The Dallas Fuel will be better this season, and their first two losses prove it.
This past weekend marked the beginning of the Overwatch League’s 2020 season. Ten teams played their first matches of the season, five of those teams played in Arlington, Texas. The Fuel were eager to prove themselves against their Pacific West rivals in their first homestand this season. They were slated to play against the Los Angeles Valiant, their first victim in the 2019 homestand, and the San Francisco Shock, the defending champions of the previous season. After a long off-season of change and speculation, the time for talk ended and the time for teams to prove themselves finally arrived.
The Road to the OWL Championship Begins in Arlington
Esports Stadium Arlington was built for this. Currently the largest dedicated esports arena in North America, the stadium is centrally located in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex and hosts many local and major esports events year-round. Today it was going to host one of the loudest crowds in esports. Even after everything that’s changed in the last year, both within the team and the Overwatch League itself, the one thing Dallas knew they could count on, was their fan base. In 2019, at the first homestand in OWL history, Dallas fans earned a reputation as the most ravenous and least welcoming crowd in the league. Now, having been starved of OWL action for months, the audience was prepared to blow the roof off of the stadium in support of their Dallas Fuel.
The first day of matches began with a game between the Los Angeles Gladiators and the Vancouver Titans. It was an exciting match between two highly-rated, and historically successful teams. But it was not what most fans had come to see that day. As the teams readied themselves for the upcoming match the anticipation in the arena was palpable. After agonizing months of waiting, the main event finally commenced. The crowd sprang into action, resuming their role of fierce territorialism by booing down the Valiant as they took the stage. On the Fuel’s turn to be introduced the mob exploded into cheers and chants reminiscent of those at the first homestand a season prior. The players were introduced one by one to raucous applause and eventually took their seats. The season had finally begun for Fuel fans.
The Dallas Fuel vs. The LA Valiant
The match got off to a thrilling start on Lijiang Tower. Dallas’s new DPS duo of Decay and Doha proved themselves invaluable by clutching out multiple fights across the map’s three phases, ultimately giving the Fuel the map win. The next three maps were tightly contested by both teams, with large swings in momentum, and in the mood of the crowd. In the end, the Valiant won out on the back of their own superstar DPS player, KSP.
It was a tough loss for Dallas, though there were positives to be gleaned from it. The DPS players, particularly Decay, had proven they could win fights, sometimes on their own. Crimzo, the Fuel’s newest member stood in for a sick uNKOE on main support, and filled the role admirably. The main tank, Gamsu, once again showed his dependability as the anchor point of the team. Trill and NotE also demonstrated their versatility in multiple compositions and heroes within their role. Overall, the team displayed their willingness to experiment and use specific strategies for certain opponents and maps. Even though they lost, the match was within their grasp, and the Fuel had proven to be a more dynamic team than in years past.
With day one of the new season in the books, it was time to prepare for day two, and the San Francisco Shock. Almost every major analyst and league personality had the Shock ranked at number one in their preseason projections. The reigning champions didn’t change much in the off-season and maintained most of their incredibly stacked roster. No one really gave the Fuel much of a chance to beat them on Sunday night. Again the fans lined up at the stadium. Again they waited through the first match. And once again, they viciously booed the visiting team and uproariously cheered the Fuel’s introduction. And again the time came for the Fuel to test their mettle.
The Dallas Fuel vs. The San Francisco Shock
The match got off to a hot start once again, with Dallas poised to win Oasis only to have the point ripped away by Striker in the last heart wrenching fights. Though the Fuel had lost the first map, the feeling in the arena was one of incredulous optimism. Everyone, with the possible exception of the players’ own mothers, expected this match to end in a decisive 3-0 for the Shock, but the Fuel had just proven that they came to play.
Eichenwalde was the second map played, and while the Shock managed to finish it quickly, there were yet more positive signs from Dallas. The Fuel did not play afraid, they were aggressive defensively and never let the name of their opponent discourage them. After a promising start of their own, the Dallas attack eventually petered out on the third point, and they went into half time down 2-0.
The Dallas Fuel would not say die. In the most exciting map since the original Dallas homestand, the Fuel held the Shock to only 58% progress on the first point of Horizon Lunar Colony. Dallas had specifically prepared for the Shock on this map. They rolled out a fan favorite hero, Junkrat, in a bid to halt the popular Symmetra-centered attack strategy. They also opted for a Brigitte instead of a Mercy on support to dissuade San Francisco from switching to a dive-oriented approach. Doha played the Junkrat to near perfection and shut down the attack. On their own attack, the Fuel managed to capture the point and secure a map win against the dreaded Shock. The crowd lost itself in hysteria. The gods of Overwatch do bleed, and the underdog Dallas Fuel had just proven it.
Sadly, that would be the last hurrah for the Fuel. They admirably held the Shock to a sub-one minute time on Havana, the final map. The Shock put up a formidable defense, holding Dallas on the first point of the map. The match ended. The San Francisco Shock won, and Fuel fans went home crestfallen.
So, what did we learn from Dallas’s opening weekend? We learned that this is a team that’s willing to change. This is a team that plays more aggressively than last year’s Fuel. They played a larger variety of composition styles, some slightly off-meta. They are capable of stumping a top team by using a creative set strategy. We learned that Fuel fans will still show up to scream their lungs out in support of their team, regardless of what the power rankings say. Most importantly, we learned that the Dallas Fuel are a team on the rise. Recent history has been bleak for the Fuel, but the future is burning bright blue.
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