allu: "The main goal for us is to make progress every single day"
We caught up with ENCE to hear how things have been going for the Finnish squad, who are soon to play the European Minor Closed Qualifier and ESL One Cologne.
Making the two aforementioned events propelled this ENCE core to their highest ranking yet, placing them just outside of the top 30. The Finnish squad came together in April, after ENCE got the support of a Finnish ice hockey club Lahti Pelicans and signed one of the country's biggest stars, Aleksi "allu" Jalli.
Around the sniper, ENCE built the rest of the team, managing to acquire some of the most touted Finnish players and complete the team with Jani "Aerial" Jussila, Jere "sergej" Salo, Aleksi "Aleksib" Virolainen and Sami "xseveN" Laasanen.
In their first three months together, allu and co. managed to qualify for their first big event, ESL One Cologne, and make the European Minor Closed Qualifier, which they kick off later today.
allu, tell me about the first impressions of playing with a Finnish team again, what were your thoughts when ENCE was just assembled, in April? What was the biggest change after playing in international teams for an extended period of time?
allu: First of all it is great to be playing in a Finnish lineup again. For me it has always been a goal to have a fully Finnish lineup playing amongst the best in the world. My initial impressions were very hopeful and positive when I first saw how good these guys are. The biggest difference from the times I played in FaZe to now is how we had to learn a lot of the basics, from communication to intuitive plays, and how to react when specific things happen in a game.
In FaZe, you weren't always able to pick up the AWP and play as you wanted as the team was built around other players. Has that changed now in ENCE? How do you see your AWPing style now?
allu: In FaZe my AWPing was more passive and a part of the system we had built there. Now in ENCE I have more room and the possibility to make more plays, which means that my AWPing is more aggressive when needed.
ENCE is obviously on an upswing and has an impressive roster of Finnish players, but if anyone was to name his all-star Finnish lineup one name is certainly missing in ENCE: suNny. He is obviously finding a lot of success in mouz, but do you ever talk to him about returning to the Finnish scene, is playing with him something you would like to do, if the opportunity presents itself?
allu: I’m very happy that Miikka is getting the success he deserves because he has worked so hard for it. We are of course friends and talk quite often, but we haven’t discussed anything about him "returning to home" as he is very happy where he is right now. I think he is a top 15 player in the world right now so if things change in the future, then of course [I would like to see him return to the Finnish scene].
Behind a strong single-country team, more often than not, is a strong national scene, a bunch of competing teams, good organizations and tournaments. Do you think the Finnish scene is at that point right now? Have there been improvements in that regard in the past couple of years?
allu: Things are improving in Finland, we have better competitions and better organizations coming into the picture. However, there is still a long way to go for the Finnish scene to really flourish once again. It’s great to see we have new talented players coming into the picture more than before, and things are definitely progressing the right way, which is great to see.
Can you walk me through the roles on the team, how do you see the strengths of the five players you have in the squad?
Aleksib: allu is AWPing as usual and he is the backbone of our team. Aerial is an aggressive rifler who opens up the map for us and we have sergej & xseven behind him being more "clutch" type of players. I'm the IGL of the team and tend to play more supportive now. Everyone on our team can step up at any given time, we just need more experience overall.
You recently announced that you are looking for an analyst, what are you aiming to get from the person you hire? Also, how come you decided to hire an analyst before hiring a coach?
natu: Coaching staff is an integral part of a team and we want to make sure we’re making the right choices. Finding a fitting coach is a hard task and especially in a team that is fully Finnish because you would like the coach to understand and realize things in the communication.
Having an analyst, however, is more about having an extra pair of hands to digest our own faults and understand patterns that our opposing teams have. I have been helping the team out in the coaching side of things as much as I’ve been able to since May , but we’re still obviously looking to hire someone fulltime for the job as well.
sergej, how has your time with ENCE been so far in terms of personal development? Do you feel like you are advancing and learning more than in previous teams?
sergej: It has been very good, I have learned a lot these past 3 months and become a better player already. Of course, I learn way more in this team as it is the most experienced and skilled lineup I have been a part of so far.
In this team's first three months, you have managed to qualify for a big tournament, ESL One Cologne, and make the Minor Closed Qualifier. Are you happy about what you have accomplished in terms of achievements so far?
Aleksib: Of course we are very happy about our recent results and we are already focusing on taking the next step as a team.
What about the team's development, are you happy with how much you managed to do and how you are playing at the moment, either in practice matches or officials?
Aleksib: We had a rough start with the team, we just couldn't transfer the same flow and gameplay we had on practice to the official matches. Now we have been working on it and it feels like we have much more confidence.
What are your short-term goals regarding Cologne, the Minor and other things coming up in the next months?
allu: The main goal for us is to make progress every single day. We want to, of course, qualify for the playoffs in Cologne and then take it one game at a time. Every team's main objective is to make it to a Major and we are no different. Qualifying through the Minor Closed Qualifier first of all but then also make it through the actual Minor is what we are eyeing for.