FalleN: "I'm hoping to reach a higher ceiling than in previous years"
The Brazilian veteran discusses joining Liquid, giving up the in-game leadership and his expectations for the Brazilian scene in 2021.
Gabriel "FalleN" Toledo is raring to go after over four months of inactivity. In September, the two-time Major champion showed his discontent with the management's decision to dispense with Fernando "fer" Alvarenga, Epitacio "TACO" de Melo and coach Ricardo "dead" Sinigaglia, and stepped down from the lineup, spending the rest of the year pondering his next move.
He resurfaced earlier this month in Liquid, replacing Russel "Twistzz" Van Dulken in the North American team. After being the tactical mastermind behind his previous teams, the 29-year-old will now have the chance to focus on his game as the team will continue to be led by Jake "Stewie2K" Yip.
As Liquid prepared for their opening match in the BLAST Premier Global Final against Natus Vincere, we had the chance to sit down with FalleN about this new challenge and his role in the team. The Brazilian also opened up about the issues in MIBR and what's it like to play without his longtime friend fer.
What are your first impressions of Liquid?
In terms of the organisation, I'm really impressed with the structure that Liquid has here in Europe. Our training facility is really amazing, I think that only a few organisations have something like this. Our accommodations are also very good and are located close to the office, so that makes everything easier, we just leave the apartments and come to work.
As for the players, it has been great playing with them. The way that they think about the game and the way that I play and think about the game are a good fit. There are some tendencies that I see in other teams that are a bit different from the way that Liquid was playing, and there are also some things that I experimented in previous lineups. We are doing a good job in terms of mixing those other ideas with what they enjoyed doing. We've just started practising, but it has been cool. It takes a while to adapt to a new team, right? The callouts are different, there are some maps that I didn't play much and that I am playing more now, like Nuke, but it has been great. I am really enjoying it.
What is your role going to be exactly?
I consider myself a bit different from the other AWPers. Normally, because I used to be the captain of my teams, I was always a little bit of a support player during rounds. I had to think about not only what to do with the AWP, but also how to use my players in executes, some grenades we had to use, things like that. I had to do both things. From what I can tell, this is not a team that expects me to have an AWPing style that requires me to get the entry kill all the time or be the key player who opens things up. This team is more organised than that, they are not used to that. I bring a little bit of that, but they like this style where I am a support player and use the AWP as the round plays out. Stewie is still leading the team, I've been like a second voice, and I think it's been very cool. That helps me focus on my game and understand the way they like to play, what they expect from me and how to use the players the best possible way while I am AWPing.
Was being just a player something that you sought? After all these years leading your teams, did you want something different?
I think it's cool to be just that second voice, to give my opinion when I'm seeing something. When I'm not the one calling, I always try to put myself in the IGL's shoes. I'm always thinking of ways that I can contribute or suggest things that make sense. I think that every captain probably likes that. I think Stewie is a good captain, with good ideas, and we have the freedom to discuss when we're thinking in a different way. I think that's important, discussing new ideas, bringing different perspectives on certain matters. I think that can only improve the team. Sometimes, we are somewhat blind and only see the game in a certain way. I believe that a team gets stronger when we are able to mix those different ways to see the game and to make strategic changes, in a good way, without making it look like we are losing structure.
How is your adaptation going? What should we expect from this new Liquid?
To be honest, we haven't had enough practice days to be where we want to be, we are aware of that. But at the same time, I know that this is a team that has a lot of potential right off the bat. I believe it's possible to face the top teams head on right from the start. But at least for me, this is still an adaptation period. I'm hoping for a victory, I believe we can get off to a good start, and it would be great to do so, it would be a great confidence boost for this new team, but we have to keep our feet on the ground. We will go up against teams that have been together for a long time, some of whom are coming off a good season. We have to be realistic, but without losing hope or that desire to win, which will be there, for sure.
Did you think about continuing in a Brazilian team, or did you seek a fresh start after what happened with MIBR?
When we had to break up the previous MIBR team, I started thinking about what I could do next. I had some time to reflect. I wanted to continue playing with fer, but that ended up not being possible. I opted for this more solo opportunity, which was for me to join Liquid. I realised that I was at a point in my career where I prioritised a team that was already at a high level and where I could focus on playing. I was very happy when I got the offer from Liquid because they're from the region where I was living, I know that they're a very strong team, I played against them for many years, and, to be honest, I knew that the organisation was very good. Still, I am positively surprised by the size of the structure that they have. I already knew about it, but now that I'm here, I'm giving a lot more importance to it. It's much better than I expected. I wanted to join a team that had the chance to reach a high level quickly, and Liquid was a great option in that regard.
