Cooper-: "As much as I wanted to like VALORANT, I realized I wanted to stay with CS"
Cooper has had a turbulent year so far in 2020. His and his brother Ryan "freakazoid" Abadir's team was let go by eUnited in March following the restructuring of ESL Pro League, which left the organization without a spot in the prestigious competition, and the lineup resurrected the famed Swole Patrol tag to continue to play while looking for an organization.
The squad went on to compete in ESL Pro League Season 11 nonetheless, as a result of the league's temporary return to regional divisions amidst the pandemic, but despite impressing with wins over FURIA and Liquid, Cooper and company could not secure backing over the next two months. "We did talk to some organizations, but we didn't come to agreeable terms with any," the AWPer told HLTV.org about Swole Patrol's failure to find an organization, admitting that the pandemic played a part. "The current global environment, COVID and such, played a role in many orgs being reluctant to sign new teams at the time."
It wasn't only the global situation that prevented Cooper's side from generating enough interest, however, as the arrival of VALORANT shifted the focus of some North American organizations towards Riot Games' first-person shooter. And to make matters worse, it also made most of his teammates try their luck in the new game, with Victor "food" Wong, Jordan "Zellsis" Montemurro, and freakazoid all deciding to call it quits in Counter-Strike, resulting in the disbandment of Swole Patrol in May.
A move to VALORANT wasn't out of the question for Cooper himself, but he quickly realized that he simply liked Counter-Strike more: "I did give VALORANT a try for about a week or so, but I knew very early on that I didn't like that game as much as Counter-Strike," he said. "As much as I wanted to like it, I realized I wanted to stay with CS. I personally really felt like I wanted to continue pursuing my goals in CS because I enjoy the game so much as well as competing in it."
Having decided to stick with the game in which he had spent the last three years making a solid name for himself, the 26-year-old was on the lookout for a spot in an established team. However, despite some promising openings in teams like Chaos', who had just lost their AWPer, Owen "smooya" Butterfield, nothing worked out. "I was contacted by and talked to some teams about a potential move, but nothing came to fruition," Cooper shared.
He was left with nothing but creating a roster out of the players that were still undecided about their futures, stranded with no contract in either CS:GO or VALORANT. Reuniting with two of his former Swole Patrol teammates, he joined up with Edgar "MarKE" Maldonado, Zellsis, Bradley "ANDROID" Fodor, and Gage "Infinite" Green to form a new iteration of Ze Pug Godz, an organization-less tag ANDROID represented in 2016 and earlier in 2020. "We all found ourselves not committed to any teams and wanting to compete in some tournaments to get some competitive games in, rather than just regular pugs and FPL."
Although it didn't start out as a particularly serious project, it seemed to click immediately. With Cooper and MarKE putting up some fantastic numbers, Ze Pug Godz rallied through the open and closed qualifiers for DreamHack Open Summer in late June, beating even Chaos and TeamOne in the latter without much difficulty — a feat the star AWPer attributes to a combination of solid individuals and the random factor of a new team.
"I think it's a mix of the talent of our team and the randomness of playing against a group of people who haven't really played together as a five all that much," Cooper explained. "We have all competed against many of the NA teams, so with our combined experience we played pretty well and got some wins."
One month later, the brand new lineup remains undefeated after winning the Mythic Summer Series Cup 1, in which they took down North America's most promising up-and-coming team, Triumph. The next step is to take things to another level as Ze Pug Godz prepare for DreamHack Open Summer with hopes of making an impression against the region's best and once again attracting the attention of team-less organizations.
Given how hard it was for Swole Patrol to find an organisation, Cooper knows it will take some effort to land a home for Ze Pug Godz, but he's hopeful that things will work out better this time. "I know we've generated some interest, but with the way the NA CS landscape is looking right now, we know it will be a process," he admitted. "We are here to do our best and win, and hopefully that brings good news for us in the future. I see this team being able to compete and win as long as we put in a lot of effort. We will have to work hard not only on maintaining our skill but also on our synergy in order to bring ourselves up to the level of all the other teams that have been working hard on that for a long time now."