Yesterday evening, NRG eSports took a best-of-seven series 4-2 against rivals Orbit eSports to become the North American Rocket League champions.
The win cemented their bid for top-place seeding at the global championship later this fall in Amsterdam, as well as earned them $US13,500 ($17,883) for their talents at using rocket-propelled cars to smash giant inflated balls into a digital stadium's goals.
— SHAQ (@SHAQ) September 21, 2016
The Rocket League team is one of the NRG's more recent acquisition's. The esports organisation, which boasts investments from a number of star athletes, including Shaquille O'Neal, signed the team earlier this year and seems to have made the right choice.
And it's quite possible Shaq's enthusiasm for the game is what pushed the organisation, which has been signing teams left and right, to branch out into Rocket League.
Despite finishing second overall during the season, one spot in the rankings below Orbit, former champions NRG proved too much for the Swedish owned American club who had previously looked so dominate.
Even after roster changes shook the team following the end of season 1, Orbit appeared rejuvenated with the addition of players like fifteen year old Isaac "Turtle" App.
— RLCS (@RLCS) November 12, 2016
Rocket League is a game of patience, foresight and finesse. While it can sometimes look like a frenzied battle of twitch reflexes and random luck as the ball banks off the curved walls of the stadium, in truth it's as much about anticipating your opponents moves and countering them as anything else.
A combination of soccer and tennis, some of the game's most impressive moments come from the seemingly uncanny positioning of pro players and their ability to strike the ball just so in order to make it jet past an opposing player or find a teammate for a clutch re-direct that proves impossible to block.
If you've ever played the game with friends, you know that connecting for a single uninterrupted pass is difficult enough, let alone driving the ball down the field with two or more for an eventual goal in a trajectory that zig-zags past the other teams defences.
In the above clip, you can see GarrettG float out of the way of the shot as he fakes the re-direct and forces NRG to scramble and respond late. He adds himself to the play without ever touching the ball, increasing the angles NRG has to cover and as a result clearing a path for Turtle's shot.
Through plays like that, Orbit made it tough for NRG in all six games, even forcing the last match into overtime. But the aggression from NRG eventually proved too much. While both teams had trouble adapting to each other when they went behind, leading to a few blow-outs back and forth, it was NRG who were able to get out in front more often and force Orbit to play uncomfortably on their back tire.
A final goal by Jacob put NRG over the top. Before the NRG eSports Rocket League team was acquired by the investment group that includes Shaq, Alex Rodriguez, and Jimmy Rollins, they were known as Kings of Urban, managing to win the regional championship against a team called Exodus earlier in the year. Exodus went on to be signed by Orbit eSports in October, making last night's event essentially a rehash of the close, seven game series that played out between both teams just a few months ago.
Both teams, joined by 3rd and 4th place finishers, Genesis and Take 3, will advance to the global finals in Amsterdam on December 3 where they will face-off against the best of Europe. The four teams to be selected from the other side of the Atlantic will be determined later today in the European Regional Finals beginning at 12:00PM EDT.