<
>

Atlanta homestand Day 1: Is a Huntsmen-FaZe final inevitable?

Fans start to file in ahead of the start of the Atlanta FaZe homestand on Saturday. Photo: Arda Ocal

ATLANTA -- There were many questions going into the Atlanta FaZe's first homestand. Would the LAN environment work or would the lobby bug somehow force the tournament online? Could the Atlanta FaZe garner a strong turnout for their first home event? How good are the four teams -- Minnesota RØKKR, OpTic Gaming Los Angeles, Florida Mutineers and Atlanta FaZze -- that we didn't see two weeks ago in London?

After the first day of the tournament, we have a few answers.

Read more: This week in Call of Duty

Did they fix LAN yet?

Yes.

Despite fears that a lobby bug would force the entire tournament online -- bringing up an entire other series of potential issues and casting a shadow over the eventual tournament results -- Day 1 was completed on LAN with no major technical issues. (We'll just put the St. Petrograd Florida Mutineers-Los Angeles OpTic Gaming domination 146-145 draw aside.) Or, to quote Chris "Simp" Lehr, "The developers wouldn't let the event not happen. So I knew there was going to be a fix at some point."

You had more confidence than I did, Simp.

ESPN Daily newsletter: Sign up now!

How was the event itself?

Although the crowd was certainly sparser than the FaZe would like -- and nothing is likely to top the London crowd save the next London event in June -- the crowd filled the floor seats for FaZe. The largest winners of the weekend may be FaZe as a whole, as FaZe Clan staples like Thomas "Temperrr" Oliveira, held fan meet and greets that generated lines snaking around the upper level of the venue. It might take a while to energize the local crowd, but the Atlanta fan base -- and sometimes surrounding Southern areas -- can be incredibly loyal if you can get them on your side. The numbers won't show it, but this should be a strong step toward winning over the Atlanta home market in addition to the brand power that FaZe already brings.

How good are the four teams that we didn't see at the previous tournament?

The RØKKR and the Mutineers were the first of the four teams we hadn't seen since the inaugural weekend of the season on RØKKR home soil in Minneapolis. They had slipped a bit in our latest power rankings and coaches poll due to recency bias toward the London homestand, but Minnesota have a solid team that should be fighting the likes of the London Royal Ravens and Paris Legion for that fourth-fifth spot in most power rankings and polls. Minnesota are fun to watch. Between today and their homestand performance, the RØKKR have proven that every person on their lineup can pop off at various times. Today was Adam "GodRx" Brown's turn, and while they lost to the Huntsmen, it's going to be a bloody battle with Paris tomorrow to advance to the final.

The Mutineers look slightly less solid. Preston "Prestinni" Sanderson and Bradley "Frosty" Bergstrom both had their moments against the Royal Ravens and OpTic, but the team as a whole needs to consistently be winning more fights. They're definitely the underdog tomorrow going up against the Royal Ravens based on their performances today.

Watch: Simp discusses the FaZe' strengths | H3CZ shares his thoughts on the progress of the Call of Duty League

FaZe obliterated their competition during the Call of Duty League opening weekend, dropping only one map in their two matches and posting incredibly high K/D scores across the board. Although they were fully expected to perform well, their strong performances, particularly their 3-1 victory over the London Royal Ravens, cemented the FaZe as the tournament favorite.

And then there's the new Los Angeles OpTic, who have yet to win a match. This team on paper should be performing much better than they've looked. I'm not sure what else to say about this team other than the fact that whatever is going on is not due to a lack of talent or experience.

Is it inevitable that the Chicago Huntsmen and Atlanta FaZe will meet in the grand final?

Most likely, yes, although the Huntsmen's Saturday performance didn't exactly instill confidence in the Huntsmen faithful.

"You try not to, but it happens," Matthew "FormaL" Piper said of whether the Huntsmen overlooked the Toronto Ultra, who almost beat them in their first series on Saturday. "I think our team, we didn't really talk about it, but I bet we all thought we were going to beat them regardless, so the fact that it came that close was whatever. It definitely does happen. It's something we've got to work on for sure."

"Overall today was just really sloppy," FormaL said. "It takes us a bit to get going, but we should be good for tomorrow.

This is one of the best teams in the league. We know it. They know it. Other teams know it. Yet, a well-prepared Toronto Ultra nearly took them out in a series that went to match point, culminating in a Map 5, Round 11 victory on Gun Runner. The Huntsmen picked it up in their second map, but compared to the FaZe, who had two dominating Day 1 performances, the Huntsmen have work to do if they want to beat the home favorite.