We caught up with Epitacio "TACO" de Melo and quizzed the Brazilian player on matters concerning SK's preparation for cs_summit and the team's recent dip in form.
SK Gaming will attend cs_summit hoping to get back to winning ways, with the team having failed to lift a trophy since winning the ESL One Cologne Major, last Summer.
After taking third-fourth at the ELEAGUE Major and second at DraemHack Masters Las Vegas, the Brazilians crashed out of the IEM World Championship in the group stage and failed to make it past the Swiss round at the SL i-League StarSeries event. As such, a good run in Los Angeles, where cs_summit will take place, would come as a massive boost to the team ahead of the $200,000 IEM Sydney.
Read on to find out what Epitacio "TACO" de Melo had to say about dealing with a string of disappointing results, João "felps" Vasconcellos's adaptation to the team, the preparation for cs_summit and more.
What are your expectations heading into the tournament? Are you aiming for the title or do you wish the team to get some stability, first and foremost?
I am still confident that our team is able to win any tournament and beat any team. We are here to win. Of course that, by looking at our recent results, we are not favourites, but since top teams like Astralis, Virtus.pro, Na`Vi, G2 and FaZe will not be in attendance, I believe our chances are higher.
Your first opponent will be EnVyUs. What is your opinion about them? The fact that they are a new team affects your preparation?
We have little information about them because they have not played at any offline event with this lineup yet. Despite that, we have watched some of their online matches, and I know they have a well-trained team, with experienced players who can make the difference. We will need to be wary of them, even though we are favourites for this match.
Considering that you were the best team in the world in 2016 and you have not been at your best this year, do you feel more pressure to get back to winning ways?
I believe this fluctuation is normal in teams who have reached the top. Of course that there is pressure, but it is up to us to deal with it in the best possible way and practice as much as possible to innovate and surprise again. By looking at our latest practices, I believe we are on the right track and with the right mindset.
cs_summit will have a more relaxed atmosphere than the one you usually find in tournaments. Do you think this could be ideal for your team, with all the pressure surrounding it?
We are experienced enough to not get shaken up by external pressure. The format of the tournament is cool and positive, but I do not believe it will have a big impact. There is a trophy on the line, and we will fight to get it.
Surely the latest results cannot be explained by just one factor. Do you think the team is taking some time to get used to the recent roster changes?
Yes, I do. Adapting to those changes was our sole focus in practice. There is so much more to CS than kills and highlights. CS is about teams, roles, a system, teamplay and lot of practice. Understanding that allowed me to help my team to win two Majors. felps' style is completely different from fnx's. We knew that when we decided to bring him in, but we thought it would be easy for him to adapt. We ended up realising that it was not that easy. With all the potential and the talent he has, it is a matter of time before he adapts to our system and plays the way we need.
How was the morale after those results?
Terrible. Being eliminated in the groups is something we had not experienced since DreamHack Malmö. We took a while to learn how to deal with such hard blows. The support of the organisation, of our coach/manager Dead, of Camila, of our fans and especially of our family has helped us to remember who we are and what we have done. We have learned that moments like this happen and that you can only overcome them if you look at the problem as a way to get motivated. We are really eager to win again.
felps was by far the team's best player in Katowice, and he also acquitted himself well in Las Vegas and in Kiev. What is your opinion about the way he has been playing? Is he matching the team's expectations?
Individual displays do not matter that much when the team cannot perform, they only matter when all the pieces of the puzzle are together and you can do your best in accordance with what you were designated to do by the team and for the team. coldzera was the best player in the world in 2016 doing what the team needed, just like FalleN and fer, and I hope felps will be that kind of player in the future.
Do you think it is just a matter of time before the good results appear once again, or does the team consider the option of rethinking its strategy?
I believe it is a matter of time. We have not forgotten how to play CS:GO. We are working very hard to get good results once again. In addition to getting that kind of results, our focus is on winning titles again and, who knows, be the best team in the world again. That is the hardest part, taking into consideration just how competitive the scene is nowadays, and our main goal, and it is totally possible.
Brazilian coaches are highly regarded in North America. Is there a reason why you have not had one since zews' departure? Do you not think that, in troubled times, a coach could help the team to overcome problems?
We do not rule out getting a coach. It is 100% possible, but we are focused on restructuring the team as a whole and, if necessary, then we will get one.