One of the Western scene’s great hopes at this year’s League of Legends world championship was just dealt a huge blow weeks before the event is set to begin.
Counter Logic Gaming won this year’s League Championship Series (LCS), becoming the first North American winner other than Cloud9 or Team SoloMid in the league’s history and qualifying them for the Riot World Championship as the region’s top seed. But the American hope won’t feature the lineup that won them that title when Worlds begins next month in Paris.
Jungler Jake “Xmithie” Puchero is unable to compete with the team due to “unresolved” visa issues, the team announced today. Taking his place is sixth-man Jae-Hyun “Huhi” Choi, a talented mid lane player who has spent the season on the team’s bench behind Eugene “Pobelter” Park.
Born in the Phillipines, Puchero moved to U.S. eight years ago at the age of 16. If he still has a passport from his home country, it could complicate the visa process. Choi may be of Korean descent but he was born in France, making his journey through the European Union for Worlds relatively easy.
The team tried to soften the blow in the announcement, noting that Choi has practiced with Counter Logic for four months and that a “vast network” supports his move to the jungle, producing scrim results “equal or greater” than during their run to the LCS title.
Whether that bears out in results at Worlds remains to be seen, but in many ways Counter Logic is uniquely positioned to handle an issue like this. The team implemented a sports-style coaching structure at the start of the Summer season, hiring Chris “Blurred Limes” Ehrenreich, a person with sports experience but no League experience, to take over the operation. That includes planning for how to incorporate backup talent in the case of injury or other unforeseen consequences.
He at least knows the right clichés to spout when dealing with this kind of adversity:
— Coach Chris (@RiftCoach) September 11, 2015
And hey—if anyone can survive a role swap, it’s Counter Logic Gaming. The team is infamous for moving players from other roles to the jungle with mixed results. If fans hope that this time it will work, they don’t have to look very far for an example. Cloud9, the third seed for the region, survived a magical run through the Regional Qualifier gauntlet on the back of the mid-lane-to-jungle transition of Hai Lam.
It’s certainly a disappointing situation for Counter Logic and fans of North American League, but it has to be even more heartbreaking for the player. Puchero served as scapegoat for the team’s playoff failure after missing some high-profile ultimates during the Spring Split playoffs, but he picked up his game and carried the team at times during the Summer run, earning his spot at the biggest competition in the game. Now, he is robbed of what he earned. It’s an all-to-prominent problem in the international world of esports.