How are you finding the experience of not being the one making the calls?
Leadership, for me, is something very natural, and I've always enjoyed the concept of shared leadership. In every team where I've been, especially the more successful ones - although there's this idea that I was in charge of roster changes, of every little thing - everyone did their part well, helping out however they could. Coming into this team, which already had a structure, I'll try to give my best to help out, and I'll show leadership in other ways, like keeping up morale and motivating teammates. Those are things that you can do even if you're not the captain. That kind of leadership from me will continue because that's part of who I am. The captaincy is all about what the team needs. If the team needs me to be the captain, I'll do my best. If they think that someone else, like Stewie, is doing a good job, then I'll do my best to contribute in other ways.
What has it been like playing without fer?
Playing without fer will be really different. We had been together since 2014. We played 1.6, we played CrossFire, we conquered the world with LG and SK, and we were together some years on MIBR. We accomplished so, so much together. Everything I accomplished during the most important stage of my career, I did it with him. It would not have been possible without him. It was sad to break up the duo, but who knows what will happen in the future? Life is full of twists and turns.
How is your relationship with MIBR right now? How would you describe your time there?
MIBR was an experience that came after the success of the previous teams, in 2016 and 2017. I believe we tried very hard, we racked our brains, we tried to do a lot of things and we ended up not doing any of them right. I believe we didn't have the success that people wanted, both in terms of results and the relationship between the team and the organisation. I'd like to think that it's not easy to be successful and to be the best team in the world, it's not easy to be at the top all the time. There are many teams in the world trying to reach for the top, but only a few are able to do it. My relationship with MIBR became a bit strained because of the way things ended, but I'm very grateful for the opportunity that they gave us, for the investment they made in our team, and I'll try to hold on to as many good things as possible and wish good luck to those who will continue working there. I will continue my life here. MIBR is a great team in Brazil, and the people in the country are really passionate about the organisation, the name and everything that the players went through there. It's important that it continues to be well represented.
2021 is shaping up to be an interesting year for Brazilian Counter-Strike. You're playing for Liquid, MIBR have a new team, FURIA have signed an American player, there's this new team that is rumoured to be joining GODSENT. What is your opinion about the current state of affairs?
I think international CS will be really great this year. Things were a bit tougher last year because of all the online tournaments. We will begin this year online, but there is the prospect of a return to LAN. I think teams came into 2021 with a focus on online tournaments. They weren't like, 'This tournament is not like the others we were playing before'. No, now we're just playing online, that's all there is and we are 100% focused. I think the way that players value online tournaments has changed.
The Brazilian scene is in a great moment. We have many players competing abroad, we have FURIA, who just got junior, and it will be interesting to see how they'll do, another attempt from a Brazilian team to go international. There are also other storied players in different teams, we have TACO in a team, I'm playing for Liquid. I think the Brazilian community will have several matches to follow and several reasons to cheer on different teams. The Brazilian community is going through a great moment, which is the result of all that happened in recent years, years of success and hard work. And it's also because of gAuLeS, who began streaming for the Tribo, really pushing the Brazilian scene. There are many people watching games, the numbers are incredible. The community is really passionate about the game and is following all the storylines.
What are your goals for 2021?
Personally, I'm very motivated to try to be the best version of myself as a player. I believe that, in previous years, I had moments when I performed better, but I believe that my game remained stable, with some very good moments and some that were a bit worse. This year, I'm hoping to reach a higher ceiling than in previous years. I believe I'm in the right place for that. As a team, I hope to be among the best in the world and that we can try to win titles and to be the best. I believe I have players who have what it takes for us to be the best.
Despite not being the captain, I still need to understand what we want to do. After so many years thinking about the game tactically, I do not think that my strong point is to make individual plays all the time. I like doing things that make sense in the context of what we want to do. Even though I'm not the captain, I'm trying to understand what we want to do so that I can focus on my part tactically, all the while understanding what's going on around me. I think that's important for an AWPer. I'm not into playing like, 'Let's see what happens'. And this is something I really like about Liquid, they think the game the same way. That is something that I missed in my previous teams. Even though I was calling, there were differences of opinion about how to play the game. If I manage to do this, that will make it easier for me to, who knows, become a better player. I'll fully devote myself to it.