It’s fair to say that the Los Angeles Gladiators have experienced one of the biggest upswings of any team so far this season, going from the lower end of the standings to possible Stage 2 Finals contenders. Their ascent has included consecutive wins over the Los Angeles Valiant, the London Spitfire, and Houston Outlaws. Last night, they looked to continue the trend against the similarly surging Florida Mayhem.
Florida had just won two games in a row for the first time all season, and for a while it was beginning to look like their own hot streak would stop the Gladiators in their tracks. The Mayhem opened the match with improved defensive strategies on Volskaya, leading to a close 3-3 tie, but Nepal was a different story. LA’s team coordination was shoddy, and it showed in a dominant map for Florida.
“On Nepal, it was pretty bad, because we had been trying a bunch of different strategies out, and we couldn’t come to a conclusion to what we really wanted to play,” Gladiators DPS Joao Pedro “Hydration” Goes Telles said.
It wasn’t close, but the way the Gladiators have grown, it would require more than a rough start to take their heads out of a series. At halftime, the team refocused to turn it around.
“There were a lot of situations where I could have done things better [on Nepal],” Hydration said, adding that his performance was a bit sloppy. “But then on Hollywood, we did a complete 180. We were in the dugout, focused, and were a completely new team when we came out. That really helped us win Hollywood and eventually the match.”
On Hollywood, the Gladiators displayed their willingness to deviate from the norm, as Hydration continued to prove that Doomfist can be more than a desperate stall-tactic pick near the end of a map.
“Doomfist is a really fun hero,” he said. “There is a small problem with him, though: you are either completely feeding the whole time or you’re hard-carrying. There is no in-between. Every time I’ve picked him, I was able to read the situation and knew it was the right time, so I’ve been very successful with it.”
LA’s synergy continued to soar against the Mayhem as they closed out the match with a decisive win on Route 66 to claim a 2-1 victory. The team’s stock is at an all-time high, and Hydration is relishing it.
“It feels pretty refreshing [to be a contender],” he said. “It is nice being able to finish a week with a win instead of a loss. That’s something we never had in Stage 1. We could never win the second game of the week. This stage, we really improved, and we’re a completely new team now.”
The Gladiators’ remarkable change in trajectory coincides with one key change: the acquisition of main tank Chan-Hyung “Fissure” Baek from London. Since he came into the fold, everyone has leveled up.
“Fissure is very smart, and he is like a leader, basically,” Hydration said. “He really helps us out. He makes us all feel a lot more confident in our own play.”
Fissure’s English still needs improvement, though, and that can lead to what Hydration calls “times with a lot of frustration” with regards to communication. But what that means is the team, who are working hard to integrate their new teammate, haven't even reached their full potential yet.
With four consecutive wins, the Gladiators ended Week 4 with a 6-2 record, and are poised to challenge for a spot in the Stage 2 Finals. Going into Week 5, Hydration is excited to face their final opponents.
“Last time, Boston [defeated us 4-0], so we want our revenge,” he said. “Also, our last match against Philly was the first reverse-sweep of the league, and it’s going to be a lot better without needing a reverse-sweep. They have Carpe and Eqo, who are really good DPS players that I really want to face.”
As one of the hottest teams in the Overwatch League right now, the Gladiators are feeling sky-high, but it’s a relatively new position for the team. So despite being the team’s primary Pharah player, Hydration remains grounded on the team’s chances at taking it all:
“Winning the stage is going to be extremely hard for us, but I’m very confident that we will at least have a chance to win.”
The final match day of the week kicks off today at 1 p.m. PDT as the Seoul Dynasty and London Spitfire try to get closer to securing a Stage Finals berth. Tune in live on Twitch, MLG.com and the MLG app, OverwatchLeague.com, or the official Overwatch League app.