On August 25, Team Liquid became the first team to win four consecutive LCS titles. Before the audience at the Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, the champions accomplished their goal of denying Cloud9. While C9 packed their gear and accepted yet another defeat, for Team Liquid the victory felt hollow, as if it was just another day at the office.
Team Liquid is facing a problem that no other team in the league has, as winning is almost meaningless for them. In a recent episode of Squad, the players admitted they were struggling with motivation and that winning wasn’t as special as the first time.
“Our team struggles with motivation because winning domestically doesn’t have an impact on us anymore so, we’re doing things for a goal that seems really far off which is Worlds,” said bot laner Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng.
Team Liquid has become the team to beat in the LCS. No other squad in North America comes close to Liquid’s current level. They’re not perfect yet, as the team dropped games through the regular season and playoffs, but one has to wonder how many of those losses were because of the opponents’ competence and how much was Team Liquid just not trying their very best.
Team Liquid’s narrative has changed. In the beginning, watching them win was entertaining, but now some fans are constantly rooting for the other team. To the players, it’s not about winning, but instead they see it as denying another team the satisfaction of defeating them.
“We’re the villains in a way, I think the fans and the other LCS teams want to see us lose so the motivation is truly to deny that from happening,” explained Doublelift. “It sounds villainous but it’s a competition and everyone wants to be the best, so you need to find some sort of fuel from something.”
Despite the team’s level of success domestically and internationally, Team Liquid is not the most popular organization in the LCS. C9 and Team SoloMid have stronger fan bases that are outspoken about their feelings for Team Liquid.
C9’s fans feel especially betrayed by mid laner Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen, who changed colors ahead of the 2019 spring split. In the video, Jensen admitted that he has nothing but respect for C9 and that the attacks feel personal.
Jensen’s betrayal only adds another layer to Team Liquid’s villainous narrative.
Team Liquid is missing one key component in their origin story, and that’s a worthy opponent. C9 is getting closer to becoming Liquid’s rival, but they only have to return to winning domestic titles first. Clutch Gaming threw their hat in the game when they took Team Liquid to five games in the semifinals.
The lack of true competition domestically is taking a toll on the team. The players, fans, and analysts know that no matter the opponent, Team Liquid will always come on top.
“I want another bot lane or another team where I can be like “that’s the team to beat, we need to train better, we need to try harder”,” Doublelift said. “When that happens, it will be an amazing wakeup call.”
The low competitiveness in the region not only affects the player’s mentalities but also their training routines. Team Liquid is heading to the biggest event of the year where all of the regions send the best of the best. This year the competition is stronger than ever, and even the teams in the play-in stage are tough opponents. Going to the 2019 LoL World Championship unprepared is not only unacceptable, it’s a death sentence.
The LEC teams have an advantage over the LCS. For starters, the competition is taking place in the region. More teams in the LEC are creative and will not hesitate to try new compositions on stage. The explosive and surprising drafting is not reserved to G2 Esports, as even the teams competing in EU Masters are trying new champions in unexpected roles.
Team Liquid needs to make up for an entire season of lesser competition and scrims. This year, the goal is to advance beyond the group stage. Failing to accomplish that task will raise several questions about Team Liquid’s status as the best team in the LCS’ history.
The organization is addressing the motivation issues with help from mental coach Jared Tendler. The figure of a mentality coach is new in the esports industry. These professionals are joining organizations and helping the players to develop a stronger mentality.
When a players struggles with underperformance, it affects the team as a whole. Team Liquid faced a situation that required Tendler’s intervention back in 2018 when the team attended the Mid-Season Invitational. Former support Kim “Olleh” Joo-sung couldn’t handle the pressure and benched himself in the middle of the event. At the time, Olleh praised Tendler for all the support that allow him to get back in the competition.
Olleh’s situation is only one of the many reasons why the team needs a mental coach. Stress, lack of motivation, and insecurity can take down even the best players in the world. Team Liquid is one of the teams getting ahead of the curve and providing its players with all of the tools necessary to succeed. It’s now in the hands of the players to perform.
Team Liquid will head to Europe on September 17 after a well-deserved break. The squad will start the bootcamp at its headquarters in Utrecht, Netherlands.
The 2019 LoL World Championship main event starts on October 12.