RUSH: "We think that it's more important to have a roster that can compete than just having a spot in the Major"
Cloud9 started off with two losses at BLAST Pro Series Miami, but managed to take 10 and 14 rounds against two of the toughest opponents at the tournament, Astralis and Liquid. Today they will face Natus Vincere, FaZe, and MIBR in the last day of play at the Watsco Center.
In the interview, RUSH talks at length about the three players that recently left the team, as well as the three that joined, not being able to sign players like Ismail "refrezh" Ali or Miikka "suNny" Kemppi, the return of Maikil "Golden" Selim as in-game leader, and the direction the team is now taking to try and become a top 5 team in the long run.
Let's start with the changes. You've had a complete overhaul, literally, the core of the team changed. Run me through the players who left. flusha took some time off, and that was his call...
Then there was kioshiMa, who made some statements making it look like the organization wanted him but the players didn't...
Like you said with flusha, he had some personal things going on in his life that caused him to want to go home, but at the same time he was at a point in his career where he wanted to have some off time, step back from competitive CS and just be at home for a while and he wants to kind of evaluate what it is he wants for his future, which he's deciding on now and we obviously respected that decision.
With kio, it was more of a differing of opinions whether or not we wanted to continue with him long term or not. We thought about it pretty long and hard and we realized that in the long term it probably wouldn't work out gameplaywise and personalitywise. He wasn't toxic by any means, he was actually a pretty good teammate in that sense, but the way he played the game didn't agree with some of our players and how they wanted to play. In general, he just didn't fit into the system that we wanted to make so we thought that it was better to do it now than later and not have him move his entire life to NA to tell him six months later that it wasn't going to work. I enjoyed him as a teammate the whole time and have no complaints about him, it was more of just the way he plays not fitting with how we are.
And then last but not least was Zellsis who was on trial and didn't have much time to prove anything but at the same time he didn't prove himself in the time that he did have. What happened there?
Jordan was a last minute decision because we were kind of set on picking refrezh up, we wanted to get him, but in the end he decided to stay in Europe and join OpTic, and it made more sense for him to play in a solid European team than risk a lot by moving to NA. That kind of sucked for us because we were banking on him and then we were down to two NA players, Zellsis or Infinite. We were leaning towards Infinite because he seemed like he had more raw potential, but there were rumors circulating about his attitude and we weren't sure about it. Some people confirmed it, so we didn't want to take a risk with that and went with Jordan, the more safe option in terms of his demeanor and everything.
I can't say anything about Infinite's attitude because I really don't know, he could be a perfect teammate and I would never know, but with Jordan... I think he kind of threw away his chance. He had three events, and he tried his hardest in the first two, but at the Major he kind of stopped playing as much as he did before and he wasn't giving it his all. I'm not sure why, but it seemed like he wasn't in it fully, mentally, I think maybe he thought that he wasn't going to make it on the team, which isn't a good mentality because you should always give it your all no matter what and try to improve on everything.
I think us giving him input and trying to make him improve was too much for him, he made a big leap joining a team with elite players coming from lower MDL teams and he jumped into a team going to big tournaments... I think the jump was too big for him, I think he would be the kind of player that would thrive in a situation in which he jumps from a better team to a better team to a better team slowly but surely. The pressure may have been too much for him, which could be why he didn't give it his all during the time we were in Katowice.
So we talked about the players who are gone, let's talk about the ones coming in. First of all, there's Golden returning, which I guess is pretty good news... when did you find out?
It was around Katowice that he started to let us now, and he let management know that he was kind of greenlit to start coming back whenever he wanted to. We weren't decided on our roster at the time so we played out the Major and then decided what we were going to do after the Major. Once flusha stepped down we had an IGL void to fill so it was a no-brainer to bring Golden back into the roster. I think that it's very beneficial to us because if we didn't have Mike I don't know what we would do, we'd probably have autimatic call if anything and that would change the whole dynamic of the team because he hasn't called for a couple years, at least. Having him is good, it's good that he's back at full force and in full health.
You went with another a little bit less experience player in vice, how did he come up, how did he get his spot?
That was another similar scenario to Zellsis, but we thought that vice had more potential. I mean, so did Jordan, but this guy has actually gone to a lot of tournaments with teams like Rogue, and bringing in cajunb we thought that bringing one inexperienced player and one experienced player would be the right mix instead of two experienced players or two young players. We tried to go after other players, like refrezh, but it didn't work, so we went with vice as the young gun and cajunb as the experienced guy. So far it's working pretty well because they're doing the jobs we expect them to be doing and they're doing it well.
