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The six man squad of the Dallas Fuel weren’t themselves when they played the San Francisco Shock in the quarter finals of the Countdown Cup. They were a little burnt out having gone to Hawaii for every tournament of the season.

Kim “SP9RK1E” Yeong-han didn’t expect to get 3-0’d, but he knew why it happened.

“I don’t think there is a single team that can perform at their best for an entire season,” SP9RK1E said. He added that their preparation was different for the Countdown Cup. “I feel we’ll only go up from here.”

Dallas Fuel Overwatch League playoffs
Dallas has been one of the top teams for the entire 2021 season. | Provided by Dallas Fuel/Envy Gaming

Head Coach Yun “RUSH” Hee-won had lightened up on his usually intense practice schedule and tasked the team with preparing for compositions they weren’t well-versed in.

“We spent the majority of time practicing what we weren’t good at,” SP9RK1E said. “We were worried the meta wouldn’t give us something good, so we wanted to practice that.”

Dallas vs. D.C.

Dallas has the first seed in the West Division, meaning they were already a lock for the playoffs. Free from worrying about qualification, their eyes were set on a trophy greater than one that could be earned in Aug. They still believe they are on a different level compared to the majority of teams in the Overwatch League.

“Performance wise, we are at the top of our form,” SP9RK1E said.

The Fuel are facing off against the Washington Justice in their first match of the playoffs. The two squads are 1-1 in 2021, with Dallas’ only win during the recent Summer Showdown.

Dallas Fuel Overwatch League playoffs
The Dallas Fuel are the only team to hold a homestand in 2021. | Provided by Dallas Fuel/Envy Gaming

Dallas players feel confident about the matchup, but know they can’t count on an easy win. That’s not the main priority for SP9RK1E, though. The Justice are home to a player who is sometimes referred to as a “traitor” to the Fuel.

Jang “Decay” Gui-un left Dallas in August of 2020 before joining the Justice after he had disagreements with Fuel ownership. The fans, who booed the screen whenever Decay came up during the Dallas homestand event earlier this year, don’t like Washington because they signed Decay.

SP9RK1E had one message for him ahead of Dallas Fuel’s first match of the Overwatch League playoffs.

“I’ll make you regret leaving,” he said, before laughing.

The tank duel of the postseason

The game against Washington also features one of the top tank duels in the Overwatch League playoffs. Veteran Lee “Fearless” Eui-Seok will face off against rookie Kim “Mag” Tae-sung to see who can be the heavier anchor.

“I do agree that Mag has good mechanics but there is something missing,” SP9RK1E said. “Fearless actually has that fight; he’s so experienced. I don’t think it’s even going to be a competition.”

Dallas has had a leg up on the rest of the Overwatch League, outside the Shanghai Dragons, for most of the 2021 season. They’ve played with pristine teamwork, placing first in the May Melee, second in the June Joust and third in the Summer Showdown. They’ve cemented themselves as one of the best teams to ever play Overwatch.

Dallas Fuel Hawaii
Dallas Fuel players have made the trip to Hawaii three out of four times this season. | Provided by Dallas Fuel/Envy Gaming

It’s fitting that this is the season the Fuel pulled themselves together, since it’s the last year the league will play the original Overwatch. The Overwatch League’s 2022 season will begin on an early build of Overwatch 2.

“I’m going to miss Overwatch 1 but I’m looking forward to Overwatch 2,” SP9RK1E said. “The first game had its charms, but there was such a lack of patches. It was so similar for such a long time. The new changes will be quite exciting. I’m not saying Overwatch 1 is bad, though.”

Hawaii is for business, not pleasure

SP9RK1E and the rest of the Fuel are headed to Hawaii this week, where they’ll play all their playoff matches and the grand finals, if they make it that far. While the team got to enjoy some time off in Oahu on previous trips, this one has to be all business.

That’s not because it’s the Overwatch League playoffs, though. Dallas Fuel management scheduled a photo shoot for right after the final tournament.

“I really do want to enjoy the vacation. It’s going to be the end of the season,” SP9RK1E said. “I was told we have a content shoot after, so that shattered my hopes and dreams.”

Aron Garst looks at esports from a different point of view by tackling the ways games are molded and broken by players around the world. He covers Call of Duty, Fortnite, Super Smash Bros, and everything else for Upcomer. You can read his previous work at WIRED, Rolling Stone, ESPN and elsewhere. Rise up red sea.
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