mainly focussing on tackling our issues one by one. We really went from the ground up, and worked on a lot of the fundamentals of how we play the game. How do our jungle and support move together? How do we set up our objectives? All this kind of stuff. As far as playstyle and what we play, I think those discussions happened more at the beginning of Week Seven, this week. We had kind of a playstyle shift. We were trying to play a lot of very difficult compositions during our loss streak, I would say. But we decided to move it towards stuff that we felt would be easier to execute.
I guess it was ok. We went 1-1, we picked up our first win in a while, so… It’s not what I would like, but at least it’s better than the previous weeks.
Hotspawn: You spoke on broadcast about the fact that the mindset within the team remained positive. That’s pretty interesting. Not that you should feel sad, of course, but how did the team manage to keep their spirits up during the loss streak?
Dylan Falco: I’d say there were a few things. First of all, we just have a lot of positive people around. I always give this answer, but it’s kind of true. All of our staff and our players are positive. We’re always believing that we can win. We believe in our players, and our players believe in each other and in their skill. I’d say second of all is that our scrims are steadily improving, so I think that’s really important for the team atmosphere as well.
Hotspawn: Heading into the weekend, you were all very aware that a lot is on the line. Did you feel that there was more pressure on the team heading in to the weekend because you had to get a win?
Dylan Falco: Obviously, there is way more pressure on the later games in the season. It’s just very natural. But I think we have players that play well under pressure. I myself am pretty used to these types of clutch scenarios. [Laughs] I’ve been in a lot of them over the years. So yeah, for sure, it’s stressful. It just is. But it’s something we just have to embrace and use.
Hotspawn: Though you’ve been in this position before, I can imagine it can be challenging to keep calm in these clutch situations. How do you stay level-headed?
Dylan Falco: I think experience helps a lot with stressful situations. The first few times I was in a game five of a best of five, or in elimination games, I was definitely freaking out. [Laughs] It definitely still can be hard, but I think you just draw on your experience. That’s the main thing.
Hotspawn: Looking forward: the three-day Super Weekend is coming up next. It’s clutch, and it looks like four teams will battle for the sixth ticket. Do you still want to make major improvements with your team, or are you going to rely on steady progress?
Dylan Falco: At this point, I think you spend your last week on mainly focussing on your match preparation. I think you spent the last two months focussing on the fundamentals, building up your play as a team. When it then comes down to the final matches, you really just need to focus on getting repetitions on what you think you can play. You should be playing the same strategy enough that you’re comfortable playing it in a high-pressure situation. Focus on performance and preparation, instead of drastically changing the way you approach the game.
Hotspawn: Finally, Dylan, is there anything you’d like to say to the Schalke 04 fans who did see the team again, and are rooting for you to make it to the Playoffs?
Dylan Falco: It’s pretty crazy, we have really committed fans, whether we win or lose. I think that’s really awesome. Thanks to them, and hopefully we can once again come through in the clutch scenario.