Yeah, I imagine you really haven't had time to practice...
We've had about five days of practice, and they have been long days. We haven't had any days off. Even here, when we got here and we were practicing most of the day so we're doing what we can with the time given and it seems like it's a recurring theme. We get a roster, go to a tournament, and we have limited time to practice, so it almost may have been better to not come to this tournament at all and have another team fill in for us so that we could get into form because we don't want to bring lower tier competition to a big event like this, but I think we decided that the experience for us would be better than not having it, especially for vice because he hasn't been to many big events so it's good to get him in front of a crowd, playing big teams, and stuff like that. We thought the experience would be more valuable than waiting.
There were rumors of suNny floating around for a while, what happened with that?
He was our initial pick to go after and this is kind of why we ended up going with vice in the end because suNny was our first option. He was kind of in between joining or not joining, but in the end he decided that since flusha stepped down it was a safer option for him to stay in Europe right now because it is kind of risky to join a team with just three players. It was Golden, autimatic and me at the time, so joining and moving to NA would be a big step for any European player without a set roster. I think that he took the safer approach and I think he's just going to sit and wait for his options with is something I respect.
You're the heavy underdog at this event, so what are the expectations, or what do you hope to get out of the event?
Like I said before, experience for vice is big, and for the team in general because even though Golden was on the team before he hasn't been in this roster. Expectations are low, but at the same time I feel like we have a lot of high individual skill that I think we can bring out and as long as we play our CS and not focus too much on how other teams play and if we can play fundamental CS we can still win. Not like the whole event, it would be really hard to do that, that'd be a miracle at this point, but I think a good goal would be to win the stand-off. Obviously, winning maps would be great, and it's kind of hard to say we're going to beat Astralis in a best-of-three, but I think winning the stand-off would be kind of cool.
Going back to the changes really quick, you have to qualify for the Major again. Is that something you thought about?
We think that it's more important to have a roster that can compete than just having a spot in the Major.
It seems like you've been going since the Major, the Boston Major, trialing players, changing players... How do you stop this spiral?
I feel like it comes down to the risks that we're taking panning out. We took many risks on players and they just didn't work out for what we wanted. Perhaps in the public eye some could have seemed they're working out, but for what we want, which is to become a consistent top 5 team in the world... That's the ultimate goal, and if it's not something we think is achievable we're going to make the changes we need to get to that point. We kind of got screwed, but we also kind of screwed ourselves by making the wrong choices as well.
Do you believe this could be it?
I feel like it could be it, depending on how the dynamic goes with bringing the younger and the older guy, I think that dynamic could go well if they mesh well with me, Tim, and Mike, and if they work well under Mike's system, I think it could be good. Only time will tell. This tournament, even if we do bad, we're not going to make changes, obviously, we're going to do our best to practice after this for ESL Pro League and ECS and we'll see how the season goes and we'll play it by ear.
Rambo has been on the team for a while, going through all of this, and valens is doing the data science, so how is that all working out?
Ron is definitely the head coach right now and he's the one doing everything for us out-of-game, but I feel like we do most of the in-game stuff and he helps point out things that we need to work on and we'll fix it, but he's more about structure, making sure we get to practice on time and that we wake up on time and stuff like that. Soham is most likely going to come back and we might have a two-coach dynamic, like a valens head coach and Rambo assistant coach type of thing, in the next two months.
You said the most important thing here is to get experience, to get the ball rolling, playing together and so on, but what is it performance-wise that you want to take with you from this event?
What we want is to build a core because we haven't had a core for a while. It has kind of just been Tim and me. I guess Mike was in the core, but he got sick and we kind of cut him off for a bit because we didn't know how long he was going to be gone and we couldn't wait around so we had to make decisions, but it's good that he came back so that we can build the foundations together, build that core, and then we'll build around it with vice and cajunb, who are coming in now.
But we haven't had a foundation to build off of for a long time and I think this is more of a long term thing and you can't expect we'll have sick results in the next two, three, or four months, it'll be more like six months to a year. There are not many brand new teams that have just hit good results, at least not consistently, they may do good in a tournament, but not consistently. If you look at any good team these days they always have a solid core that has been around for a long time and we haven't had that recently, so we need that to keep this team strong.