Huge upsets in Week 1 of the 2021 Overwatch League
Breaking down the biggest takeaways from opening weekend of the OWL.
Overwatch League has just started over the weekend, and many matches were eagerly waited by fans as their favourite teams are gearing up for the season, with some unexpected surprises popping along the way.
The first match of Opening Weekend of the 2021 Overwatch League season was as highly-anticipated as any. On April 16th, the Houston Outlaws and the Dallas Fuel faced off in the return of the Battle for Texas.
Both the Outlaws and the Fuel crafted brand new rosters in the offseason full of promising young talent. However, with both teams’ shaky histories, it was unclear how much difference these new players could make.
This series and the level of gameplay it showcased did not disappoint. Both squads demonstrated a formidable blend of team coordination and individual skill in this back-and-forth brawl. Ultimately, the Outlaws prevailed in a 3-2 win, beating the Fuel for the first time since 2018.
The following match pitted the two-time reigning Overwatch League champion San Francisco Shock against the Los Angeles Gladiators. Heading into the season, these were two of the most highly-rated rosters in North America. Although the Gladiators took Map 1 on Ilios, the Shock were unphased and went on to win in a convincing 3-1 victory.
Next was a match of less certain predictions, as the Atlanta Reign battled the Florida Mayhem. Both teams added promising pieces to their squads in the offseason, but questions remained whether either would stack up against the best teams in the league. In the end, the Mayhem proved their mettle, beating the Reign 3-1.
To start the final day of North American competition, the Houston Outlaws faced off the San Francisco Shock. This match was a chance for fans to see just how good the Outlaws really are, and they certainly did not disappoint.
After winning Lijiang Tower and Dorado and drawing on Blizzard World, the Outlaws had the Shock down 2-0. The Shock took the next two maps, but on Havana, as the result of the match came down to the final teamfight, the Outlaws clutched it out, winning the series in a spectacular 3-2 upset.
On the first day of Asian competition. The Shanghai Dragons beat the Guangzhou Charge, and the Chengdu Hunters conquered the Los Angeles Valiant. But it was the third and final match of the day that was the most telling.
To close out the Asia-Pacific matches on April 17th, the Philadelphia Fusion dueled the Seoul Dynasty. Both squads include MVP-caliber players, but other factors remained concerning. Just before the season began, the Fusion were faced with visa issues that forced them to pick up two players last minute. Meanwhile, the Dynasty kept most of their players from 2020, raising questions about whether their pattern of inconsistency would repeat itself.
Every map in this series was hard-fought, but ultimately the Fusion got the better of the Dynasty, beating them 3-1 and displaying a surprising level of team coordination along with the expected caliber of individual skill.
Day 2 of matches in the Asian region also featured two unsurprising 3-0 wins, as the Seoul Dynasty swept the Guangzhou Charge, and the Philadelphia Fusion dominated the Los Angeles Valiant.
Still, the match between the Chengdu Hunters and the Shanghai Dragons was unexpectedly one-sided. In 2020, the Dragons were undoubtedly the strongest team in Asia, and in the offseason, they kept their roster almost entirely intact. The Hunters, on the other hand, invested heavily this offseason in young Chinese talent.
The Hunters roster looked promising on paper, but few people expected them to crush the Dragons as confidently as they did in their 3-0 victory.