YEKINDAR: "We changed players to win championships"
Liquid broke the hearts of many a North American fan with their business in the off-season, losing two NA stalwarts and opting to switch to a European roster. Their were also doubts as to the calibre of player Liquid had signed, specifically Aleks "Rainwaker" Petrov.
In their first official game with the new roster Liquid were heavy underdogs, with the entire broadcast talent team predicting a G2 win, but the YEKINDAR-led squad shattered expectations by securing a 2-1 victory.
Congratulations, what are your thoughts after that series?
It was a really tough series, I think both teams showed character. Mirage I think we should have won, we had the 1v4, the HooXi defuse, the final round where we didn't kill m0NESY in short with the AWP. But I am happy we showed character, even after such a start on Vertigo, and there were insane individual plays from every player, everyone had their moments.
I'm just happy that we showed we can be competitive, because I would say there was a lot of disbelief and pressure on us, and we wanted to show people we could be the dark horse. Obviously there is a lot of character within us, even though we practiced for only 11 days.
Are you pleased with the depth it seems you have to your map pool – you were pretty good on all three maps and like you say, probably should have taken Mirage – after only 11 days of practice?
I honestly feel like all of our maps are at a good level. We switched out… not necessarily switched out but we play seven maps, and we decided to ban Nuke against G2 because historically their Nuke is really good, right? But I had confidence, in those 11 days we did a really good job of having the necessary instruments, confidence and plays to actually perform on any map.
How are you feeling in the IGL role? That's something you've freshly taken up full-time, are you settling in well?
Yeah, throughout last year there were many matches where I would take the lead. Maybe the stamp of 'IGL YEKINDAR' is new, but other than that I have experience already calling. It still feels fresh to me and it feels fresh for the players, but this is just the start. I'm glad we won against G2, but this match doesn't really matter that much because of the format, and we never know what will happen after two months, three months, or next game.
How much input did you have on this new roster? Having taken up the IGL role, did Liquid work closely with you to put the team together?
Yes, Liquid worked together with me and daps, and obviously we were asking oSee and NAF for responses and their opinions on players. We had many options, or rather we looked into many players, and some of them were obviously not possible to get whilst we liked some more than others. Rainwaker was an easy pick for us, that kind of a player we needed to fit in nitr0's roles, and then Robert [Patsi] was one of our main picks for EliGE's roles. I am glad we picked these two players, I think we have a really good atmosphere. So yes, it was Liquid, daps, and the whole team that contributed.
Was the push towards a European roster something that was natural because of the players available? How did that come about?
The first priority obviously was to look for NA players. It's hard because even by watching… we watched a couple of NA players, not necessarily many because there are not many, right? If I'm not mistaken we watched at least three, I'm not going to say names but I think it's pretty obvious the names, and after watching European players you see how much more they understand the game. It was in our heads before, last year we were staying a lot in NA and there were struggles with the logistics of the team, so it just came on naturally. It's just sad, nobody willingly left NA, it's just the obstacles didn't allow us to stay.
On paper it looks like you have a really good mix of players on the roster. You and Patsi are very aggressive players, some of the most aggressive that we have in the scene, and then Rainwaker and NAF are more passive. Is it working out like that on the server?
It was a really interesting challenge in a way. Me and Patsi are pretty easy, you put one guy at one site and the other guy on the other. Especially since I am calling, I started to take a bit of a backseat position and put Patsi somewhere where I would usually play, but the interesting part was about NAF and Rainwaker. It was interesting because they are so similar and a lot of their positions cross over, but we decided to put NAF in more responsible, more… like for example, if you take five people in a team, the fifth is the lurker and the fourth guy can go back. NAF is usually the guy who will go back, and Rainwaker will stay somewhere else.
It was an interesting challenge, an interesting experiment that we did and it's working out at the moment, but we could also be making changes. All of our players are pretty flexible, and I think it wasn't that big of a problem as people would think.
How is Rainwaker stepping up in general? Obviously he hasn't had a lot of time yet, but he's played tons of tier two CS in Europe, how has he adjusted so far with the step up to tier one?
Obviously he has room to grow even more as a player, and you can see in some moments his experience. At the same time you can see, especially in clutch scenarios and the way he moves, he is a really talented endgame player. I have seen a lot of clutches from him in scrims, clutches where you think 'I would not do this' and then he wins the round, and you are like 'okay, okay' (rolls eyes).
I feel like the gap between tier two and tier one has almost nullified in a way, because there's not that big of a difference. Maybe like experience or whatever, but experience you can gain. I feel like Rainwaker deserved a chance in tier one, and I think his first debut game was amazing.
What are the goals with this Liquid roster? As you said, some people in the community doubted the pickups you made. What are you seeing as the ceiling for this team internally, what are the expectations?
We changed players to win championships. That's the main goal. Now, for the next three tournaments or whatever, our main goal is to be competitive. You need to think realistically, yes it would be amazing to win a tournament and do deep runs, but with so little practice it's not something that is going to happen for free. If we show ourselves on the server and are strong mentally, and believe in ourselves, I think we can go for deep runs and maybe even tournament wins, but there's not necessarily pressure for results at the moment. I would say that we need to win and show people that we are a reliable tier one team, and a competitive team.