We start our round of interviews heading into DreamHack Masters Marseille with Epitacio "TACO" de Melo, Liquid's brand new acquisition.
SK's former support player, Epitacio "TACO" de Melo, will be on the server with a different core than the Brazilian lineup he won two Majors with for the first time since he made the leap into CS:GO's top flight. He parted ways with Gabriel "FalleN" Toledo and co. after the team's poor performance at the WESG 2017 World Finals in China and joined his former coach Wilton "zews" Prado in Liquid.
In the interview, TACO runs us through his exit from SK, the period before and after signing for Liquid, his personal ambition moving forward, and what it's like to adapt to a new team regarding both playstyle as well as communication.
How have you taken being dropped from SK? Do you think it was deserved?
It is never easy to end a cycle as long and victorious as ours. But I believe it was not that bad because it was something that I had been thinking about for some time. During our bootcamp in Germany, I had already told cold, my closest friend in the team, that, due to several internal factors, I would leave the team in case of a poor run at WESG. Right after the match that eliminated us (against BIG), I told my teammates that I no longer had the motivation to keep playing with them.
You stayed in California during the move from SK to Liquid. How has that gone for you?
It all happened very fast. During the week off that I had in China right after the tournament, I thought long and hard about what I wanted to do - I spoke with my family and with close friends, and they all helped me. When I returned from China, I had already decided that I wanted to keep living in the US and to play for an American team.
My ex-teammates let me stay at the house for a few days while I analysed the offers that I got and sorted everything out. Basically, from the offers that I got, I was torn between Cloud9 and Liquid for a few days because they are both great teams, with great players. The fact that Liquid have zews played a very key role in my decision to pick them. Negotiations were always very honest, and both teams were very open and made me feel comfortable to make a decision without any sort of pressure. When I decided to join Liquid, I only had to wait a few days while the organisations tried to reach an agreement for my buyout.
How about the adjustment in-game? This is the first time you play on another team since you went pro, how is the transition going?
It is all very fresh still. I have only been practising with them for four days, but one thing that has left me very calm is the way nitr0 likes to make the team play - which is the way that I like and that I am used to. NAF, EliGE and Twistzz are excellent players, and it is very easy to play with them. It was also weird to play Nuke after vetoing that map for years.
How is it playing in English? Have you struggled a lot changing languages in-game? How is the communication?
I cannot say that it is easy. We have not had any problems yet, but I am still making some mistakes because I am not used to the names of every position. When the rounds are very intense, I still have a hard time communicating quickly what I see or what could happen. But what leaves me very calm is that everyone is really willing to help. They said that the same thing happened to steel at the beginning and that, after a short period of time, that problem ceased to exist.
Will you be playing a similar role in Liquid as you did on SK, or will we see a new/different version of TACO in Liquid?
As CT, yes. I will be responsible for every solo bombsite. As a T, we have changed a few things. I no longer need to be the one who goes first all the time. Besides, I have changed a few holds according to the team’s needs. I had been doing the same things for three years, so changing a few things has been positive so far.
What are your first impressions upon joining Liquid? Anything that surprised you particularly?
Everyone is really good here. Perhaps I was not really aware of that until I got to practice with them and look at their screens. I have been learning a lot from my teammates. I think that, with a bit more experience, they can scale greater heights and lift trophies. I am sure that I will be able to help them with this a lot.
What is your preparation like ahead of DreamHack Masters?
We have been running against the clock. Unfortunately, due to contractual matters I was not able to practice or play last week. We are focused on my adaption and on fixing the problems we have identified in practice.
Do you have any individual or team goals going into Marseille?
Individually, I want to repeat the good performances that I had in some tournaments. I want to recover my A game. Collectively, I will never settle for anything less than winning the tournament, regardless of the situation. I 100% believe that we are capable of it.