RLC Pro League Week 7 Recap | EU
The substitutes for the EU side of Pro League really proved their worth this week. A Paschy90-less Crown & Jewels took on a revitalized SK Gaming. With Scrubkilla taking the place of TJShorty, Spectral faced Noble eSports. The only match without substitutions pit myXMG against Supersonic Avengers. The possibility of the lower 3 teams making it into the playoffs was present, but none were able to grasp this opportunity. There was some shifting in seeds, and now to the who, how and why.
The final match score fails to the full story as we saw the best showing from SK in recent memory. Killerno7 showed his value as a permanent substitute for C&J assisting the first goal off a series of missed and poor clears from SK. Sikii, Yeezy and Killerno7 continued to pepper the net resulting in their second goal a minute later, all the while managing to keep their rotations in check and return any potentially dangerous clears to their opponents half. For a brief period, with roughly a minute left, SK looked to take control. Consistent, well placed clears eventually brought pressure to C&J’s side of the pitch for a proper attacking series. While their defence had looked a little shaky, their offence was on point and their lone goal of the game followed a flurry of blocked shots, scored by a rocket of a shot from JHZER. Pushing up hard for the tying goal left SK in a vulnerable position that Sikii capitalized on quickly. His 0:00 goal came off another 30 seconds of hard pressure from C&J, bringing his total in the first game to 4.
Game 2 saw SK taking the pressure to C&J and scoring the first goal. They maintained solid prssure until just after the halfway mark when Killerno7’s hard angled redirect all the way from the near corner tied it up. Pressure went from heavily to only slightly in favor of SK, with counter attacks netting C&J two more goals and the win. SK did look to have better pressure throughout the game but they were unable to disrupt the counterattacks successfully. Crown’s defensive miscues could have been exploited more effectively as well. Game 2 continued SK Gaming’s trend of solid offensive pressure and susceptibility to counter attack. Although they were rewarded with a pair of tying goals, the game was taken to overtime due to a lack of focus on defense. A little bit more communication, preventing multiple SK members going for the same shot or cross, could have allowed for a safer attack. They were again in disarray on defending the counter attack after having kept offensive pressure in OT, losing their 3rd game in a row.
The first goal of game 4 started, yet again, in an attack originating all the way from the furthest corner of C&J’s side of the field. A beautiful high wall clear-turned-into-pass from Yeezy fed a low flying, fast flipping Killerno7 that popped the ball just over Dadooh. The second goal was simply a series of whiffs from SK and a lack of them from C&J. SK attempted a more defensive focused style, but it was too passive to be effective. They chose to be patient when challenges would have been more advantageous, hoping for their opponents to make mistakes. When playing against a team like Crown & Jewels, even without Paschy, this is more likely to hurt you than help. Offensive pressure was back in favor of C&J and they put home two more goals as a result. Since the start of the RLCPL Crown & Jewels has been at their best when given time to develop plays in midfield and around their opponent's net while they’ve been shut down on multiple occasions with hard pressure against their passing plays with follow ups to the resulting 50-50s.
Game 5 saw the first goal from an off-the-wall passing string between Killerno7 and Yeezy that beat all three players of SK Gaming. The next 2 minutes belonged to JHZER. A high flying aerial redirect just in front of the goal started it. A hard shot off a missed clear took SK into the lead. His third of the match was another hard angle redirect, this time from the right corner. The offense remained strong for SK and X3MW put away what would ultimately be the game winner. With 1:30 left Crown & Jewels mounted their counter attack. Two goals from Sikii brought them within 1 goal but they couldn’t pull off another miracle last 6 second comeback comparable to the previous week. The 4 wins from this series were just enough to move Crown & Jewels into the first place seed, though not securing it. A 5-0 sweep by myXMG would force a tiebreaker, which myXMG held from their head to head win.
Noble faced a new lineup of Spectral, featuring the 12 year old Scrubkilla. A series that had been mostly predicted to go slightly in Noble’s favor got turned on it’s head. The first 2 games saw 3 goals from Scrub and 4 each from Remkoe and Miztik. The loan goal from Vogan did little to show any hope for Noble. They looked very out of sorts. If it wasn’t 2 and 3 players going up for the ball, Noble was putting simple shots off frame, hesitating then committing to unwinnable challenges or committing too many players forward and leaving behind an empty net. The new team composition from Spectral played a very organized game and seemed to have their communication and predictions honed though this lineup has not been seen before in the Pro League. The only goal scored against them in game 2 was when they found themselves bunched at the ball near midfield and a long shot from Vogan couldn’t be chased down. Noble did manage 12 saves but simultaneously allowed 28 shots.
Game 3 saw less shots from Spectral actually connecting and those that did were hitting posts. Skyline opened up the scoring thanks to a well timed bump by Stocki to push Scrubkilla out of his save. Noble were far more organized and did not show the same mistakes that plagued them previously. Scrub tied the game up with just over a minute left and Vogan responded 30 seconds later. The game was tied back up a second time when Remkoe lobbed a weak shot at the net and the aerial attempt by Miztik, that didn’t even connect, had all of the defenders watching as the ball slowly bounced into the net. As the game approached OT a clutch save from Skyline on an aerial dribble from Scrub gave Noble a chance. Shortly into overtime Vogan found himself looking at a wide open net as Scrub went for boost, not realizing the ball was being controlled directly towards the goal.
