eSPORTS REPORT

The week in Houston eSports: Updates on Clutch Gaming and the Houston Outlaws

The Outlaws returned from a one-week break. Twitter

The Houston Outlaws returned from the one week break between stages looking like possibly the strongest team in the Overwatch League. A solid 2-0 week has them sitting at 9-3, one game behind New York. They are 2-0 with a +5 differential in stage two and a +22 overall map differential. Clutch had a week with one good win against CLG before losing against Cloud 9 after getting counter-picked in the top lane and experimenting with Lee Sin in the jungle.

Clutch Gaming (7-5; tied for third place)

Clutch’s game against CLG broke open with a team fight around the 20 minute mark and very strong play from Solo on Sion. They likely would have won faster than the 47 minute match time, except for CLG getting two very effective picks off on Febiven in the late game. Against Cloud 9, Solo got punished early and often on Ornn against Licorice’s Kled. The C9 lead in the top lane snowballed into a 24 minute win as Lira was unable to turn things around with the Lee Sin pick in the jungle. Clutch’s Academy team is in 7th place with a 5-7 record and looks to continue to improve and gel as a team now that ADC Piglet has returned to the roster.

Predictions (6-2).

Only six games remain this season. At this point a 4-2 record down the stretch is needed to guarantee a playoff berth, though they could still make it in with a weaker record. Barring a collapse by either Echo Fox or Cloud 9, getting a top two seed and a first round bye is highly unlikely. This week Clutch takes on Optic and Flyquest. A 2-0 record this week should happen and put the team much closer to a playoff berth. Week 8 has games against Echo Fox and Liquid. Unfortunately an 0-2 week is probably the likeliest result as so far, Clutch has seemed to be the fourth best team behind those two and C9. Clutch wraps up the spring split against 100 Thieves and the Golden Guardians. Clutch should be able to beat GGS, and the matchup against 100 Thieves will likely be a match where Clutch wins and locks in the four seed for playoffs. Final Split results: 11-7 and No. 4 seed for playoffs. Once playoffs get closer I’ll look at potential qualifying scenarios and likely opponents for playoffs.  

Houston Outlaws (9-3, tied for second place)

The Houston Outlaws began Stage Two with a hard fought 3-2 victory against London and a 4-0 victory against Boston which was much closer than the final map scores indicates. The Outlaws continue to perform very well with Linkzr and Muma taking on a lead role in the victories for the week. The meta for the new patch is already starting to emerge as compositions with extra tanks and a wider support meta are already coming into play.

Predictions (6-0)

The Outlaws are on a roll and this week will present very tough matches against Philadelphia and New York, two of the three teams that beat the Outlaws in Stage One. Philadelphia will be a tough test and New York was the champions of Stage One, but I think the Outlaws avenge their earlier losses with a 2-0 week, even though a 1-1 week is more likely.

40 years later the amazing moment in sports history still holds its place

Do you (Still) believe in miracles?

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It's hard to believe, but this week marks the 40th anniversary of "The Miracle On Ice" A result and event where "if scripted", Hollywood would immediately reject on general premise, due to it's improbability. For a younger generation who is unfamiliar with the story (or the odds), visualize a bunch of nobodies and college kids two weeks ago trying to defeat Patrick Mahomes and the KC Chiefs in the Super Bowl. Then, magnify that by about 50 times, and you'll have the general scope and idea. You see, this is exactly what TEAM USA was comprised of, a bunch of college kids, and nobodies going up against the mighty Soviets.

The average age on the American team was 21. They lacked speed, fire power and the tenure of their opponents. The Soviets hadn't lost an Olympic Hockey game since 1968. They had won 4 straight Gold Medals with their core players intact for entire stretches of their Olympic and Global dominance. By contrast, the only American returning from the 76' games was Buzz Schneider. Schneider would actually score the first goal vs. the Soviets. If you ask most American's today, they probably think Buzz was one of the astronauts. The Soviets were so dominating in this era, they had even defeated the NHL All-Stars 6-0 in 1979 to easily win The Challenge Cup.

Lake Placid, New York served as the backdrop for the 1980 Winter Olympics. Lake Placid is a small village in Essex County, NY with a population today of around 2,500 people. If you visit, it's amazing because everyone in that town claims that "they" were in attendance or had their elders in the tiny 8500 seat arena with their families. What makes the story even more remarkable, is that the matchup wasn't even supposed to happen. The U.S. were heavy underdogs even their opening contests with Sweden & Czechoslovakia. Not to mention, that no one really anticipated a contest vs the Soviets as a mere two weeks prior, the Soviets had easily defeated Team USA in an exhibition game at Madison Square Garden by a score of 10-3. Adding insult to injury in that loss, was defenseman Jack O'Callahan pulling ligaments in his knee. Jack remained on the Olympic roster, but played sparingly throughout the tournament.

The Soviets steamrolled through their tier of countries, defeating Japan, Netherlands, Poland, Finland & Canada by a combined margin of 51-10. The American's railed for a 2-2 draw in their opening game vs. Sweden, then stunned the Czechs, and then handled, Norway, Romania & West Germany. Thus the stage was set. There are edited versions of the historic matchup available for viewing on YouTube. Unlike the late Jim Mckay who refused to reveal the result on ABC's coverage (the game had been played several hours earlier) would never have had the impact in today's age of social media, and technology. Most American's had no idea the result prior to the game's airing on that tape delay. As a 9 year old kid at the time, this was certainly the case for me! This improbable upset didn't actually secure the Gold Medal. Team USA had to play Finland (trailed 2-1) before rallying 4-2 for the victory.

The "Miracle On Ice" launched some amazing sports moments in the decade to come. The Flutie Hail Mary, Lorenzo Charles stunning the Cougars, Nova shocking the Mighty Hoyas, but nothing could ever match American Pride on February 22nd, 1980 after the Soviets went down 4-3.

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