North American Championship Series Week One: Favorites reign supreme

The most anticipated season of the Rocket League Championship Series is finally here, as the North America region kicked off its season with an exciting day of matches. Coming one day after the Rivals Series made its debut, the first day of Championship Series certainly lived up to the hype, delivering a full day of exciting Rocket League. Here’s a breakdown of the action. (Note: Clicking on the team names and score (the heading for each section) will take you to the Parallel recap for each series. Parallel is a statistics website run by @Slokh_, and is an invaluable resource for anyone looking for RLCS/RLRS statistics.)

Rogue (3) vs. Emotion (0)

Rogue kicked the day off with a dominant performance over Emotion, becoming the first Elo favorite of the day to win their series (Elo favorites would win all five series today). Their speed and playmaking was simply too much for Emotion, as Emotion struggled to produce offensively and let their inexperience show a bit in their first ever RLCS series.

NRG Esports (3) vs. Renegades (0)

NRG Esports opened up their season with an impressive defensive performance against Renegades, as a strong team defense forced weak shots onto net, and let Jacob, Fireburner, and GarrettG smother any offensive chance Renegades threw their way. At the end of the series, Moses, Dappur, and Timi only scored on 2 of their 22 shots, a mere 9.1 percent shooting percentage. NRG finished with 20 saves, showing that Renegades didn’t suffer from bad shooting; all twenty-two of their shots were on target, and they still only managed to find the back of the net twice. Dappur in particular struggled, finishing with zero goals and zero assists on eight shots, while averaging just 141.67 score per game.

Fireburner and Jacob were able to do enough offensively to give NRG the victory, as North America’s dynamic duo showed, yet again, they’re among the best in the business.

Cloud 9 (3) vs. Rogue (1)

On the surface, this series looks like an impressive performance for Rogue, who had all sorts of question marks surrounding the team headed into Season 4. After wiping the floor with Emotion, Rogue came into their series against Cloud 9 red-hot, and proved to be a worthy opponent for (arguably) the best team in North America. Every game in the series was decided by just one goal, and Rogue even managed to take game two against one of the powerhouses of Rocket League.

The results could have been much different, however, if Cloud 9 had better shooting accuracy. Too many times in the series, they rifled the ball off of the crossbar, or failed to hit the net entirely. They outshot Rogue 42-19, and Rogue only made 25 saves – that’s seven shots for Cloud 9 that didn’t go in the net and weren’t saved, indicating that they they hit close enough to the net to count as a shot on goal, they weren’t actually on target.

The fact that they managed to win, despite shooting just 24 percent (while Rogue shot 42 percent!) is a testament to just how dominant they were in this series, from a possession standpoint. Still, even with strong possession play, the kind of shooting inaccuracy they displayed will spell death against teams such as NRG and G2 Esports, so look for Cloud 9 to clean up their game heading into next week’s matchups with Emotion and FlyQuest.

Rogue, on the other hand, will have to find a way to get better offensive opportunities, or lock down their defense going forward. Getting outshot 42-19 isn’t going to cut it, and other teams (like their opponents next week, FlyQuest and NRG) won’t shoot at a mere 24 percent. Things could get ugly if they don’t improve.

NRG Esports (3) vs. Emotion (1)

In the fourth series of the day, Emotion gave NRG just about as much as they could handle, winning game two and keeping every loss within one goal. They accomplished this by out-shooting NRG, who has historically been one of the strongest possession teams in all of Rocket League; quite an impressive performance for a team that was expected to get annihilated by their opponents.

NRG still managed to come away with the victory, though not before Emotion put together one of the flashiest goals seen all day.

At the end of the day, the individual talent of NRG was too much for Emotion to handle, though one could argue that Emotion played a better overall team game throughout the series. GarrettG was particularly dominant, with six goals, two assists, seven saves, and 14 shots in the series, as he averaged an astonishing 391.25 score per game.

This was the second straight performance for NRG where they failed to dominate their opponents in terms of shots, an interesting trend to watch moving forward. Last season, they outshot North American opponents by 3.94 shots per game on average, and this season, they haven’t come close to matching that total – they averaged 0.33 shots more than Renegades, and actually averaged a -1.25 shot differential against Emotion.

They’ll definitely be looking to improve on that differential moving forward, especially since it was their bread and butter last season.

G2 Esports (3) vs. Renegades (1)

In the season preview, we talked about how a change in play style could bring about an improvement in performance for G2 this season. Their first game went well, with all three players getting involved offensively, though JKnaps would steal the show. G2 outshot Renegades 36-29 on the series, and strong defensive rotations helped them limit Renegades to a 20 percent shooting percentage, propelling them to an overall goal tally of 10-6.

This was a great performance for G2, as they’ll need to continue the balanced offensive pressure (all players had at least 10 shots) if they want to hang with teams like NRG and Cloud 9 in the future.

Though Renegades will need to bounce back over the next couple weeks, of course, but their first week matchups were against the number two and number three ranked teams in North America. An 0-2 start to the season isn’t ideal, but expect them to pick up at least one victory two weeks from now, when they come back from a bye week to face Emotion and FlyQuest.