Game within the game

This week in Houston eSports: Updating the league of legends and overwatch

The logo for Clutch Gaming. Twitter

The concept of eSports is one that makes many sports fans cringe at the term. After all, they’re just playing video games. But like the term or not, eSports are here to stay and its following is growing on a daily basis. Games being played include squad-based shooters like Counterstrike and Overwatch, multiplayer online battle arenas (MOBA) such as League of Legends and Defense of the Ancients (DOTA2), fighting games like Super Smash Brothers and Street Fighter, and card games like Hearthstone and Magic. There are even those that speed run or play modified versions of console games including old Super Nintendo and NES games. Twitch.tv is the primary broadcast home for most of these events and viewership is rapidly rising. On Sunday afternoon, the Counterstrike Major tournament in Boston had in excess of one million people simultaneously watching the final match where Cloud 9 (a North American team) defeated FAZE Clan (Europe) for North America’s first win at a major Counterstrike tournament.

This column is going to focus on e-sports teams that are Houston based; the Houston Outlaws from the Overwatch League (owned by OpTic Gaming), and Clutch Gaming from League of Legends, owned by the Houston Rockets. Without further ado, let’s see how things currently stand from the initial few weeks of competition and preview the week ahead.

League of Legends

For the 2018 season, League of Legends switched to a franchise model for their North American competition. Along with the Cavaliers (100 Thieves) and Warriors (Golden Guardians), the Houston Rockets were one of three NBA franchises to be accepted as one of the 10 teams in the North American League Championship Series (NALCS). Clutch Gaming (clutchlcs.com) is the Rockets new e-sports venture with League of Legends being their first game. To build their team, they signed 3/5 of team EnVyUs to get their jungler and bottom lane (Lira, Apollo, and Hakuho). They also signed Solo from Gold Coin United as their top laner, and in probably their most significant roster move, signed Febiven from Europe’s H2k-Gaming after his contract expired. The team intends to use statistics and analytics to help the team develop and improve similar to how it has shaped the NBA franchise.

After the first two weeks of competition, Clutch Gaming sits in 5th place with a 2-2 record. In week one they defeated the Golden Guardians (0-4) and lost to Echo Fox (4-0). Last week they defeated CLG (1-3) and lost to Team Liquid (3-1). They have defeated the teams that started weak, but lost to teams that have had a strong start. The next few weeks will shore up their standing in the League.

Highlights from the first four games

Against the Golden Guardians the team had a methodical win with a 7-2 advantage in kills and a strong and steady push after taking a gold lead when Febiven on Malzahar killed Hai after a successful gank from Lira on Evelyn.

Echo Fox focused on the top lane, getting Solo behind early before having a steady push themselves to close out a 33 minute victory over Clutch Gaming.

Against CLG, Febiven got the first Pentakill of the 2018 season in the NALCS as part of a dominating 12/0/3 performance in their 31 minute victory.

Unfortunately, Team Liquid got ahead early with a kill on Lira and easily dispatched Clutch Gaming with a 27 minute victory punctuated by a 12 to 2 advantage in kills.

This week’s matchups

Saturday at approximately 6 p.m. versus 100 Thieves  (3-1) – Last week 100 Thieves defeated Team Liquid but lost to Cloud 9. Prediction – 100 Thieves uses their top lane advantage to take a victory over CG.

Sunday at approximately 7 p.m. versus Cloud 9 (3-1) – Febiven outduels Jensen and CG gets the upset win over C9.

Each weekend the NALCS airs on twitch.tv starting at 3:30 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday. For more information visit lolesports.com

Overwatch League

The Houston Outlaws are playing extremely well. After going 0-2 in the first week against the Philadelphia Fusion and New York Excelsior, they are 4-0 since and have not lost a single map, sweeping each of those matches 4-0 against the Shanghai Dragons, Florida Mayhem, the Los Angeles Gladiators, and most importantly, the Dallas Fusion. Any time a Houston team defeats a Dallas team, it’s a good day.

Their 4-2 record has them sitting tied for third in the Atlantic Division with Philadelphia and behind New York and London who are both 5-1.

Last week, the Outlaws took on the Mayhem and the Gladiators.

