London Spitfire entered Saturday on life support, with their season on the line against their toughest foe this year.
During the Overwatch League regular season, Los Angeles Gladiators beat Spitfire all three times they faced each other. Then, on Wednesday, Gladiators continued that streak, sweeping Spitfire in an embarrassingly one-sided affair.
Saturday had two matches on the schedule in case Spitfire won the first match to force a decider in the best-of-three playoff series, but it seemed inevitable that they’d play only one.
So far in the OWL playoffs, though, little has played out as expected.
London Spitfire took the stage like a tornado today, sweeping the two-match schedule with two 3-0 wins to beat Los Angeles Gladiators and advance to the OWL playoffs semifinals. Spitfire looked incredible playing an aggressive brand of Overwatch, different from the double sniper and triple tank compositions that have so far dominated the playoff metagame. No team in the league features the raw mechanical talent packed into Spitfire’s roster, and that was evident tonight as Gladiators had no answer to them despite their best attempts to stop the Spitfire steamroller.
Problems for Gladiators began from the get-go with the opening match starting on Dorado. Benjamin “BigGoose” Isohanni, Gladiator’s Mercy player, spent most of the map respawning as Spitfire picked apart Gladiators’ formations. Instead of the typical Orisa, D.Va, and Roadhog compositions favored by playoff teams so far, Spitfire opted for the more mobile Winston and D.Va combo. And their mobility kept Gladiators on their heels, opening the door for Kim “Birdring” Ji-hyeok in particular to shine.
Next came Oasis, Spitfire’s worst map in the regular season. But Gladiators couldn’t even touch them, a statement that tonight’s version of Spitfire is far removed from even the team that took the stage on Wednesday. They then closed out the first match with ease on Eichenwalde.
As the higher seed, Gladiators got the opening map selection for the final match of the best-of-three series—but it didn’t matter. They took Junkertown, but Spitfire shut them down with a proactive defense, preventing Gladiators from even setting up to attack by playing aggressively at the chokepoints in the final segment of the map. Gladiators then picked Lijiang Tower, a map they won with ease on Wednesday.
Los Angeles Gladiators were the most proactive team in the league in swapping hero compositions efficiently to counter the enemy team during the regular season—and that showed with an astute hero swap to open Night Market on Lijiang. Gladiators went back to spawn to pull out Pharah and Doomfist against Spitfire’s tank rush. But Spitfire seemed undaunted, winning fights they shouldn’t have thanks to a combination of aggressive and decisive rotations and incredible individual play.
King’s Row was Gladiators’ final map choice, but Spitfire’s momentum continued, rolling to a fast map finish on attack. Gladiators made a valiant last effort, finishing the map themselves with a respectable time, but it wasn’t enough. Spitfire again blitzed through Gladiators in their time bank attack, finishing the match and the series.
Tonight’s version of London Spitfire looked like the team everyone thought they’d be entering the regular season. Spitfire featured many of Korea’s best-in-class talents at a multitude of positions. They field Birdring and Park “Profit” Joon-yeong, likely the league’s most talented DPS duo. Hong “Gesture” Jae-hui might be the league’s top main tank, while Choi “Bdosin” Seung-tae is a deadly Zenyatta, second only to league MVP Bang “JJoNak” Sung-hyeon.
But while Spitfire took the stage one title, besting even New York Excelsior in the title matches, they’ve disappointed throughout the regular season, culminating in a 4-6 record in the final quarter. Spitfire often played unorganized and afraid, reacting to opponents instead of proactively utilizing their top-tier talent.
Tonight, though, that was different. Spitfire dictated the pace of play and that allowed their individual talent to shine. Perhaps Spitfire finally found the key to unlocking their potential. Maybe they found confidence coming into a match few expected them to win. Perhaps they were simply in the zone today.
Whatever the case, London Spitfire looked unstoppable tonight—and if that’s a preview of the form they’ll bring in the rest of the playoffs, the OWL title is on the table for them. To do it, they’ll have to beat another Los Angeles team next week. They’ll play Valiant starting on Wednesday, July 18, and if Spitfire continue to play like they did tonight, you won’t want to miss it.
As for Gladiators, today was a crushing finish to what was overall a solid season. The team started slow, but after acquiring Baek “Fissure” Chan-Hyung midway through the season, they emerged as one of the league’s best teams, finishing with a 9-1 record in the final stage of the season. Gladiators benched Fissure for the playoffs, though, and that will always lead to questions on what may have happened today had the superstar player been in the lineup. The team made the move because supposedly Luis “iRemiix” Galarza Figueroa was performing better in practice, but it’s hard not to second guess that decision with a result like today’s.
Still, with how Spitfire played today, it likely wouldn’t have mattered. London were clearly the better team today, and that’s why they’re still playing Overwatch and Los Angeles aren’t.