refrezh on IGLing: "It's been tough for me"
We spoke to Ismail "refrezh" Ali after Sprout survived a tough first two days at the IEM Katowice Play-in stage.
Playing their debut LAN tournament with new AWPer Adrian "XELLOW" Guță, Sprout are heading into a do-or-die match against Spirit for a place in the IEM Katowice group stage after two difficult matches.
In the opening round, the team around refrezh lost in an overtime affair to OG and fell to the lower bracket, where they came back from two big deficits on Ancient and Mirage against Evil Geniuses to keep their tournament hopes alive.
refrezh spoke in an interview with HLTV.org shortly after sending the North American side packing from the tournament. The Dane discussed the team's first two days in Katowice and reflected on their difficult first month with XELLOW, how the Romanian differs from their previous sniper Fritz "slaxz-" Dietrich, as well as refrezh's progression as a newly-minted in-game leader.
The last couple of days have been pretty tough for you, first the overtime loss to OG, and now the double 16-14 game against EG. First of all, how has it been mentally inside these couple of games?
After the OG game we were all really sad, because if you go back and look at the demo, when we were on the CT side we were kinda stacked every time in the places they went, so we had a really good read, but it was just so unfortunate. I think we lost to an S-pop two times in a row when we knew it would come, so basically just individually hitting your shots and playing your positions well that we were missing.
It was really one of the most depressing losses because you knew everything that went on. I've lost to bigger comebacks before, but there I felt outplayed, but this game we didn't feel like that. So we were really sad to lose that game, but we knew that, okay, if we're not making those silly mistakes, it will be much easier, so we took it as a lesson that there's no space to do this kind of mistakes in a big tournament against a really good team. It's just something we are gonna work on and try to do better for the EG game, which we did. Of course there were also some bad things in the EG game, but overall it felt a lot better.
You struggled early on both those maps. Tell me what struggles you faced and how you managed to come back, first on the CT side on Ancient and then on the T side on Mirage.
The CT side on Ancient, I was trying to react-call too much and re-push and re-aggress too fast when it was not needed. We got caught and were not ready for lurkers, so I had a big part in what went wrong on the CT side of Ancient. Then we took a timeout and calmed down a bit, I was really hyped up and wanted to be really active, and I felt like we got our shit together in the end of the half. We had a good read still on the Ancient CT, but I was just messing it up by making everyone more active and move around when they don't need to.
On Mirage we struggled a bit with all these lurks they had on their T side. We got caught and we were not ready and we were stressing a bit. But when we came on the T side, everything was just flowing, we had a good grip on them, we could abuse them in some ways I cannot tell, but we had a really good read and everybody was feeling it. I think we only lost the pistol and the eco and then a 2v4 where we tried to hunt too early and got caught and they punished us. Other than that, it was a really clean T side, I think we lost one more round, but I don't remember that one. There were not many close rounds, I think we won it pretty convincingly, and I was really happy to see everyone stepping up, taking charge, and also come in with some good calls.
You had the change from slaxz- and XELLOW and things have gone fairly roughly for you to start the year. You didn't make it to EPL and had an early loss in CCT, now a bit of a slow start. How do you reflect on how the setup is looking so far with the new lineup?
When you are changing such an important role as the AWPer, it's gonna change a lot in the team. We lost some more supportive elements and also XELLOW coming from a Romanian-speaking team and starting to speak English, so it feels like we lost some communication and we lost some support, which slaxz- did really well. He was really good at helping people, making sure the communication is on point and people are doing the right stuff. We kinda lost that, and that's why some of the games have been really wild. We are trying to find our groove and everyone has to improve in different areas to make up for what we lost. It might be that we got an explosive AWPer, but we're gonna lose some other elements too, and that hurt us a lot, I think.
What did you see in XELLOW that made you go for him, instead of, as you say, a more supportive AWPer?
I think we needed someone who really wanted to be out there and be aggressive and be in people's faces, or at least likes to thrive in chaos and be aggressive. I think that was kinda the main thing, that we needed an aggressive AWPer, and we could see that XELLOW is really good at it. If you have watched the games, in the 4v4s when there's full chaos on the sides, he's really good at moving at just shotgun-AWPing. We wanted some more X-factor and some more explosiveness because it suits our style.
We had a conversation on Confirmed about two months ago about your transition to IGLing. How has been your progression in that since then?
It's been up and down. Maybe, if you look at the bigger picture, more down than up. But I think I'm learning from day to day and I know being an IGL is not something you can do perfectly or really well in six months. If you look at all the good IGLs, they have been doing it for many years, or their whole career, even.
It's been tough for me, a lot of responsibility that before I wasn't really used to. And sometimes I'm doing not enough work inside the rounds, and sometimes I'm doing too much. It's a bit hard for me to find the right balance to control people, but also let them play, but also call and not call too little. The balance has been too hard sometimes to manage. A good example is our Ancient CT, where I'm trying too much, and then some other games that we lost I was doing too little. I think I need a bit of balance of IGLing the right way in the right scenarios. In a round it can change sometimes, you need to allow your players to pick up the round because they're in a good position or have a good read, and I haven't been doing a good job in that part.
Does it also come down a little bit to the communication side that you were talking about earlier, not having as many vocal players?
Yeah, that has also changed a lot. When you are the IGL, you have to base a lot of what your team is saying and what kind of information they are giving you. We lost something with slaxz-, he was really good at reading the game and putting the pieces together of what information they have. It could be like, okay, they did this and that, so they are playing in this area and they are heavy in this area. So we knew what the bigger picture from the opponent was, and we kinda lost that, because that's not something XELLOW is used to doing. But we are slowly trying bit by bit to give him more responsibility and more duties, because he also has to develop and be able to do more. But it's all a process, and it's also his first big tournament, so we are taking it as a process for now.