The inaugural season of the Overwatch League was grand in every way, from New York’s regular-season dominance to London’s playoff buff, leading to their crowning moment at Barclays Center. Entering the league itself and enjoying the competition was the culmination of sweat and tears for many Overwatch veterans, but not every mainstay was so lucky.
“At first, I was upset,” Paris Eternal support Harrison “Kruise” Pond said of his own absence from the Overwatch league. “I played Overwatch for a long time. A lot of friends and people that I played with or against for years got into Overwatch League, so I was super devastated.”
Despite competing in numerous European tournaments and OGN APEX Season 1, winning Season Zero of Contenders Europe with eUnited, and representing the United Kingdom at the Overwatch World Cup in both 2016 and 2017, Kruise missed out on the Overwatch League in 2018. As a seasoned veteran with strong domestic and international results, it felt like he was guaranteed to get into the league, but the opportunity slipped through his fingers.
He blames himself.
“After a month or two of being a little brat, I realized it was actually my fault,” Kruise said with an air of maturity. “I didn’t commit to a role, I made some mistakes, and I got a bit complacent at times. I just stepped it up [after that] and realized that you have to take it a step at a time if you want to make it.”
For Kruise, taking that first step back meant making his way back to Contenders again. Initially, in late December, he announced a team under the name “Orgless and Hungry,” reflecting his typical sense of humor. A few months later, he took his second step, answering the call to compete in Contenders North America.
Playing from home in the UK, the ping was higher, but so were his chances of being noticed again. He was standing out with his signature Lúcio after playing Genji for a year—truly back in his element. Kruise had wanted to prove that he could play DPS, but getting serious meant he had to show that he could be a leader on his team.
“It’s good for support to shotcall the backline and stuff like that,” he explained. “I just played support before and knew I was good at it, so it was a comfort role. It was an easy decision. I don’t really care about the role, I just want to compete—and compete well.”
He did just that, and after a year in Contenders and another Overwatch World Cup appearance for the United Kingdom, Kruise finally made his way back to where he wanted to be, after he was signed as one of the centerpieces for the Paris Eternal—the league’s most recent European expansion team—for the 2019 season.
Donned in jerseys bearing Parisian colors and emblazoned with a Gallic rooster, the Eternal stepped into the Overwatch League with the intention of exemplifying regional pride for both France and Europe. That signaled a focus on continental talent, giving European players a chance to strut their stuff. And while that wasn’t Kruise’s main reason for joining the team, it was definitely a neat bonus.
Kruise, along with two other rookies in the league, discuss what it’s like to be newcomers to the Overwatch League and more.
“I think it’s nice to see,” he said with a smile. “I definitely am proud of where I come from and want to show that Europeans are good. I want to show that there are other European players that deserve to be in the Overwatch League as well.”
More than just being European, Kruise is also proud to be one of four Brits in the league. He might not like some of his home country’s famous fast-food joints, but he loves the esports scene even if it’s not as developed. “The UK scene is always a meme and we’re always underrated, but we also always do well,” he said with a giggle. “I think there is something there. I think we’re quite good.”
While it’s nice to represent the European scene, what matters the most to Kruise is actually competing at the highest level again. There are always nerves when it comes to playing on the big stage with the best players, but Kruise craved it more than anything—it’s where he belongs.
“It’s hard to explain, but it feels way more official,” Kruise said. “I enjoy that pressure it adds and that adrenaline you get from playing in front of an audience. I’ve experienced it a lot, going to Korea and playing for months there.”
The stage brings excitement and energy, but it also brings trials and tribulations. The Eternal haven’t hit their stride yet, carrying a sub-.500 record halfway through the season and struggling to make an impact in the current meta. Still, Kruise believes it’s only a matter of time until his team gets it together.
“We definitely have what it takes to win, we just have to put things into motion,” he said. “If I feel confident and everyone on the team is feeling it as well, there’s no bad blood at all. Everyone is just taking things as they come.”
Amidst criticism of the Eternal, Kruise has been singled out for being too aggressive on his beloved Lúcio, but like most professionals, he’s happy to bear that load on his shoulders. As a native of rainy, gloomy UK, it gets “a bit too hot” in Los Angeles, but that doesn’t mean he shies away from the heat. In the end, he is doing everything it takes for his team to win.
“The audience doesn’t get to see the whole picture, but I do a lot of the calling and try to keep the atmosphere good in the team,” he said frankly. “I’m very much about keeping structure in the team and making sure everything is going to plan. Keeping structure and the atmosphere good is what I do.”
It’s been a bumpy ride for the Paris Eternal, but Kruise remains at the helm, steadfast alongside his team.