The mistakes returned again for Noble in game 5. 33 seconds in all 3 players missed a chance to clear allowing miztik a free goal. Spectral was simply beating Noble to every contest, effectively removing a would-be defender each time. The ball saw very little of the Spectral side of the field, considering they were stringing together such excellent passes and attacking rotations. The one goal that Stocki put in for Noble saw them successfully exploit the aggression that their opponents were putting on. A single cleanly won aerial put all 3 members of Spectral out of position to challenge the shot and it was placed with power out of saves reach. Noble saw a little bit of offensive pressure develop, but it didn’t last long. Although not as dominate as their first pair of wins, a 5-1 victory for Spectral was enough to make Noble question their chances at the playoffs.
Spectral bringing the heat early with an 8 second goal did little to help Noble’s morale. Spectral were ready to put every single clear back on net, or to a teammate as a pass. Noble seemed unable to clear the ball past half and should have probably taken to controlled dribbles to alleviate the pressure. With their playoff hopes getting further away with each goal, Noble’s aggression came out in the last minute and a half. Though they conceded one goal for their offensive efforts, they also managed to put in 3. There was a pretty obvious lack of discipline on Spectral’s side, understanding their complete control over the game. The 4-1 series result sealed Noble’s fate of ending the season without a playoff berth.
Both teams now having a guaranteed playoff spot, the final match of the day became a fight for seeding. myXMG had the possibility of taking the first seed with a clean sweep and staying in third place with 2 to 4 wins. Though not capable of moving higher than the third seed, Supersonic Avengers had the opportunity to overtake their match opponents with either 4 or 5 game wins. Heading into the first game XMG were gifted an early lead off a wild whiff from ELMP. Maestro’s fast paced pass to Greazy less than a minute later brought us back to tied. Pressure and ball control were not dramatically in favor of either team, though Greazy’s banked pass off the corner beat all defenders and gave ELMP an easy go-ahead goal with just under 3 minutes left to play. myXMG tied it up half a minute later and al0t took advantage of a slow rotating SA to put home the game winner. SA showed good shot stopping ability, but only because they were not challenging well on the shot attempts.
SA’s low pressure defence changed going into game 2 and they’re contests on the shot attempts paid off. Turbopolsa put away the first goal when Supersonic’s aggressive defensive positioning left them without a player in the goal. Both teams had some issues with multiple players committing to the same challenge and occasionally driving straight into each other, but little was made of it by their opposition. A shot from just past the midline by ELMP seemed to catch XMG off guard and tied up the game. The ball transitioned from end to end with the overall pressure slightly in favor of myXMG. A lack of additional goals brought us into OT, pressure still favoring XMG. Though both teams continued to have obvious communication issues, SA were the ones that capitalized on it with a goal. Shots clearly favored myXMG, 11 to 5. With this loss they were no longer in the running for a 1st place seed and the match would only decide 3rd and 4th positions going into the playoffs.
Game 3 took almost 2 minutes to see a goal, but SA’s relentless pressure on the net proved fruitful when Maestro beat the other two XMG players to an awkward clear from al0t. Supersonic Avengers took a different approach to defending this game, alternating between hard hit clears and controlled dribbles to carry the ball out of their zone. Game control evened out as myXMG adapted to this defensive style and they put home their first goal to tie it up with 2 minutes remaining. The game devolved into a despondent bit of ping pong from there out. At 31 seconds, and again with only 9 to play, XMG found holes in SA’s defense and took the game. With the series at 2-1 in favor of myXMG the final seeds for the playoff tournament were set and all that was left were 2 games for pride.
Neither team backed down and played 2 more hard fought games. Game 4 on Wasteland tied the series up at 2s. Goals from Sniperkid at 4:19 and Greazy at 2:02 took the game into the final seconds tied. Another very even game in regards to possession and offensive pressure was decided when Maestro placed a shot that left the entirety of XMG watching the ball from the ground as it bounced off the post and into the net with only 21 seconds left to play. Masetro then put away the insurance goal at 6 seconds. He continued his scoring streak 38 seconds into game 5, only to have it answered in 4 by Sniperkid on the kickoff. Greazy going for the kickoff and both of his teammates grabbing boost left the net wide open for the tying goal. ELMP put up back to back goals in the 3rd minute of play to give SA a 2 goal lead, some slight hesitation on the side of myXMG to be blamed. Greazy’s poor clear put myXMG back into striking distance, and they continued to strike. A 1:58 goal from Sniperkid tied the game 3-3, after which SA managed over a minute of keeping the ball in their opponent’s half. With only 8 seconds left in the match Turbo settled the debate of who the better team was this week with a redirect, perfectly passed by al0t.
At 20, 19, 18 and 15 season wins the seeds were decided, respectively being Crown & Jewels, Flipsid3 Tactics, myXMG and Supersonic Avengers. They will face their NA competition on Sunday March 6th in the playoff tournament. An 8 team single elimination style tournament, the quarters and semis will be best of 7 and the grand finals a Bo9.
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