Excelsior’s defeat to Philadelphia Fusion recalls LW Blue near-miss

The New York Excelsior forced a map five against a seemingly unstoppable Philadelphia Fusion at the Overwatch League semifinals. Tied at two points apiece, the NYXL needed just a little more distance on the Dorado payload to keep their post-season alive. As overtime burned away, Philadelphia’s hold proved to be unbreakable. Josue “Eqo” Corona cleaned up the remaining NYXL players on Pharah, and it was all over. New York would be denied the chance to play in front of a home crowd for the grand finals.

Do-Hyeon "Pine" Kim
Do-Hyeon “Pine” Kim / Photo: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

Confetti rained from the rafters against an orange backdrop. “Philadelphia Wins,” mocked the Korean powerhouse from the walls, as even the Big Boss himself, Do-Hyeon “Pine” Kim, collapsed in disbelief over his keyboard. Moments later, the blue-and-white sat down for an emotional press conference behind the scenes. Tae-Hong “Meko” Kim and Dong-Gyu “Mano” Kim stared into space with teary, red eyes. The reality set in that they had once again fallen just short of a grand final event — a feeling they were too familiar with from their days as team LW Blue from the pre-OWL era.

Their match against Philadelphia conjured up one particularly bad memory for longtime Overwatch fans. At OGN Apex Season Two, LW Blue found themselves in another semifinals scenario. They were up against RunAway, who many still regard as one of the best teams to have played the game. Like their match against Philadelphia, this one went the distance to map five (Eichenwalde — also Escort type) and came down to the wire.

The haunting similarities continue with the types of problems LW Blue had in the final moments of the match. A stubborn reliance on specific compositions combined with an impatient, panicked approach caused them to lose valuable time and ground down the stretch. They put up a good fight and made it close, but they would have to settle for third place after a crushing loss, which is where NYXL sits in the playoff standings. Even DPS monster Yeon-Oh “Fl0w3R” Hwang slumped over his keyboard just like Pine after the loss. The universe can be cruel.

Philadelphia Fusion vs New York Excelsior
Philadelphia Fusion vs New York Excelsior / Photo: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

What makes this failure even worse for NYXL is that they were the best team in OWL for quite some time. Accusations of “sandbagging” aside, they were always looked at as the team to beat. The DPS Zenyatta unicorn known as Seong-Hyun “Jjonak” Bang’s efforts were recognized accross the industry, earning him the very first OWL MVP award. There were other Hanzos and Widowmakers, and then there were Hae-Seong “Libero” Kim and Pine. Whatever bewitched reason was behind it, they were just unable to make the appropriate adjustments to stay relevant in the new meta.

“I don’t think it was necessarily the meta that gave us problems,” says Jun-Hwa “Janus” Song. “There are just so many viable compositions these days that we had trouble adjusting.”

For Meko and Mano, the sting of the past was written on the faces of their fans.

The fanfare at OGN Apex followed them to the Blizzard Arena, where hundreds of cheering fans greeted them before, during, and after every single game. Each player of the NYXL was adored by virtually everyone. In the final moments of being on stage, seeing the cheering Fusion fans and disappointed NYXL fans made them emotional.

“Looking out at the fans made me suddenly emotional,” says Mano. “I tried holding back the tears, but I couldn’t.”

The NYXL will now have to watch the grand finals alongside their adoring fans from the seats at the Barclays Center in New York this weekend. This is not the ending anyone expected heading into the playoffs, but perhaps it shouldn’t be as surprising as we’re making it out to be. As coach WizardHyeong and company assess conditions heading into season two, it won’t be without LW Blue’s history looming over his shoulder.

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