Steven R. January 20, 2020
Nico "Gunnar" Lopez yet again finds himself without a team.
The American was given the boot from Ninjas in Pyjamas. This comes a week after the team suffered an early elimination from the WePlay! Bukovel Minor.
The organization chalked up the move to a lack of success in events to this point in the Dota Pro Circuit season.
"Gunnar signed up for this journey at the beginning of the season and was committed to us improving throughout the year. He was a great teammate and a fun person to be around,” NiP captain Peter “ppd” Dager said in a statement on the team’s website.
While NiP started the year with a respectable third-place performance in DreamLeague Season 12, this was followed by an early exit from ESL One Hamburg 2019. When its focus turned to Dota Pro Circuit events, the team generally underwhelmed. NiP failed to qualify for the first two majors of the season but successfully made it to the Dota Summit 11 minor and WePlay! Bukovel Minor. The team was eliminated from the group stage of both events.
This is NiP’s second major roster change of the season. After the team qualified for the WePlay! Bukovel Minor, NiP kicked carry player Oliver "Skiter" Lepko and added Jason "TANNER" Weedon. Gunnar took Skiter’s place as the team’s carry, but did not look completely comfortable in the position at the event.
This is the second high-profile kick from a team that Gunnar has sustained. In 2019, Gunnar was famously removed from Team Team during ESL One Mumbai ahead of the team competing at the MDL Disneyland Paris Major and delivered an emotional interview on the experience. This led to enormous backlash being directed at captain Jacky “EternaLEnVy” Mao, who fans believed engineered his removal from the team.
Ninjas in Pyjamas planning big changes for ESL One Los Angeles
The removal of Gunnar isn’t the only change NiP has planned for the ESL One Los Angeles major. In the statement on Gunnar’s release, ppd explained that NiP is planning to return to the European region.
NiP competed in Europe for the MDL Chengdu Major, but moved to North America for the DreamLeague Season 13 major qualifiers. No official explanation was given for the move, but NiP has had multiple players from both North America and Europe this season. The North American region was surprisingly only given two slots in DreamLeague Season 13 after receiving three for MDL Chengdu.
Though Skiter was promptly replaced by TANNER in December, NiP doesn’t have a new carry lined up at the moment. The team stated it will be holding tryouts for the position and there have been no rumors regarding who might take his place.
With the relocation to Europe, there should be no shortage of options for the team.