Vorborg: "Before I even joined EG, I pointed out that the roster composition didn’t make sense to me"
The Danish coach touched on Evil Geniuses' failures over the last 10 months and their issues on and off the field.
Evil Geniuses revamped their roster in the summer of 2022 intending to shake off some of the poor results from the first half of the year. The arrivals of Sanzhar "neaLaN" Iskhakov, Jadan "HexT" Postma, and Daniel "Vorborg" Vorborg were supposed to bring a breath of fresh air into the roster, but they were never able to compete at the highest level, only cracking the top 20 rank once after their appearance at the IEM Rio Major.
The organization and team came under heavy scrutiny by the community, and following a series of disappointing LAN results and their failure to qualify for the BLAST.tv Paris Major, the organization decided on a different approach. The whole starting lineup except Timothy "autimatic" Ta was benched and replaced with EG Black players ahead of the fall season.
Starting from the top, you recently parted ways with EG. What are the emotions like, what are you feeling at this moment?
It’s not a great feeling, I really feel like I have unfinished business. I came to EG because I wanted to build a title contender together, but obviously we never even got close to doing that. I don’t have any ill feelings towards the organization or the players, things didn’t turn out the way we had envisioned, but it wasn’t for a lack of effort.
Truth be told, the EG project never really got off the ground. As the coach, why do you think that happened?
There are many reasons. Before I even joined the team, I pointed out to EG that the roster composition didn’t make sense to me. I joined the roster late, as I was weighing up my options, so the 5 players were already in place. I felt like we lacked a ton of initiative and leadership, and players with strong opinions on how they would achieve success.
We agreed that we would take the first 3 months to evaluate what pieces to build the future of the team around, and then attempt to make some big moves for the roster in the upcoming winter break at the time. For various reasons, that I understand and accepted, like player availability and the shaky financial situation in CS:GO we were unable to make any big changes though, and we continued on with the roster.
In hindsight though, I probably over-emphasize the importance of initiative and accountability on every single piece of a roster though, because of the way we built our most winning team in Copenhagen Flames. We had a fairly loose playstyle, one with a lot of space for the players to take, but also one that faltered if the players didn’t perform.
There are a ton of top teams that play in a drastically different way, where there is a strong way of playing set by the IGL / Coach, and the rest sort of follows. There are pros and cons to the different approaches, and this is a very simplistic way of putting it. But all in all, although I do believe we lacked leadership, initiative, and ownership, I wasn’t a great fit as a coach at the time either — because what I was used to was a very collaborative team dynamic. I learned a ton the past year, and see myself as a much more versatile coach today than when I started, and I am grateful for that.
Lastly, and this might sound weird looking in from the outside. We feel like we got close, as we did very well in practice, we progressed and kept improving. But then we ran into a huge issue, that we never truly got fixed, which was an inability to perform in officials. We started playing way differently and didn’t stick to what we practiced, and that hurt us a lot. All in all, I think everyone who was in and around the team can succeed at the highest level of CS, but we were at different times for different reasons not a great fit as a unit.
Between the players, yourself, and the organization, where does the responsibility for the results lie?
It is 100% my responsibility that we didn’t reach being a consistent top 30-20 team or something like that, we had the player material to reach that. There are different reasons why we didn’t achieve that, but at the end of the day, it’s the head coach's responsibility to get the most out of the roster you have, and I failed at doing that. Beyond that potentially we could have done it, by working step by step, but I think upper management probably had to put together a different team composition then, and that’s including the coaching staff.
The EG organization has been under a lot of scrutiny, from the community and notable individuals in the scene. Do you think it was deserved, and how did that affect yourself and the team?
I don’t feel like it impacted me at all, and I don’t think the players spent a lot of energy on it, at least they didn’t express that in any way, shape, or form. However we did struggle to show up in official games, but I think that was mostly due to the pressure we put on ourselves.
What were the most difficult moments for you and the team?
A lot of traveling leading straight into games, that just can’t be avoided is tough. You fly from tournament to tournament in Europe, then you have to fly back to NA and play the open qualifiers within 24 hours of landing, and then fly back to Europe the day after those qualifiers and play again within 48 hours of arriving in Europe is really tough.
I think emotionally though, after we lost the RMR qualifiers and had to fly straight to EPL was the toughest of all times. I think we were extremely tired, demotivated and defeated heading into EPL with no time to reset. I tried my hardest to get us back on track, but obviously we fell incredibly flat at EPL, and probably the worst showing we had at any LAN we went to.
Focusing on the positives, there were glimpses of promise for EG in the last year, qualifying for the Rio Major being one of them. When did you see the team click and come together well? Why didn’t the positive trajectory continue?
Within the team, in practice etc. we had a lot of successes, especially in the off-season. We really felt like we were moving in the right direction. But as I said, we completely dropped the ball in the first tournament of the year at BLAST, not doing what we had been practicing. And then you go from tournament to tournament, with a maximum of three days of practice in between and we just failed to get us all back on track and on the same page after that.
This last part of the season was rough then, with refrezh joining, him having to play from Europe for longer than first anticipated with high ping in practice and tournaments. I do think we were moving in the right direction with his addition, but obviously, we had almost no time to show that.
Having just promoted four academy players, it seems like EG have once again missed the window to make big upgrades to their roster. What do you make of their transfer window activity and the new roster’s chances to be competitive against the best?
I think it makes sense. From all the rumors it appears they tried to see if they could get a world-class team, and if not, then promote the academy team that has been working their ass off, and has been doing well. They will probably have an adjustment period, but I hope they just show up at BLAST groups, and just play with no respect and give it their all. There is a lot of talent on the team, but it’s always difficult to predict how the less experienced players will adapt going to the biggest tournaments. I think there is less pressure on them though, not as high expectations or demands from themselves or the public, so I hope that will allow them to do their best.
When you made the decision to leave Copenhagen Flames and eventually joined Evil Geniuses, you wrote that you had “four lifetime opportunities at once”. What were the other ones, and in hindsight, are you happy with your decision to take the coaching role in the North American organization?
I’m not going to namedrop, but a lot of people would probably have called me crazy at the time to pick EG, especially in hindsight. EG was the worst-performing team that I got an offer from, and there were absolute top teams in there.
I chose EG because I had really good conversations with valens, and he is a person I have so much respect for. At the same time, the idea was to build a great roster, the financials were there, but unfortunately we never really got to make those moves. At the same time I have learned so much from this adversity, and being exposed to different ways of viewing the game, I definitely think this will benefit me in the long run. I don’t like dealing with "what ifs" or regrets, so I am just grateful for my experience.
Where do you see yourself going after the episode with EG?
My stock is probably not the highest it’s been, so we will see. I am already in talks with a couple of teams, but I am in no rush. I’ve done a lot of different roles in esport, and I’ve got a lot of experience the past 12 years or so working full time in esport, so I’m open-minded to what comes next. I don’t feel finished being a coach, as I really want to prove to myself I can be one of the best in the world. But at the same time, I could definitely see myself as a GM, Director of esports, or maybe even a player agent moving forward.