New York Excelsior 3 - Philadelphia Fusion 2
The New York Excelsior took a 3-2 reverse-sweep Sunday over the Philadelphia Fusion to win the Stage 2 finals of the Overwatch League at the Blizzard Arena in Burbank, California.
No one at the start of Stage 2 expected the Fusion to get this far, but after an upset win against the London Spitfire earlier on Sunday to get into the finals, it had one more juggernaut to topple to earn the championship. The Fusion took first blood by knocking the Excelsior around like a ragdoll on Route 66. In context, this wasn't a huge surprise, given that this map also went in the Fusion's favor the last time these two faced off in Week 3, but it was the way in which Philadelphia secured the Map 1 win that was telling.
Thanks in large part to a heroic effort from DPS Lee "Carpe" Jae-hyeok, who outperformed his counterpart, New York DPS Park "Saebyeolbe" Jong-yeol, Philadelphia roared through Map 1 and continued to dismantle the rest of Excelsior on Lijiang Tower in Map 2. However, it was Saebyeolbe who would answer back following the halftime break.
The third and fourth maps, Volskaya Industries and Hollywood, were overwhelmingly one-sided, even more so than how Fusion won the first two maps. Saebyeolbe's Tracer played a critical part in the turnaround, annihilating the Fusion squad by catching its players off-guard with well-executed flanks and precise aim.
While Saebyeolbe was an important cog in the Excelsior machine, it was hard not to notice Carpe's unusually sloppy second half of the series. Perhaps due to exhaustion, given the Fusion played 10 maps in a row Sunday, Carpe struggled to make the necessary reads, and worse yet couldn't capitalize with any sort of consistent offense when he did manage to navigate to New York's backline.
It probably didn't help that Saebyeolbe was an absolute fiend on Widowmaker, particularly during Map 4 on Hollywood, where the Excelsior DPS won practically every engagement possible against Carpe. Fellow Fusion DPS Josue "Eqo" Corona on Genji tried to keep the Fusion alive with back-to-back Dragonblades that almost won his team the final map, Watchpoint: Gibraltar, but by this point New York was playing with such ferocity that a comeback was unattainable.
All of the players on New York were playing at their peak by the decisive round, and given Watchpoint is one of Excelsior's best maps in terms of execution, it was only a matter of time until confetti rained down on the newly crowned Stage 2 champions.
The New York Excelsior will resurface when the Overwatch League reconvenes in Stage 3 against the Florida Mayhem at 7 p.m. ET on April 5, while Philadelphia will face off against the Boston Uprising right after at 9 p.m. ET.
-- Steven Nguyen
Stage 2 semifinal
Philadelphia Fusion 3 - London Spitfire 2
In the first round of Overwatch League Stage 2 playoffs on Sunday, the Philadelphia Fusion managed to do what seemed impossible and knock off the defending Stage 1 champions, the London Spitfire, in a thrilling 3-2 series victory at the Blizzard Arena in Burbank, California.
The Spitfire exploited Fusion's positioning all throughout Map 1 and got crucial picks while gaining excellent sightlines for future assaults. Under immense pressure, Philadelphia was quick to adapt its strategy going into Map 2 on Nepal. It transitioned away from the high-mobility dive composition to the slow and beefy triple-tank composition that allowed it to play more patiently and even the series.
This time, the Spitfire were caught out of position. Whether it London DPS Park "Profit" Joon-yeong attempting to sneak around to attack backline supports or an overextension by tank Hong "Gesture" Jae-hee, Philadelphia seemed to have an answer for every play put forth by the Spitfire. With its careful approach and innate understanding of London's ultimate economy, Philadelphia managed full-hold London on the first point of Hanamura.
The Fusion would go on to win Map 3 in similar fashion, with a deliberate pace playing right into the Spitfire's normally ultra-aggressive offense. It was London's turn to adjust, and it began narrowing in on key players and taking them out before using any key ultimates.
London tank Kim "Fury" Jun-ho D.Va was crucial in this regard and used his Defense Matrix to deny four Graviton Surge attempts by Fusion Tank Gael "Poko" Gouzerch's Zarya in the Spitfire's Map 4 win on King's Row.
But the strategy shifts went in favor of the Fusion on the final map. Philadelphia wised up to and coordinated its ultimates as a team to ensure success on Map 5. It dominated Route 66, constantly putting pressure onto the Spitfire and never giving it a chance to effectively counter in a series-clinching win.
The Philadelphia Fusion moved on to the Stage 2 finals to face the New York Excelsior at 6 p.m ET on Sunday, while the London Spitfire next play the Houston Outlaws at 11 p.m. ET on April 5 during the first week of Stage 3.
-- Liam Craffey