Outlaws versus Mayhem Results – Outlaws win 4-0

Linkzr and Jake combined for over 50 kills and only 15 deaths on Numbani as Tracer and Genji respectively. On Horizon, Linkzr had 21 kills and no deaths as Widowmaker while Rawkus had a great game on Zenyatta. The Mayhem got to 99% on both capture points on Ilios, but the Outlaws stopped them and scored wins on both. Coolmatt was 26/5 on D.Va in the final map, Junkertown, the Outlaws had a dominating performance with Linkzr going 50/7. Overall, Linkzr was awarded player of the match.

Outlaws versus Gladiators Results: Outlaws win 4-0

Coolmatt had a 32/3 score as D.Va on Numbani. On Temple of Anubis, the Outlaws held the Gladiators to a score of zero while defending then scored their first point on offense extraordinarily fast to win the match. Bani also had a strong match on Mercy. Third was Ilios where the Outlaws won 2-0, highlighted by Boink’s string support play on Lucian. On the final map, Dorado, the Outlaws had another dominant defensive performance and won easily once they went on offense, needing to only get to the first checkpoint to win. Linkzr again won player of the match.

Each match is available for restreaming on the website or through the Overwatch League app.

This week’s schedule pits the Outlaws and their 16 map win streak against the San Francisco Shock (2-4) on Wednesday at approximately 10 PM, and the Seoul Dynasty (5-1) at around 8 PM on Friday. Like any sport, if the Outlaws want to do well on the season, they should defeat San Francisco, and have a good showing against Seoul. Predictions – Outlaws 3 – 1 over the Shock. The Pacific Division leading Dynasty 3 – Outlaws 2.

Overwatch League has 3 matches per day from Wednesday through Saturday, starting at 6 PM on Wednesday and Friday, 4 PM on Thursday and 1 PM on Saturday. For more information visit overwatchleague.com.

Tune in next week for results and previews and an explanation of each game’s formatting/schedule.

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Texans fall to Browns. Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images.

The Houston Texans kept it closer than the experts thought they would, but couldn't pull out a victory. Here are 11 observations from the loss in Cleveland to the Browns.

1. The game looks totally different if Texans quarterback Tyrod Taylor finishes the game. Taylor left at halftime with a hamstring injury. He was playing exceptionally well against his former team. Taylor is not expected to play Thursday according to NFL Network.

2. Davis Mills had a rocky NFL debut which was to be expected. Mills looked to have the wrong elements of a few plays. He also couldn't hit backup wideout Andre Roberts over the middle and threw an interception. It was a fine performance considering what Mills showed he could do in the preseason.

3. Mills didn't work with a full load of offensive weapons in the second half. Rookie wideout Nico Collins didn't return to the game after his lone catch and big run early in the game. Veteran slot receiver Danny Amendola left the game with an injury. Tight end Anthony Auclair left with an eye injury. The Texans entered the game without wide receiver Anthony Miller who was inactive.

4. Brandin Cooks is a monster through two games. He is the most dangerous skill position player on the team, and defenses still have trouble covering him and staying with him. Cooks turned in yet another impressive day for this team and hauled in a Davis Mills touchdown pass.

5. The Browns did a solid job against the ground game of the Texans. Mark Ingram averaged under three yards per carry and Tyrod Taylor was the only rusher to have a big play on the ground. This led to a fair number of third-and-long situations which the Texans usually had trouble converting.

6. Justin Reid was set to increase his payday on his next contract with his early play. Reid forced a fumble and had an interception in the first half. Unfortunately, Reid would leave the game multiple times with injuries. The knock on Reid has always been his health.

7. The Texans were worn down by the Browns rushing attack all day. Once Cleveland committed to the run they saw the success of their work culminating in a 26-yard scamper by Nick Chubb for a touchdown. The Browns didn't run as much as I excepted them to run early.

8. Tim Kelly had another nice day calling plays. Kelly remains creative in finding ways to get the ball out of Taylor's hands quickly as well as manufacturing matchups where the Texans can win and pick up yards. He even got creative to get Davis Mills a passing touchdown late in the game. Kelly has been very impressive through two games.

9. Andre Roberts was inexcusably bad today. The Texans defense held on the opening drive and his muffed punt eliminated the momentum from the defensive stand. He also had poor returns on kickoffs. His lone job is to be a solid returner, and he failed at that on Sunday.

10. David Culley had a head-scratching decision foregoing an offsides call on a third down. The head coach opted for the result of the third down, and a punt on fourth down, instead of another third down. He did not explain himself well postgame on the decision either.

11. The Texans hung tough and should feel solid about where they could have been without the injury to their quarterback. With no Taylor in the short week, it will not be easy to beat the Panthers who upset the Saints on Sunday.

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