CLG needs more than an in-house coach, the team needs an in-house sport psychologist.
As someone who studies sport psychology, there is no doubt in my mind that CLG’s ultimate achilles’ heel is their mental game. It is the only explanation of how The team play almost flawlessly for 30+ minutes only to fade down the stretch. Time and time again, CLG managed to find a way to lose these high-pressured high-profiled game in an illogical fashion. To TSM’s credit, TSM had a superior mindset and I attribute this to their coaching staff led by locodoco. TSM did not give up even when they are far behind. They did not force desperation plays. They simply waited it out and seize opportunities as they appear.
In their latest collapse, CLG couldn’t close out the game even with 4 dragons and a baron against TSM’s 0 dragon. Worse, CLG was in prime position to win the super hyped LCS match by taking the 5th dragon. All they had to do to seal the deal was form a solid teamfight conclave as they attempt to take the 5th dragon. TSM would have no choice but to do a desperation attack which would put them in an unfavorable position if CLG position themselves correctly before the fight starts.
Instead, CLG went full counter logic and threw away the game similar to countless lottery winners threw away their money and went broke. It’s as if CLG as a whole wasn’t mentally ready to beat TSM. The downfall begins when Link haphazardly attempts to engage over the wall and completely miss his Lizzandra ultimate. Looking at the replay, Link had plenty of time to react in that situation and not use his ultimate. He could’ve pulled back and the team would easily get dragon and faceroll the game because Dyrus had no HP left to fight.
A Link to The Past
Link’s terrible engage on that particular fight gives us a rare glimpse of a roadmap Link makes his decision. Rather than assessing the situation and then determining the best course of action. Link was set from the start that he was going to go into the fight and then use his ult no matter. As a shot-caller, this is a bad trait to have because you always want to be flexible. Link wanted to end the game right then and there by forcing the engage. We usually see that type of “fuck it” play in soloqueue, when a player is massively on tilt. Not in an LCS game when the team has a huge lead. Link’s play is a sign of badly disciplined player. A player so badly wanted to win that he lost the game. Nevertheless, it is the type of play to be expected from a team that take a trip all the way across the world last season in a desperate attempt to stop their long string of losing streak. One explanation for Link’s play could be that when a player has been in a dire situation for a long time, their mind operates as if they are still in that dire situation even when they are not. This is a similar to how a former soldier takes cover instinctively after he hears an explosion sound.
After that lost teamfight, the pressure became unbearable for CLG. CLG couldn’t recover mentally. The house of cards fall one by one starting with their star ADC, Doublelift. Doublelift’s overly-aggressive positioning resurfaced. In a post-game interview, LiftLift admitted that he was extremely nervous before the game. In extreme high-pressure and high-stress situation, a player’s tendency is replaced by his true instinctive tendencies. Tendency that a player first naturally developed. Doublelift started positioning like it was Season 2 when an ADC can completely overwhelm everyone with damage and stay alive with lifesteal. In Season 5, that type of aggressive position mean death unless you are extremely fed. In addition to doublelift’s misplay, ?Xmithie was also in bad position most of the time. Next, Link continues to misplay horribly in teamfights, completing baiting at the end Zionspartan to complete CLG’s latest collapse.
Will history repeats itself?
What CLG should’ve done to prepare for this game is to play down the hype and treat it as another game. This is a basic strategy that every great coaches do to calm down his players and get them focus on the game itself. It is critical to cut off all the distractions as much as possible to lower the pressure during the match so that the players can easier rationalize decisions rather than defaulting to their natural tendencies because their brains are too overloaded to make the right decision.
Yet the most interesting will be how CLG as a team response to this latest shellacking defeat. Will the team revert back to not looking at each other in the eyes like in chasing the cup last year? Are they going to go on a losing streak like they did last split? Will there be another Korea bootcamp? Will HotshotGG replace Link in the midlane and play Leblanc? Is Monte coming back as a coach?
The win against TSM would’ve been CLG’s greatest victory in a very very long time. The victory would give them a massive boost in confidence and team chemistry. CLG was one step away from climbing atop of Mount Everest. They were on the verge of beating TSM, their rival team that has always beaten them time and time again. This win would’ve validated their hard works and quiet their inner critics. They were a plane ticket away from competing against the best teams in the world at Katowice 2015. Instead, they crashed and burn spectacularly, crumbled by their own minds that has always seemed to betray them.