In Philadelphia, sports fans are used to disappointing teams. They are especially used to teams doing well the entire season and then forgetting how to play the second they hit the playoffs. This has been the case for the Philadelphia Fusion for quite a few seasons.
The Fusion went to the grand finals in the inaugural year for the Overwatch League. They played the London Spitfire, who looked good all season as well, and fans were expecting a hard-fought match. What they were not expecting was a stomp by the Spitfire. The Fusion lost that year, and didn’t even seem to put up a fight.
Things were supposed to be better in the second season. They had a bit more of an iffy year, but they started off strong with a 5-2 record in Stage 1. They didn’t qualify for any other stage playoffs that year, and they didn’t make it to the playoffs, either.
In 2020, fans were hyped about the changes the team made and were excited to get to go to their respective venues to cheer on their teams. Unfortunately that didn’t last long, and teams were sent to quarantine, and matches were reformatted to take place online only. Still, fans were sure that the Fusion weren’t going to be affected and were going to have a good season.
Hype mounted as they reached the playoffs and made a run for the grand finals, but their 2020 grand finals dreams were swept away via 3-0 losses to both the Shanghai Dragons and Seoul Dynasty.
This year, the Fusion haven’t made it to a single tournament. They were always ousted by another team in the East Regional Knockouts.
Despite a pretty disappointing season in the East Region, they shocked many in the Play-In stage. They beat the Hangzhou Spark in their first match of Play-Ins, which wasn’t too surprising, but when they knocked out the Dynasty next, they got the attention of other teams and fans alike.
Daniel “FunnyAstro” Hathaway was just as surprised as the fans were, especially since they weren’t even sure they were going to make it through to the playoffs.
“I guess we didn't really expect to win,” FunnyAstro. “I think last year when we played a lot of our matches, we came into it with the expectation that we were going to beat everyone hands down. And we were that confident. This year, we'd lost twice to Seoul. I think Hangzhou wasn't that scary, but the Seoul match was a little surprising to win like that.”
The team was happy and several members had tears of joy, but the impact of the match didn’t hit them right away. It took a minute for Niclas “sHockWave” Jensen to realize the enormity of what that win meant.
“At first, I didn't really realize how big it was. I mean, I haven't won too many matches on this team this season. So maybe that's why it felt a bit weird,” Shockwave said.
The Fusion and the Gladiators match up first
Now, the Fusion start their first match of the playoffs against the Los Angeles Gladiators, who have had a pretty good run through this season. They finished second in the West Region and have had an upswing of momentum lately, winning the last seven matches they’ve played.
The Fusion aren’t worried, though. They are confident that their new strategy during the Play-Ins will carry them through the playoffs. What is that new strategy? “F--- it.”
In describing how the Fusion got to the playoffs, FunnyAstro told Nerd Street that he believes that going in with no expectations is what won them the Play-In matches.
Photo credit: Overwatch League
“It was kind of nice to be the sort of underdog for once, where people weren't expecting us to win. So we went into it with this mentality that we can just do whatever, I’m not sure if I'm allowed to swear, but one of our main philosophies right now is to say f--- it, and go,” FunnyAstro said.
While Philadelphia fans are no strangers to their sports teams being underdogs, it is new for any of the newer team members who weren’t around when they came into the first grand finals as the underdogs.
The Fusion could shock the OWL in the playoffs
While the Gladiators are good, and the Shanghai Dragons will be an incredible hurdle for the Fusion to overcome, I think there is a massive chance that this team takes the momentum and rolls with it.
Giving them another advantage in the playoffs is the fact that they don’t have to travel. Since they are in Korea, they get to stay put for playoffs, while other East Region teams based in China have to travel to a Blizzard facility in Shanghai. Since visas are difficult to get for those coming out of Korea, they are staying put, although they are not allowed to practice on the days when other teams are traveling.
Although there are differences between compositions for teams in different regions, sHockWave doesn’t think it’s anything surprising, and doesn’t think that the Fusion will have an issue handling any meta changes that might come their way because of their ability to swap heroes and adapt quickly.
“It's a lot about counter picking. It's about our hero pools and what we can swap to. It's mainly what fits our hero pool, and what we can swap to. Let's say the enemy team plays like ‘X’ comp, right, then we have a special lineup in order to be able to swap to certain heroes to calm them if they play a certain comp. So I think that's mainly our strategy going into the match. We'd like different DPS lineups,” sHockWave said.
The real fight comes after the match with the Gladiators if the Fusion win. They’ll have to play the winner of the San Fransisco Shock and the Shanghai Dragons.
The Dragons have been winning a lot this season, and they’re expected to beat the Shock. If the Fusion can get past the Dragons, they’ll have a real shot at making grand finals again this year.
Don’t sleep on the Fusion. They may be one of the teams in the playoffs that had an underperforming year, but never underestimate the power of the underdog.
Lead photo credit: Overwatch League