A team with a reputation for falling short is ready to break out.
In the first of a three-part series, Esports.GG spoke to multiple members of the Philadelphia Fusion in the lead-up to the 2021 Overwatch League Playoffs. Part 2 focuses on that final match against Seoul that got them into the playoffs, with part three coming later this week.
Note: All quotes in this piece were provided as answers to questions emailed to the team. The team translated some responses from Korean before sending them over.
Defeating the Dynasty
3-2 and 3-1.
In the final weeks of the Countdown Cup, the Philadelphia Fusion found themselves on the outside looking in...again. After a stellar qualifier performance in its previous three matches--including a 3-0 sweep of the mighty Shanghai Dragons--the team were once again left behind from the trip to Hawaii.
The Seoul reason? The Dynasty, who beat them in both the final qualifier and the play-in to take that Countdown Cup spot away. When the Play-Ins were announced the Fusion must have felt deja vu, as the Dynasty again held the keys to Philly's destiny.
After beating Hangzhou in the first play-in, the Fusion knew what was coming next.
"I was a bit worried because we lost against Seoul twice," Alarm said via email, "and I practiced really hard because I wanted to get my revenge."
Team leader Carpe was surprised by his team's trouble against Seoul, as they had no problem with them back in April. "During the beginning of the season Seoul wasn't a difficult team, but it got a bit tough during the middle of the season," Carpe said. "But in the end, we were able to figure out how to counterattack their plays and we were well prepared."
The second play-in was all Philadelphia, as the team exorcised its dynastic demon and advanced to the Playoffs 3-1. Winning that huge match was a huge weight off of the team's shoulders.
The newest member of the Fusion, sHockWave, understandably wasn't as excited as his teammates, but he has a good reason. "A lot of our players started crying after the win," sHockWave said. "Since I didn't play the other tough games vs Seoul, I don't think I felt quite the same way."
FunnyAstro, meanwhile, was there. "It felt so good," FunnyAstro said. "It was a good challenge to overcome to be able to beat a team who managed to beat us every other time."
Can The Fusion Win The Big One?
Throughout the history of the Overwatch League, the Fusion have developed a reputation of not showing up for big matches.
In 2018, the first-ever OWL Grand Finals, the Fusion lost to the London Spitfire. In 2019, they fell to Shanghai in the Play-In Tournament. Last year they came within a map of claiming the Summer Showdown, only to lose to the Paris Eternal. Later that same season they lost every map on the way to an early exit from the Grand Finals.
FunnyAstro doesn't exactly buy into the stigma. "I think we can do more, but we don't need to," the main support said. "It was a big win, but I think people forget we have had big wins before." Meanwhile, sHockWave knows the team's fan base expected more from this season. "Facts are facts and we didn't make it to Hawaii once," he admitted. "Hopefully we'll make it for the last stretch."
Reputation or not, the team is convinced that this is the start of a new era. “I feel that we were able to show that our team can reach higher levels through the win against Seoul,” Carpe said. Alarm echoed that sentiment, calling the Seoul win “just the first step” and saying he has “a lot more to show.”