flameZ: "regali will have a very long career"
OG made the trip to IEM Dallas, their final event of the season and one they weren't meant to compete at, without their full-strength roster. Abdul "degster" Gasanov is taking scheduled time off, and so it was Iulian "regali" Harjău who was called up as a last-minute substitute to play in his first-ever LAN outside of Europe.
Despite missing their star AWPer, OG ended the first day of play in Texas with a dead-even 1-1 record, picking up a hard-fought victory over FURIA (16-14) in the opening best-of-ones before being dismantled by G2 (2-16 Mirage, 9-16 Inferno) to be sent down to the lower bracket.
HLTV was able to speak with Shahar "flameZ" Shushan after OG's first day in Dallas. The Israeli touched on the team's atmosphere in the wake of degster's short-term absence, what the future might look like for OG as a roster, as well as how regali has been performing after just two weeks' practice with the squad.
Lower bracket now, a loss to G2 in your second game. How are you feeling after the loss?
They played good. I think we were off on Mirage, the T side was very off from us and the CT was solid. We were very tired in the game, we didn't have so much [energy]. Usually when you play the first match in the morning at 11, the best-of-one, you wake up at 8, and usually the second game is later on in the evening and you can take a nap in the middle, or maybe eat food and you have 2-3 hours more until the game. This one we were a little bit off from the circumstances, but also we were not focused on the game.
A little bit of a different circumstance for you too with degster absent. What's it like without his voice on the server?
Abdul feels very comfortable with us so he's very dominant with his comms, he knows what he wants to do, he knows what fits us. regali is very new to it, we didn't have a lot of time to practice, so it's very odd playing on CT. He has some good aspects and if he will feel comfortable in the future I think he is definitely a very good player, but right now it's just very hard to play because we don't have so much practice.
We didn't have a lot of time to prepare him, we just have our setups and we try to go midround with individual decisions, but I think we changed positions on Inferno just now so it's a little off, a little weirder. On T sides I feel like with Abdul it might be easier because we know our stuff, we know how to play and we know what to expect from him, but with regali we need to adjust more stuff and get to know him better.
This was not a tournament you expected to come and play, you were invited last minute. A lot of teams have been talking about wanting a break, more time to relax between tournaments, what is that like for you, were you just down to come play more and more?
Well I've never been in the United States, so when I heard oh, we might fly to Dallas, I was like, 'Yes, let's fucking go.' The thing with the tournament is that we knew we don't play Washington and we have nothing after, so the more tournaments we get the better for us and we like playing CS. We're all young, it's just fun to play the game and get the opportunity to play another IEM tournament in Dallas. We've never been here, I remember the coach asking if we want to play Dallas and everyone was like, yeah.
It was a little bit weird because niko came as a stand-in only for the Major, basically, but we felt very comfortable with niko so we extended it. Everyone is happy with each other so we said let's play if it fits everybody and everyone is okay with it.
So the plan still is to explore replacements for niko after this tournament?
The general idea of what we're going to do is explore options of what we can get, and what we need to get if anyone sticks around. niko specifically I think we're very happy with, he's a very good player and our T sides sort of remain on the same level as with nexa, but I think niko's future might hold being a very solid rifler instead of an IGL. I'm not sure what he thinks but I think that is the org and the coaches and the management's decision, if they want to keep niko as an IGL or if we change him to a different role in the game.
On the CT side and T side he is a very crucial rifler and his communication is always so good and so reliable. I'm not sure if we kick or he leaves, more like let's see if this all fits him, if he wants to play, if it fits us if he's the IGL or if we want someone who is a more experienced IGL, and we'll see how it goes from there.
You mentioned nexa, is there any update on his situation and whether he's coming back or not?
I talked with him not long ago, and it seemed like he sorted what was there in the past. I'm not sure if the plan is for him to come back, I'm not sure what he plans for himself. I think nexa is a very good IGL and also a very good player, I'm not sure what the IGL market situation is right now but nexa is definitely a player that everybody wants and needs so he might be an option, yeah.
Talking about regali in this team a bit, what has that experience been like, what is he like as a player?
