There was the friendly wager, of course, and the requisite pregame banter, which lasted through all three days of the Group Stage, building up the hype. After 14 Overwatch matches that showcased some of the most promising talent from around the globe, the occasion finally arrived: USA vs. Canada, the battle for the heart and soul of North America.
Canada entered the ring with a flawless map record through their first four matches, feeling like they had the flexibility to deal with whatever Team USA decided to throw at them. The Americans, on the other hand, had dropped just one map going in, and had been the most aggressive team of the weekend, according to their other opponents.
It was that unrelenting mindset—along with their highly entertaining “coordinated chaos” style of play—that made all the difference in a 3-1 win on Sunday afternoon.
The first surprise of the day was seeing DPS Jay “Sinatraa” Won on Reinhardt to open the match on Oasis University. To say he was effective would be an understatement, as he applied massive pressure on Canada’s frontline while Austin “Muma” Wilmot’s Winston flanked around to deal with the opposing supports.
The second surprise was a full hold by Team USA on King’s Row, which hinged on the Doomfist-Sombra strat du jour. Time and time again, Joao Pedro “Hydration” Goes Telles’ Sombra would scout out Canada’s attacking formations and hack key members, and Sinatraa’s Doomfist would knock enemy heroes out of position while dealing massive damage. This disruptive duo prevented Canada from landing the ultimate combinations needed to capture a single point.
While Team Canada seemed to gather some momentum after halftime with a confident victory on Temple of Anubis, Team USA claimed the win on Rialto with a patient but ultimately effective offensive push that showcased some clutch tank play from Muma and Indy “Space” Halpern.
“I don’t think we felt the momentum shift from halftime,” returning support Shane “Rawkus” Flaherty said after the match. “Anubis is our worst map […] Some stuff didn’t go in our favor, and they were punishing us for our weak setups. After we lost that map, it didn’t even faze us because the map choice was for us and we were comfortable with Rialto. So, it wasn’t really like we were down or anything. We were still [at the] same level of energy. If you were to hear [our comms] on Rialto, you’d understand.”
The “chaos” part of Team USA’s playstyle comes from the constant pressure they like to apply on opponents, which results in plenty of skirmishes. But even in the middle of all the action, the team says they’re able to remain focused.
“In the middle of fights it always gets hectic, especially in a match like that [one against Canada], but after the fight ends, we’re always regrouping,” Sinatraa said. “Moth or Rawkus is always calming us down before the next fight starts. You regroup, get a strat going, and then execute.”
The result is a high level of systematic execution, which Team Canada struggled with in the first half of the match. The rest of it, Lane “Surefour” Roberts said, came down to the details. “In Overwatch tiny mistakes are usually the things that make you win or lose. I think we would’ve been able to pull off a reverse-sweep if we just didn’t make little errors.”
While they did eventually adapt, the adjustments came too late to avoid defeat, which means the Canadians will enter BlizzCon as a lower-seeded team, with a 1-in-3 chance of having to face two-time defending champions South Korea in the quarterfinals.
While half the field has yet to be decided, the top-seeded Americans already have an idea of who they want to face.
“I want to play Finland, so I can beat up my supports [from the Gladiators],” Hydration said without hesitation.
“I want to play Finland too, because I want to destroy [Houston teammate] LiNkzr,” Rawkus added, although facing South Korea in later rounds—ideally the final—is the ultimate goal for him.
group stages were a lot of fun! took us a bit too long to adapt to what USA was doing but we qualified for blizzcon anyways, hopefully will have a chance to get revenge then. ggs— Brady Girardi (@agilities) September 9, 2018
Overwatch League teammates scattered across different nationalities all say that they’ve enjoyed playing against each other. It’s not just in the spirit of friendly competition, either—the experiences gained during this tournament could provide benefits down the road, as Houston and Team Canada support Chris “Bani” Benell points out.
“It’s honestly good for Overwatch League, too, because now I can critique [my Outlaws teammates] and figure out the things they’re doing wrong.” He paused, then smiled. “But I’ll save that until after BlizzCon.”
The Overwatch World Cup resumes on Friday, September 13, as the venue shifts to Bangkok, Thailand. Check out our complete stage preview for schedules, rosters, livestreaming locations, and more.