LOS ANGELES -- The members of LOUD were jovial backstage following their quarterfinal win at VALORANT Champions on Wednesday. They were smiling and cracking jokes with each other and the media. The team’s veteran leader Matias “Saadhak” Delipetro eagerly fielded questions in English, Spanish and Portuguese -- at one point even proudly proclaiming “Viva Latinoamerica” when a Spanish-speaking reporter told him how much support he was getting from Latin America.
LOUD had just beaten Fnatic. Things felt different after a year in which Fnatic had dominated the top tier of VALORANT esports, winning both global VALORANT Champions Tour events and only losing one match all year. LOUD came close to beating Fnatic earlier in the year. They were two rounds away from winning the LOCK//IN grand final, before Fnatic came storming back to win the first of their two trophies.
Many have taken to calling this Fnatic run a dynasty, but LOUD were two rounds away from staking their own claim to a dynasty with their second consecutive trophy after winning Champions last year. After beating Fnatic, LOUD have a legit shot to win Champions in back-to-back years, which would make them the definitive team of this era.
2023 LOUD is not the same team as 2022 LOUD, however, which is perhaps why many have doubted this team at Champions, especially after bombing out of Masters Tokyo where they lost both of their matches.
Saadhak is the first to admit this.
“The old LOUD, we have two experienced players … they've been to internationals before, they know how to play in high-pressure situations,” Saadhak told Nerd Street after LOUD’s win over Fnatic. “And coming into this LOUD, I think us having two rookies -- I still think they are four rookies, to be honest -- but after having incorporated tuyz and Cauan and then they having the experience to go into LOCK//IN, going to the VCT, to Japan, I think all of that just made them more experienced and more capable to succeed now.”
Photo credit: Robert Paul / Riot Games
In 2022, Gustavo "Sacy" Rossi and Bryan "pANcada" Luna were the two “veterans” alongside Saadhak, with Sacy in particular having a history playing together with Saadhak on Team Vikings in 2021. In 2023, 18-year-old Cauan "cauanzin" Pereira and 20-year-old Arthur "tuyz" Vieira are now on the team alongside 18-year-old Felipe "Less" Basso and 20-year-old Erick "aspas" Santos. With Saadhak being 26, no wonder he refers to the team as full of rookies.
Last year, LOUD bombed out of Masters Copenhagen, losing both of their matches, but bounced back to win Champions. With the inexperience of this team, it wasn’t a sure thing that LOUD would be able to bounce back like they did last year.
“I would say bouncing back from the old LOUD it was a little bit easier because, as I said, we had experienced players, right?” Saadhak said. “And now, like when we got defeated, when we got defeated in Japan, we took the first L here against DRX, I think it was a little bit tough for sure. But after winning against Liquid that gave us confidence to go into NAVI, into Fnatic, so it was really good for them.”
Group stage spark
That trial by fire in the group stage is something that has perhaps sparked LOUD. They were in a group dubbed the “Group of Death,” “Group of Doubt,” or “Group of Disappointment” with LOUD, NAVI, Team Liquid and DRX all having shown so much potential in the past but having had poor results in Tokyo.
“I believe that back in the match with NAVI, while we went through it, that was a very hard game, and that was perhaps also an inflection point for us,” Saadhak said in the Fnatic postmatch press conference.
Aspas also claimed that was the hardest match of his life. It was a 2-1 victory for LOUD, and each of the three maps went the full 24 rounds. LOUD lost the first map before coming back to win the next two. LOUD needed to beat NAVI and Team Liquid before that to advance to the playoffs after losing their initial match to DRX. Saadhak said in the press conference that the loss against DRX was good for the team in that it allowed them to get a better idea of what they were doing correctly and incorrectly.
Photo credit: Colin Young-Wolff / Riot Games
Head coach Daniel "fRoD" Montaner said the team’s performance in the group stage was important for the team’s confidence after their poor performance in Tokyo.
“It definitely boosts our confidence going into the rest of the tournament,” he said in the press conference. “Something that Saadhak has been saying all along, which still stands true is we’re a new team with a couple of rookies, we have a lot of learning to do, so for us just very happy with the evolution of our team, the way we continue to play, our tactics, our communication, everything.”
The mental advantage is something that has improved for LOUD over time. Saadhak gave a lot of credit to the team’s psychologist.
“Thanks to the help of the psychologist Bruno .. who is always here with us, we work a lot on our mental preparation, like not only over the rests on rounds but also to be always on top mentally,” he said in the press conference. “We need to be able to deal with frustration and pain but again thanks to him it doesn’t matter if we’re happy or sad we’re going to understand the emotions we’re feeling and not let them control us.”
Saadhak also said the psychologist has been helpful in dealing with all of the noise surrounding the team regarding the many expiring contracts on this team that could have a major impact on the roster in the offseason.
“We are focused on what we're doing right now,” Saadhak told Nerd Street. “I think that for sure it's a problem, but it's going to be like for after Champions, right? So that's something we've been working with our psychologist, just focus on what we have in front of us. So whatever comes, whatever happens in the future, it's going to happen in the future, not right now.”
Photo credit: Colin Young-Wolff / Riot Games
Coupled with the good mental preparation and confidence boost from the group stage, LOUD executed well against Fnatic.
The team won three out of four pistol rounds and were able to translate those round wins into more round wins and big leads. After winning the first pistol on Map 1, LOUD went out to a 4-0 lead. After winning the first pistol on Map 2, LOUD went up 6-0.
LOUD also showed they can beat Fnatic on perhaps their best map, Lotus. Fnatic picked Lotus against LOUD and had won it 10 straight times. Fnatic’s last loss on Lotus? It was against LOUD at LOCK//IN.
Aspas said in the press conference that the team had studied what Fnatic did on Lotus and were well-prepared. Saadhak said that the team had a gameplan for the map but would be ready to adjust if necessary.
Despite beating Fnatic decisively, Saadhak thinks the European superteam will bounce back.
“I think they played really well. It's just that our preparation and the way we played today was a little bit better,” Saadhak told Nerd Street. “That's it, but I think they're an amazing team. They are really talented. So they're gonna bounce back and come back stronger.”
Unlike their match against Fnatic at LOCK//IN, which was played in Brazil, the crowd support for their win over Fnatic on North American soil was mixed. Despite being an Americas team and Champions being held in the Americas region in Los Angeles, LOUD hasn’t been getting the loudest cheers. Saadhak was frank in the press conference about this.
“Doesn’t feel, to be honest, that we are right now representing Americas even though we are based here, because we hear, we see some other people in the crowd cheering for other teams,” he said.
Saadhak, who represents both Brazil (via LOUD) and Latin America (as an Argentine) hopes the rest of the Americas will get behind him and his teammates too.
Photo credit: Colin Young-Wolff / Riot Games
“It's a situation most people dream of, like I'm not only representing one country, I'm representing a lot of countries together, and it would be even greater for me, and I know for the guys, if we have this … if you have the support from the Americas team or the American audience,” he told Nerd Street. “Because we're here for them, we practice against the NA teams, we practice a ton against Tier 2 teams, all the NA teams that represent them. We play against them, we practice with them, so we are part of America, right?”
Saadhak acknowledged that you can’t force people to cheer for anyone, that you have to “earn” the fans. He hopes the more LOUD keep winning, the more crowd support they’ll get.
“Guys, root for us, please? We're gonna do the best we can to bring joy to America to bring joy to you guys,” he said. “Thank you very much for your support. I hope you're having fun watching the games.”
LOUD will next face Paper Rex in an upper semifinal match on Saturday.
Lead photo credit: Colin Young-Wolff / Riot Games