Shield assembly required: Los Angeles Gladiators team preview

This roster may be full of individual talent, but it won't mean anything if cohesion isn't established early on in the season.

Photo by Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment
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For the first two years of the Overwatch League, the Los Angeles Gladiators were one of the hometown darlings of the Burbank, California crowd. Now that the league has expanded across the globe, the Gladiators will have to battle without their raucous fans behind them every match.

During the offseason, the team gathered tremendous talent from other teams in the league as well as a few Overwatch Contenders standouts. It’ll be up to the coaching staff to make all these moving, expensive parts into something cohesive.   

Tank

The entire Los Angeles Gladiators tank line has been rebuilt with talent culled from other parts of the league. Early in the offseason, the team traded DPS Jang “Decay” Gui-un to the Dallas Fuel to acquire Son “OGE” Min-seok as their main tank. OGE was a source of consistency on Dallas and could bring his expertise to the brand-new Gladiators tank line. The team added Roni “lhcloudy” Tiihonen, former main tank for the Paris Eternal, as another tank option. 

Star power abounds in the off-tank role. The Gladiators somehow got exceptional off-tank Indy “SPACE” Halpern to switch sides, acquiring him from the Los Angeles Valiant. Even in the worst of Valiant’s matches, SPACE showed finesse and an ability to carry his team. A familiar face also returns this season in Aaron “Bischu” Kim, a former member of the original Los Angeles Gladiators squad. He spent a short time on the Guangzhou Charge last year but decided to pick up the purple shield once again.  

Support 

If a support duo is synonymous with a team, it’s probably a good idea to not let them go. Dynamic support duo Jonas “Shaz” Suovaara and Benjamin “BigGoose” Isohanni were the only Gladiators held over from the 2019 season. Why wouldn’t they be? The Finnish duo have arguably been the most stable and consistent members of the Los Angeles crew. With the addition of Nolan “Paintbrush” Edwards, a main support from Overwatch Contenders teams Revival and Mayhem Academy, the support line may be the most reliable part of this team. 

DPS 

The Gladiators’ DPS is a mishmash of veteran talent and Contenders standouts. After their previous damage lineup dissolved through trades, the Gladiators had to reel in some big fish. Enter Kim “Birdring” Ji-hyuk, formerly the star DPS of the London Spitfire. Birdring helped the Spitfire take the 2018 Overwatch League championship and will bring those skills to Los Angeles this year. 

To supplement that star power, the Gladiators dug deep into the Overwatch Contenders talent pool. DPS Chris “MirroR” Trinh has been a part of numerous Contenders teams over the past few years, including Uprising Academy, NRG Esports, and Second Wind. If anyone encapsulates the Path to Pro dream, it’s MirroR. He’s joined by Jason “Jaru” White of Team Envy. Both are talented damage dealers who know practice makes perfect. 

2020 outlook 

Just because the Gladiators have acquired a bunch of sparkling puzzle pieces doesn’t mean they have an instant road to victory. Aside from the support line and Bischu, this roster includes players from multiple regions who speak different languages. They all have somewhat disparate playstyles as well. It’s critical that the Los Angeles coaching staff are thinking about team cohesion, not individual clutch plays. Relying on flashy plays has come back to bite them in the past. 

The Los Angeles Gladiators start their season at 4pm CT on Feb. 8, when they play the Vancouver Titans in Dallas.