Liquid were able to take on BIG in their opener, winning two maps and moving on to the winner's match. We caught up with Epitacio "TACO" de Melo following the series to talk about his thoughts on the team two months after joining.
Liquid started their run in Belo Horizonte with a win, taking Cache and Inferno against BIG, a team they practiced a lot against during their bootcamp in the Netherlands. Moving forward, they will play mousesports in the winners' match for a spot in the playoffs.
BIG is known to be a team that studies its rivals and plays a tactical style based on research. Is there anything special you did to counter them, or did you just play your game?
There's something I learned in Liquid, which is that we always play our game no matter who we're up against. So we actually didn't study BIG, to be honest. We knew the maps that would be played, so we just prepared what we'd do and how we'd play. Actually, playing against BIG was a bit scary, kind of bad for us, because we played against them a lot during our bootcamp in the Netherlands.
So why was that scary, did you'd think they'd be particularly prepared?
Yeah, in practice against them we had a hard time and I really think BIG is a good team, they are really tactical. Individually, it's really hard to play against them. I don't know why, I really have to figure it out. I have a mental block when I play against them, for some reason. Maybe that's why it was a bit scary for me, although not so much for my teammates. They all played really well, which is why we won today.
This event is a big chance for Liquid to go all the way. You lost two finals to Astralis, and they're not here, for example. Do you think this could be the one?
Yes, absolutely, it could be the one. It's something that we're working on because we really want to lift the trophy. That's a good thing, but we also put pressure on ourselves because of it. If you think about it, though, in the end, we don't have to have that pressure. We just need to keep working and improving like we have been doing during the bootcamp and in our matches in the past weeks. I'm pretty sure we'll do our best, and if we can't win here, we'll go on to the next one and try again there.
Right when you came into the team, Liquid struggled a bit, which is normal after just about any change. Now that you've been showing good form, what do you think it is the team found to get better?
When I joined the team I replaced steel, and although we had the same roles, it was very different. I think I changed a lot of things, and the team also had to change a lot of stuff for me. Now, I think we have a good map pool, we have strong defenses in the bomb sites, and we have good strats. I know every strat now, which is something that I didn't have when I joined the team. It was hard because nitr0 would call something and then he would have to explain every step to me, whereas now I feel like we have a full team, five players and a coach. I think that's why we are doing great. They were doing great with steel as well, but right when I joined we changed a lot of stuff. What I hope now is that the changes were for the better, and that it can bring us to the next level.
Liquid is also one of the youngest teams playing at this level, what do you think has allowed you to be so young, as a group, and yet among the best?
I think zews helps a lot with that, and Joka as well, our manager. Liquid also gives us really great support with a psychologist and a performance coach, so I think all of those elements combined help a lot. Me, I'm not that old, but I'm older than the rest of the players, and I have a lot of experience in the game. I'm happy they listen to me and I think I help a lot in this case. I always tell them: "Guys, you have a bright future in this game, because you are so young, but you can start now. You can do this because you're really good players, you're four of the best players in the world." I believe it 100%. I played with the best players in the world for a long time, so I think I know how to recognize when a player is really good or when a player has really good potential. In this case, it's not just potential, they are already really good players.
It's been a while since you left SK and joined Liquid, how is the change settling?
I'm really happy with my life right now. I try not to talk too much about SK. It was a really good time, and I had two and a half years there living a dream. I'm really thankful for everything I learned, and everything that happened during those years of my life. Now, in Liquid, I'm just trying to be as happy as I was in SK, and I think I'm getting there because I'm very happy in this team. I really love playing grand finals, being on a big stage at tournaments, and I think we're doing that right now. I like to work hard and my team has the same mindset. I'm really happy right now, with everything that happened, and I don't regret anything.
Last year you played in Brazil, but you were in a Brazilian team. Now you're here, but you're in a North American team. What's the feeling coming here with Liquid?
It's kind of weird! Even though I have a lot of support from the Brazilian crowd, I know that I'm not the favorite. My team is not the crowd favorite because they have SK and NTC, which is understandable. NTC is a full Brazilian roster and SK has four Brazilians, five if you count dead. It feels weird for me, but I'm happy I can play in my country. I just hope I can make the fans proud. I think they like me as a player, and I'm pretty sure they'd be happy for me if I could win the tournament.