Brazil’s FURIA Esports gave North America’s Sentinels a run for their money Thursday in a close match that ended with a 2-1 victory for Sentinels.
FURIA Esports was not a team many expected to put up much of a fight against two-time Masters winners Sentinels. Armed with a new coach in Shane “Rawkus” Flaherty, many thought that the lapse in performance that Sentinels showed in Masters: Berlin might be cured with a coach on their side.
However, that didn’t seem to be the case, at least not at first. FURIA Esports got the jump on Sentinels on Ascent. They ran away with the first five rounds of the match before Sentinels finally woke up and started fighting back in Round 6. The half ended in a close 6-6.
Not only did Sentinels have to play catch-up in the score, they were also playing catch-up in their individual rounds. They had a hard time drawing first blood and would often have to adjust in order to take control of the round back from FURIA.
IGL Shahzeb “ShahZaM” Khan and Tyson “TenZ” Ngo were the only two of their team who ended up with an ACS over 200. In the end, they were able to take the map back 13-9 to score them a win on Ascent.
The Ascent pick was somewhat surprising for those who have been paying attention to Sentinels lately, since it used to be their permaban.
“We've been always kind of struggling on Ascent as of recently, that's why last event, it was kind of like our permaban. But we've been trying to incorporate it back into our map pool because it is like a really good map,” TenZ told Nerd Street in a postmatch interview.
There was also the element of surprise, which was on FURIA’s side. Although coach Rawkus was paying attention to what tendencies FURIA might have, the Brazilian team still had some tricks up their sleeves that threw off Sentinels.
“They played a lot more tactical,” TenZ said. “I remember when we first played Brazilian teams in Reykjavík they would play it a lot more like fast, and so now you're able to see them playing a lot more like, smarter, slower and kind of incorporating that same Brazilian style into their gameplay.”
TenZ’s teammate Hunter “SicK” Mims also complimented FURIA’s gameplay after the match.
“They have really good teamwork and their aim is on par even with us or any of the top teams,” SicK said. “So I think if they work a little more on their teamwork and maybe get a bit of the nerves out … I think they can be a strong contender even in this tournament.”
Photo credit: Riot Games
The struggle for Sentinels continued in the second and third maps. On Breeze, despite losing the pistol round, FURIA went on another five-round bender before Sentinels pushed back. This time, they couldn’t catch up, and ended up losing Breeze 13-10, sending the match to the third map.
Haven went a lot better for Sentinels, who were up 9-3 at the half, and it might have been that they had just dusted off some nerves or rust from their time away from the stage.
Towards the end of Haven, they started to falter, leaving Sentinels at a score of 12 while FURIA took another five straight rounds. With the score at 12-9, a tech pause occurred.
There were two total tech pauses on Haven. For the first one, TenZ’s keyboard somehow switched to a French layout, meaning his keys didn’t work the same. The second tech pause, which was the long pause right before Sentinels took the winning round, was initiated by Riot after FURIA jumped on top of the C box without updraft.
After the tech pause, Sentinels made quick work of FURIA, took the last point that they needed to win the match.
This is the first match that we’ve seen with Rawkus as their coach, and he was very much involved in the action.
“Competing with a coach is really good because before, we would never really tactical pause, as you could see, in that match, we tac paused a lot,” TenZ said. “And it kind of gives a good amount of buffer room for us to just kind of reset mentally if we’re tilted. Or we're able to kind of discuss internally with the team. We never really had that luxury before.”
Photo credit: Riot Games
Although FURIA were ranked low in many people’s power rankings, including Nerd Street’s, Sentinels took them seriously, and considered them a good team despite the fact that they were surprised by them.
“We’re obviously really confident. We're kind of rubbing off the dust since last time. It’s been a while since we played an official last, so it feels good to get back in the groove of things,” TenZ said. “I definitely thought that [FURIA] could be a strong opponent. And they did. Yeah, they definitely surprised me in the way they played. And I'm excited to see more of them in the tournament.”
SicK had a similar sentiment about the team shaking off some nerves.
“No matter how many matches you have played in your life you’ll have a little bit of nerves when you haven’t played a match in so long,” SicK said. “You think about the circuit right now for us, since we qualified for this LAN a long time ago we didn’t have to go through any sort of learning in experiences as of late with matches and that’s where we learn our best.”
Sentinels have now secured their spot in the winner’s match and will face off against Team Liquid or KRÜ Esports on Sunday, and FURIA Esports will have to fight their way through two more matches in order to make their way out of the group stage. It won’t be an easy feat for them, but seeing how they played against Sentinels, the team that faces them will not have an easy match.
Lead photo credit: Riot Games