Los Angeles Gladiators win OWL Countdown Cup in 7-map Thriller
The Gladiators secure a confirmed playoffs spot. The Overwatch League Playoffs take place in September.
The Countdown Cup completed this weekend with the Los Angeles Gladiators winning against the Chengdu Hunters
The Countdown Cup Tournament has been full of surprises this year.
Some of the teams qualified for the 2021 Overwatch League Playoffs were determined coming into the Countdown Cup. The Shanghai Dragons and the Dallas Fuel clinched their spots, respectively, based on their performance all season long. Also, the London Spitfire, the Vancouver Titans, and the LA Valiant all were eliminated from contention very early on with only two match wins across all three teams.
This year's format for the playoffs was only qualifying the first three teams in the West region, and the top 2 teams from the East qualify directly into the bracket. The following three teams in the East and the following six teams in the West will be competing in a single-elimination knockout round. We will eventually end up with eight teams in the 2021 Overwatch League playoffs.
The Overwatch League Playoffs format was revealed and teams had to fight for limited spots for the 2021 Season
Overwatch League teams had some incentive to play well in the Countdown Cup. There were 3 Overwatch League points separating the Top 8 teams in the West. And the final two spots for the Playoff bracket were not set in stone. The Los Angeles Gladiators played consistently enough all season to be within range of getting into the 2021 Overwatch League Playoffs by doing well in the Countdown Cup.
The Los Angeles Gladiators had only one appearance in a knockout stage all season. No one expected the Gladiators to be even in the conversation. However, with the opportunity for the playoffs on the line, they took advantage of it. The Gladiators run into the Countdown Cup started with going 3-1 in the Qualifiers, only losing to the Atlanta Reign in a close 3-2 match.
The Los Angeles Gladiators record placed them as a top seed going into the knockout stage of the Countdown Cup. All season long, the record for those teams has been 2-4, which did not bode well for the Gladiators. Not to mention, the West teams except the Dallas Fuel have also had trouble in the playoffs themselves. The Gladiators would be making their first trip to a stage playoffs in 2 years if they could win their match in the knockout stage.
The Los Angeles Gladiators were looking to make their first stage playoffs appearance in the Countdown Cup
The Dallas Fuel would not be present, as reports were out that the Dallas Fuel would take a much-needed break and let off the gas in the Countdown Cup. They had already clinched their Playoff bracket spot, so why not?
The results speak for themselves, whether it was the Dallas Fuel allowing some room at the top for other teams in the West or the Gladiators wanting it more. In what could be a playoff preview, the Gladiators had to fend off the San Francisco Shock in a nail-biter of a match. The Gladiators won 3-2, with Birdring, Kevster, and Space stepping up and showing the world they belonged in the playoffs.
With their berth into the Countdown Cup, the Los Angeles Gladiators put themselves 1 Overwatch League point away from qualifying into the 2021 Playoffs Bracket and out of the play-ins. The Atlanta Reign as well qualified into the Countdown Cup on the other side of the bracket. The Atlanta Reign were already qualified for the Playoffs. However, they needed at least one win to secure their spot. Otherwise, they would have been pushed out of the Playoffs by the Los Angeles Gladiators into the Play-ins.
The Los Angeles Gladiators had clinched a spot in the Play-ins for the 2021 Overwatch League Playoffs, but had their sights getting directly into the Playoffs
In the first match against the Chengdu Hunters, the Gladiators defeated them 3-2 in another close series. The Atlanta Reign also dispatched their opponents 3-1 in a reversal of fortune for the West region. In doing so, the 2020 Overwatch League Champions San Francisco Shock were officially knocked into the play-ins. The Gladiators and the Reign were guaranteed at least 1 Overwatch League point for 3rd place. The victor of Winners Finals would be granted 2 Overwatch League points. The Gladiators defeated the Atlanta Reign in a dominant 3-0 fashion to propel them into the Grand Finals.
The Chengdu Hunters, not daunted by any means, would defeat the Seoul Dynasty and the Atlanta Reign, both with 3-0 records, to get their rematch against the Gladiators in the Grand Finals. Chengdu, all-time against the Gladiators, was 0-3 going into the Grand Finals and had their sights on taking down the Gladiators once and for all and win the Countdown Cup. The East, or more succinctly, the Shanghai Dragons won 2 out of the 3 Stage Playoffs, with Chengdu hoping to join them in the East dominance of the tournament.
The Los Angeles Gladiators made their way into the Grand Finals for the Countdown Cup in a rematch against the Chengdu Hunters
The Grand Finals did not disappoint Overwatch League Fans. The Chengdu Hunters struck first and won on Oasis. The Los Angeles Gladiators would go on to win the following three maps on Temple of Anubis, Numbani, and Route 66. The Gladiators were one map away from completing their miracle run into the Countdown Cup. The Chengdu Hunters, on the other hand, had bigger plans. The Chengdu Hunters were dominant on Illios 2-0. Following up on King's Row, the Hunters made a dramatic hold before the last point to win 3-2. The Grand Finals series would be tied 3-3 and going to a map 7.
There was massive pressure to perform on the Los Angeles Gladiators. Their team has a reputation for not being able to close out matches. While they have a winning record against Chengdu, all their games have gone to the final map. And the Grand Finals was no exception. A win here would change the narrative for the Gladiators going forward into the playoffs.
The Grand Finals for the Countdown Cup would be settled on a final map, Havana, between the Los Angeles Gladiators and the Chengdu Hunters
In the final map on Havana, both Birdring and Kevster, the star DPS line for the Gladiators, stepped up hugely. Birdring playing Hanzo around point Alpha started to get on fire with clutch picks on the support line of Chengdu. All series long, Kevster has been a hero finding picks and sticking Pulse Bombs with Tracer on the Hunters. The Gladiators did attack first, but they could not complete Havana after a last-minute hold coming in again from Chengu before the final point.
The Gladiators understood what was at stake. Holding Chengdu here would grant them victory in the Countdown Cup. Just before point Alpha, the Gladiators switched to a signature brawl composition. The Gladiators almost held the Hunters before completing point Alpha. The Hunters did compose themselves and made it back in time to push forward. The damage had been done, however, as the time remaining did not benefit the Hunters. The Gladiators saved their ultimates for one last fight and stopped the Hunters just before point Bravo. The Gladiators secured their victory in the Countdown Cup beating the Chengdu Hunters once and for all.
Kevster was awarded MVP of the match for the Los Angeles Gladiators
Kevster was awarded MVP of the match, and deservedly so. His Tracer hero play was one of the keys to this miraculous run in the Countdown Cup. And along with it, a spot in the playoffs and a much-needed break until mid-September. The San Fransisco Shock will be one of the top-seeded teams in the Play Ins, which will commence Labor Day Weekend to determine the other two teams from the west will join the Gladiators in the upcoming playoffs. The Chengdu Hunters will also join them along with the Shanghai Dragons from the East in the playoffs.
Congratulations to the Los Angeles Gladiators for their Countdown Cup victory!
Will English IV
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Will English IV is an Overwatch League fan and tournament organizer for the “Will English IVitational,” an international Overwatch tournament supporting the amateur and semi-professional Overwatch community. When not organizing tournaments, you can catch Will broadcasting and casting Overwatch games as a Play-by-Play caster.