YEKINDAR on helping with strategy: "I have to do it because I want to win"
The Latvian rifler reflected on the IEM Rio Major ahead of his team's appearance at BLAST Premier Fall Final.
Liquid did not live up to expectations at the IEM Rio Major, considering they had gone into tournament as one of the favorites. A Legends Stage exit was not what was promised for a team that had just finished second at ESL Pro League, although they did post a competitive 2-3 record and suffered close best-of-three losses against Heroic and Spirit to crash out.
The BLAST Premier Fall Final is a chance for Liquid to get back on track and find the upward trajectory that they were on following the arrival of Mareks "YEKINDAR" Gaļinskis. Considering the wavering form of some of the other top teams in attendance, a win in Copenhagen is not out of the question.
With Liquid's opening game just around the corner, YEKINDAR sat down with HLTV to reflect on the North American squad's performance at the Major, his quest to find the right way to balance his roles within the squad, and how he felt about watching his former teammates lift the trophy in Rio de Janeiro.
First things first, what was the Major like from your perspective? Probably not the result you wanted?
We expected a higher placing, especially because of the form that we had before the tournament. We had a really good bootcamp, with good results and a good feeling. This tournament was one of the most competitive tournaments in the past couple of years because every team could have beaten every team. There was no clear favorite, everything came down to who's gonna have the better day or who is not gonna have the better day.
I think the most important match that we actually lost was the MOUZ one at the start, we weren't ready to play that day and we needed to change up our schedule before that match. It's whatever, we learned a lot from the Major, and the most important thing was the mental fortitude throughout the tournament. We were playing in the venue all of our games, the games against Heroic, NAVI and Spirit specifically were really… They gave me a really good understanding of what we need to work on and what's the good part about the team.
I saw that nobody forfeited, and everybody believed until the end. Even against Spirit, when we were losing that Ancient third map. On the T-side you could see that there was so much resilience from us. Even though we lost this tournament, we understand that it's a never-ending cycle, and we're going to have our chances later on. We're together since June, so it's not that long of a time and we know what to work on, that's the most important thing.
You said in an interview at Pro League that you don't like the favorites tag, which you had been given heading into the Americas RMR. For the Major. Considering your great form, you were put in that group of favorites alongside FaZe and NAVI. Do you think that had any impact on the team's performance? Like you say, you came in slow against MOUZ.
I'll rephrase what I said at Pro League: I don't like being called favorites at that time, after one second place finish in EPL. We got first in BLAST Groups, even though we lost to NAVI there. We got second place in EPL, but the teams that we won against were fnatic and MOUZ, right? And in Cologne, we got to quarters only, so putting us as favorites was not reasonable at that point. That's why I don't like the tag favorites. If you are calling someone favorites you have to have…
Yeah, exactly. Time will tell who are favorites and who are not favorites, who was favorite and who is gonna be the favorite, that was the main thing for me. I don't think it necessarily bothered me that people were considering us favorites, maybe someone else was overthinking it, but not me for sure. I don't think anyone from the team was thinking about that either.
IEM Rio seemed like something of an off-event for you, personally. You went from a 1.16 average rating with Liquid before the Major to a 1.00 rating at the Major. Did it feel like a bad event to you?
Yeah, I actually wrote on Twitter after we went out of the tournament that I could have played better. I know I can play better. Personally, it's really hard to find the balance between investing into the macro of the team while focusing on your individual part of the team. I can't necessarily go full-macro because my individual skill will suffer. I'm trying to find the balance, the best that can work for the team.
Maybe I had the 1.00 rating, but I believe I gave my all to give my team the most chances to win, so I don't necessarily think I was playing that poorly. At the same time, I know I can play better.
You say that you're trying to find the balance between adding to the macro and then focusing on your own game. Are you vocal, then, in the game? Do you see yourself as a secondary caller?
Yeah, I used to be a secondary caller all the time throughout the last three years, so that's just something I do. Specifically, also here in Liquid, we got to a point where Nick [nitr0], me and daps work more on the macro, and when you work a lot on the macro you also have more opportunities to help the team during the game. That’s something that I am evolving into now, and as I said, it's just hard to find balance and hard to understand the strength and the capability that you have, and how to use it properly.
Does it add any pressure on you? I know a lot has been said publicly. daps said you were helping teach the team a lot and you said that you helped update the team on the meta when you first joined.
No, not really. daps or someone is not saying it to praise me, we're trying to be as open as the team wants to be to all of the fans. There's not specific pressure because I'm involved in the macro, it's more understanding that I have to do it because I want to win and I'm ambitious. I'm trying to give my all, and the whole team is trying to give it all to win. When you are trying to give it all, there is nothing that can break that confidence and break that belief in the team or in your personal self.
What are the plans moving forward? You've had some time to settle in Liquid and have played a few events, have you set goals and targets?
Until the end of the year we're just playing. This discussion will come for sure at the start of the next year, after the vacation. For the first six months we had our discussions about goals before, but the first six months are soon to end and we need to set new things. That's the plan.
For this tournament, specifically, do you have any goals or expectations?
We want to qualify for Abu Dhabi, obviously, I'm not sure how the points system is now but we will do our best to get the highest placing possible and if we qualify, we qualify. If we don't, it's gonna be the end of the year for us.
There's been a lot said about the lack of a clear No. 1 team right now. You said it yourself that the Major was incredibly competitive. Why do you think that is?
I think it's a matter of form basically, at the Major most of the favorites had different problems they were facing at similar times. FaZe came into a problem of how do they improve when everyone knows how they are playing, and how do they continue their domination. NAVI can't really find their game, right, all the talks about sdy leaving and whatever. Vitality is just a young team.
So all these favorites have different problems they are facing, while the so-called underdogs, like Outsiders, MOUZ, fnatic, Spirit, FURIA, they come into the tournament from the Challengers Stage and they have less invites. They don't have invites for BLAST, they don't have these tournaments in-between. They specifically train and practice for the Major, and they understand what they need to achieve and what they need to do, while all the favorites are facing a problem of going from tournament to tournament, then having to deal with problems in-between, and having less time to deal with them.
Obviously, I think it's totally deserved by all the underdog teams that were playing well there. Spirit, MOUZ, Outsiders, Heroic were performing really good. Time will show if the teams are ready to go onto the next step. For example, if Outsiders are ready to actually dominate. The main problem I feel like is that the end of the year is soon. It's gonna go into a vacation and they're gonna lose this momentum, that's the only problem, but I really believe in them and I'm super happy about them winning the Major because I know how much they work and I know how much they dreamed about it and how much they talked about the game. It's just super motivational.
Just to add a little extra question based on that point, were there any mixed feelings about seeing Outsiders win the Major? That used to be your team, and in a different world you might still be with them.
Obviously, at the very start, there were mixed feelings in a way because I thought that maybe I was the problem, but at the same time I was so happy for them. I sat down and I started thinking to myself, and then I came to the conclusion that it's not necessarily like that, if I wouldn't leave the team maybe they wouldn't win the tournament, I can't know specifically all the things that would or not happen. The only thing I can actually do is find motivation from their win and be happy for my friends for winning the tournament.