Steven R. March 17, 2019
The wheels might be coming off for Team Liquid.
The Kuro "KuroKy" Salehi Takhasomi's Dota 2 team was handed a last-place finish at the DreamLeague Major. Facing South America’s Chaos Esports Club, the former TI champions were handed a ticket home in just the first round of the lower bracket.
That Liquid wound up in such a position remains a shock.
The team began its run in Stockholm in a tricky Group A alongside Team Secret, Keen Gaming, and J.Storm. Liquid got off on the right foot, blanking J.Storm in the first round 2-0, but weren’t able to get through a hot Team Secret. That set up a series with Keen Gaming to decide which team would start off in the upper bracket, and Liquid didn’t fare any better against the Chinese upstarts. Keen bested Liquid 2-0 by capitalizing on a poor showing by Ivan Borislavov "MinD_ContRoL" Ivanov and a marfinalized Earth Spirit game from Maroun "GH" Merhej.
Despite the surprise lower bracket start for Liquid, the team was still expected to have a long stay in Stockholm and its matchup against a struggling Chaos seemed a sure win. Instead, the team was handed a surprise loss by the South Americans.
Early aggression from Chaos cores translated into multiple kills for William "hFn" Medeiros’s Ursa and strong farm for Aliwi "w33" Omar’s Razor. Chaos’s lineup was built around snowball potential and when Amer "Miracle-" Al-Barkawi couldn’t respond with some items of his own, Liquid had nothing to stop them with. That translated to a 22-minute loss for Liquid that gave them a last-place finish alongside EHOME and Natus Vincere.
This continues Liquid’s awkward 2018-2019 season.
The team’s surprise withdrawal from the DreamLeague Minor last year saw it miss out on the first major cycle. It managed to easily qualify for the Chongqing Major, but didn’t have a particularly strong run at the event, finishing in eighth place. Liquid has retained its status as an elite level team with strong performances at events outside the Pro Circuit, and its first-place performance at MDL Macau 2019 teased that Liquid was poised for success.
The root of Liquid’s struggles is unclear. The departure of longtime coach Lee "Heen" Seung Gon, devastating nerfs to the team’s signature heroes, and the crowded European region are all possible culprits for Liquid’s struggles over the last six months.
Regardless, the team is in a tricky spot. With just two majors left this season, it will need to right the ship and muster up at least one big performance at a major in order to earn an invitation to The International 2019. If it can’t, Liquid’s days as a force in the game might be done.