Houston Outlaws vs Dallas Fuel
For our last match of the day, we have an el clasico of sorts, and this, by all accounts, is going to be a good one. Perhaps that's even an understatement. To be fair, it's not like this is a clash of two exceptional teams of fairly equal strength. It's not. This is a fight between a team that's on the rise -- Dallas Fuel, and a team that's still trying their hardest to figure out who they are in the current meta, and what their identity is.
This doesn't exactly scream "potential", but the sheer amount of storylines and narratives that have been following these two teams over the last year and a half is astonishing, and you really shouldn't miss it if you get the chance. The fact that these two teams will be fighting on home soil in Texas for the first time ever since the League's inception only adds additional intrigue and excitement.
This is a clash between two Texan teams, and there can only be one Texas champion. It's a negligible consolation prize in the grand scheme of things, but hey -- a win is a win. If they can't fight for the stage against the very best teams in the region and win, at least they can be the best at something.
The Houston Outlaws simply haven't been able to lock down an identity over the last couple of months, and that's a real shame. They're all over the place and their play leaves a lot to be desired. Watching them fumble and fail isn't exactly an enjoyable thing, and it's not because of allegiance. Not even close. It's just that they have so much innate talent within their roster that seeing them fail to such a degree is rather crushing.
They're currently ranked eighteenth, but they still haven't played their fifth stage two game so they could, realistically speaking, end up even lower once this week concludes. They have zero wins and four losses, with a negative 13 map differential. That means they won only a single map over the last three and a half weeks. Just one map. That's below abysmal. The two teams below them -- Washington Justice and Florida Mayhem -- have won four and five, respectively. So you can make an arguement that Houston is currently the worse team in the League.
They didn't play any games in week one, then they -- somehow -- won a single map against the Vancouver Titans, only to get outclassed by Philadelphia Fusion (0-4) and the Shanghai Dragons (0-3), and most recently -- the Seoul Dynasty. When they lose, they get demolished. You can see glimpses of their potential here and there, but those moments are too few and far between to warrant any actual jump in the standings, or any hype and momentum. They're just a dud. Going nowhere, and without any chance of repair, at least at this point.
We know the amount of talent that they have, and they proved their worth on more than one occasion last year. The problem is, the things that worked last year don't work any longer, and they're not making strides at this point in time. They need to step up and adapt to the current meta if they want to stand a chance of doing anything worthy of mentioning. Fortunately, they meta is shifting back towards DPS-centric team comps, and they could, in theory, become a solid mid-tier team in a couple of weeks, or a month perhaps.
That's all theory as of now, and we'll simply have to wait a bit longer before coming up with a final verdict on the Outlaws.
The Dallas Fuel, on the other hand, is playing above expectations. They're one of those solid teams that always have the potential but rarely get to realize it in time. Well, this case is somewhat different. While they're far from a top-tier team, they're showing great signs of improvement and are currently in the playoffs top 8. Might not sound like much, but for a team that struggled quite a bit last stage, that's a welcomed achievement.
They're currently sitting at three wins and two losses, with +1 map differential, and if they outclass Houston tonight, they will not only basically guarantee a spot in the playoffs, but they could improve their map differential and lock down a relatively solid spot in the stage playoffs. They don't really stand a big chance once the playoffs come around, but getting to that point is commendable regardless of the way it pans out afterwards.
They have the Florida Mayhem lined up for week five, and seeing how that win is basically a given, they could cement their playoff chances with a win over their perennial adversaries. They need every map win they can get, and fortunately for them, their schedule did a lot of the work.
In the end, we simply have to side with the Dallas Fuel. They're heavily favored and with good reason. They have the better players in almost each category, and their play is deceptively strong and cohesive. They're just a well-rounded, solid team in the current meta, that's a fact, and a surprising one at that. They're not going to blow anyone away and they won't be in the contention for the finals, but even being a mid-tier team, one that's contending for the playoff is a highly commendable result.
They're well-rounded and relatively adept at the current meta, and whenever they face the Houston Outlaws, fireworks are always a guarantee regardless of the final outcome. Watching them fight it out with their Texan opponents never leaves anyone indifferent, and this series should be no different. While Houston might be able to put up a solid fight, the Dallas Fuel should emerge victorious regardless.