Los Angeles Valiant vs Shanghai Dragons
For our last match of the day, we have a pretty exciting clash between the Shanghai Dragons and the Los Angeles Valiant. Now, on paper, this doesn't seem like a match-up that'll bring fireworks, but make no mistake -- this is, by all means, a solid clash between two solid teams.
In fact, it could end up being far more entertaining than most people expect. First all, we need to better assess where these teams are currently at before delving deeper into the match-up.
Shanghai are coming in hot after their very first playoff appearance last stage. They were unable to leave a lasting mark, but they did become the first team to take a map off of the San Francisco Shock. That's not exactly a triumph, but when you're up against such stiff opposition, you take the wins where you can get them. And this, even though small in nature, is a huge triumph for Shanghai.
They ended the stage with very respectable 4W-3L record and a neutral map differential. In fact, they basically squeaked past by and were immediately faced against the Shock. Regardless of their eventually loss to the Stage 2 champions, they did unexpectedly well throughout the second stage. They're a solid team, perhaps even better than that. They're deceptively strong and can throw down with the very best in the world. They might not win, but that's a completely different matter.
They're adept at the current meta and will become better and more capable as time goes on. Other than a clash against the Los Angeles Gladiators, there isn't any huge threat nor insurmountable opponent for Shanghai in Stage 3. That doesn't mean they're necessarily going to end up with a potential 6W-1L record, but there's at least a very good chance of that happening.
By all accounts, Shanghai are a perfectly capable, deceptively strong contender right now, and they shouldn't be underestimated.
As for the Los Angeles Valiant, things get a lot more complicated.
Their first stage was downright abysmal. There's just no way around it. They ended up as the only team that was unable to score even a single win, and subsequently became the laughing stock of the entire League. But we all knew they had the talent -- they were just unable to adapt to the meta in time and it hindered their chances considerably.
Stage 2 came around, and the Valiant looked rejuvenated. They looked strong and capable. Maybe not great, but respectable. In fact, anything resembling good play would've gotten us excited after their abysmal Stage 1 run. This time around, they ended with a very respectable 3W-4L record, which meant they finished in a two-way tie for thirteenth. Not to shabby, especially when you consider the fact that ninth-placed Chengdu Hunters had the same win/loss tally.
The Valiant were able to close the gap in a very small amount of time, and they started playing more like people expected them to. Now, it's still too early to consider them an actual playoff contender, but they're solid. Unexpectedly good, even.
They took down the Atlanta Reign (3-2), played an incredibly competitive match against their perennial adversaries the Los Angeles Gladiators (1-2), and then proceeded to outclass the Washington Justice (3-1), and Chengdu Hunters (3-2), along with a one-sided shellacking at the hands of Dallas Fuel, and an ultra competitive 2-3 loss to Seoul Dynasty in the Allen Event Center in North Texas.
By all accounts, this is a team that is currently playing the role of a dark horse. They're strong, they're working tirelessly in order to improve and lock down a spot in the playoffs, and they definitely have the right tools at their disposal in order to make this into one heck of a series. Whether or not they'll be able to do so still remains to be seen, but they're definitely no pushover -- not any longer, at least.
In the end, we simply have to side with the Shanghai Dragons at this point. They're the better team all things considered, and while their highs might not be as high as the Valiant's, they're much more cohesive, adept at the current meta, and in-sync as a six-man unit. They might not be a powerhouse, but they have the right players in order to take the match.
That said, expect and absolute barnburner that could, in theory, go either way.