As a player you can see that he is more shy. Comparing him to degster, degster knows what he wants and he will communicate it like he is this rough guy, like I'm going to do this because this is the CS I want to play. With regali it's more open stuff, and sometimes it's good and sometimes it might be hurting a bit because we are used to like, 'I want to do this, I want to do this, I want to do this.'
But he is a very solid teammate and he understands utility very well, like what utility needs to be offered, but I think he has very high potential. It's just that the first LAN, first game, jetlag from American flight, it might be a little hard for him, but he definitely has what it takes. Communication, his utility, his individual skill like how he can shoot is very rough, he's very strong, like he was 17-11 on CT even though it didn't go so well. He knows how to shoot well and if you have the aspects of being a good teammate and it's your first tier-one event, pshhh... I think he will have a very long career.
Do you think some of that shyness comes from this being his first tier-one event too?
Possibly. I'm not certain on shy, maybe just a little introverted, but it's the environment we have. It's very intimidating sometimes, many people are vocal. I don't think it's hard to connect with us, but if you're coming from a very different team you might need to adjust yourself and how you approach stuff, what you can say and what you cannot say.
It's that, he just needs more time, we've known him for two weeks maybe and we didn't play so many practices and have only seen him in real life for two days. He needs more time to adjust, every person would need more time with the environment to set himself up, understand what he can say, what is comfortable for him, what is everybody's limit. He's not there yet, he's halfway.
It's been about a week since the Major ended. How are you reflecting on that loss, because obviously not the result you would've wanted back there, right?
[laughs] Yeah I mean we would have wanted to win, but I think GamerLegion made the finals after beating us so you know... they are the finalists, it's not our shit, right? But I think they played very well, obviously we wanted to win.
I didn't explain it well once, I remember the casters were talking about it, but our main goal was to reach the Major, and after we got to the Major we wanted to make Legends, and obviously the next step. We just didn't play our game so well and the NIP game slapped us really hard in the face, and after that game the GamerLegion game was again another slap. I think we were sort of sad, but happy with what we had. We were grinding CS, we played IEM Rio, the Major, before the Major we played two online cups. After the Major we wanted the pressure taken off, but we instantly got back into it, we got invited to Dallas so let's step up and get back to the last dance of the season.
The Major was rough and it's always tougher after you lose to watch the games of the Major being played, but the Major was sort of a good storyline with Vitality winning in Paris, ZywOo's first Major win. Overall it was sad to just see the games while you're home, but the Major itself I was very happy with the results that came out, and it's always nice to have so many tier-one matches ongoing that you can watch the games after, the demos, so many new plays since at the Major everybody brings all the stratbooks and stuff like that. It was very nice to see from the side and with many upsets, it was the weirdest Major I've ever experienced.
You didn't want to stick around and watch it from the arena?
Well, what happened after is that we knew we were invited to Dallas, and I didn't have a visa for America. I instantly jumped back on a plane, went to the embassy, 'yo I need some visa,' and then the guy comes up with some gaming stuff. As soon as I could I wanted to get the visa, but I wanted to watch from the arena, I think if I was watching from the arena it would have been insane hype and I would have gotten a lot of motivation, but I did it for the greater good of my future.
Talking about your future, there was news that came out that you're exploring your options. Can you talk about that in terms of what you're looking for and what the goal is with that?
Right now it's to see what's out in the market and what are the options. For many international teams it didn't go so well, so it gives the opportunity to get solid offers and consider them, cause you can learn a lot and it could be better for your future and maybe a title-contender team as well. It doesn't mean that suddenly I will leave OG, there's still room to explore and see the plans of the organization, what they want to do.
Overall OG is an amazing organization and everybody is very nice to you, the management is just very solid, the coaches are very good, I'm very comfortable in the team, but this time is just to explore and see what's up. Right now with IEM Dallas and Washington, I'm not sure how it works with the teams, but my agent just sorts out whatever and from the teams that come if I see that they're good and they're interested in me then we can talk it out, but right now I'm focused on IEM Dallas and I don't give a fuck if people offer and people are like, 'let's talk.'
The main focus is just IEM Dallas and trying to get playoffs in one ESL event on LAN in my life, and then if I do it I'm very happy and I think we'll finish on a better note with OG. I'm not sure if it is the finish with OG, but right after this it's the player break for us and if we finish on a good note, I'll be very happy.