In late April, the team dropped newcomer Shahzeb “Shahzam” Khan and long-standing member Kory “Semphis” friesen, swapping them with Ryan “Freakazoid” Abadir who returned after a break from the scene, and widely praised AWPer Tyler “Skadoodle” Latham.
The Gfinity event in London was the team’s first offline appearance since the two players joined the roster. The roster is the best shot North America has challenging Europe’s dominance in Counter-Strike after the majority of players on the once-mighty iBUYPOWER were banned last year for match fixing. But despite some good performances, North American’s hope fell in the group stage.
“Looking at the negatives I’d say we have a lot to work on,” Cloud9 newcomer Abadir said after the match. “But the positive side is that we had glimpses of good play against teams that have been together a lot longer than us—top teams in the world.”
Cloud9 started the weekend strongly, taking down Australia’s Team Immunity, but ran into problems as soon as they faced off against top European sides in the group stage. Against the ever-strong Virtus Pro, the North Americans only able to put up 16 rounds over the course of both maps before falling in defeat.
A loss in the opener of day two against French powerhouses EnvyUs could have spelled the end for Cloud9’s hopes. But results elsewhere put their fate back in their hands as they took on Titan on the main stage—only to lose 2-0 and crash out of the tournament in the group stage.
“I didn’t really play to my potential, rounds could have been won if I made the right play or hit my shots and I just wasn’t doing that this event,” Abadir said. “But i think we can improve and work on it from here.”
Cloud9 have an excuse to fall back on: Taking down the top European teams is a big task on its own, but with two very recent roster changes that task becomes near impossible. The key for Cloud9 will be to take the lessons they learned from Gfinity back to home soil.
“We’ll get stronger as a whole” Abadir said. “If NA can stick together with lineups, we have a pretty good chance going forward honestly”.
Cloud9 will return to North America to face a battle for supremacy as the region stabilizes from roster changes across the board. Teams like Luminosity Gaming, Nihilum, and Elevate that were once struggling to compete now have aspirations to challenge for the top spots in the region and ultimately to prove themselves on a global stage.
Abadir believes his team can come out on top if they live up to expectation: “If this team plays to the potential I think it has, we can be the number one team in NA, and compete for top three in the world.”
“The whole key is people sticking with their teams,” Abadir said. “The Europeans are so much better because they actually stick with their lineups”—something that doesn’t happen enough in North America according to Abadir. “In NA these guys are meeting up for the first time and if it doesn’t work; after three months there’ll be a new roster change.”
Next up on the international event calendar is Dreamhack Summer on June 13. Though the team list is not confirmed, North America will likely have some representation at the tournament. Just weeks after the flurry of changes began in the region, it seems unlikely that a team from North America will have much hope of claiming the title. Taking the positives from Cloud9’s showing at Gfinity will be key if they’re to have any hope.