Team USA will be a team to watch in Montreal, as last year's US National champions of Spacestation Gaming (SSG) hopes to continue a streak of impressive LAN performances on the biggest stage in R6 history. The team has always been talked about as one of the best in the region, and has had a lot of expectations at nearly every LAN event played. However, strings of draws in the Pro League meant that SSG instead earned the moniker “Drawstation” and failed to make it to the Pro League Finals every season since entering Rainbow Six.
After narrowly losing to the eventual champions at both the 2018 US Nationals and 2019 Six Invitational, SSG underwent a number of changes. Firstly, they brought in the up and coming player of Alec "Fultz" Fultz after Season 9 who has since proved to be one of the best fraggers in North America. Then, following a quarter-final finish at the Raleigh Major -- the best finish for a North American team at the event, alongside Team SoloMid (TSM) -- SSG acquired one of the most successful and best-known players in the region in Troy "Canadian" Jaroslawski.
With this roster, the team has since finished second at the OGA PIT Minor and then won the USN 2019 event, breaking Canadian's streak of six lost Grand Finals. With this new lineup, SSG has also propelled itself up to third in Season 11 so far and qualified for this Invitational via the open qualifiers with little opposition. However, challenges still remain for the team. In the Pro League, SSG still lags behind TSM and DarkZero Esports by eight and five points, respectively and may face TSM in the group stages at the Six Invitational.
Put into what seems to be the “Group of Death” alongside current league leaders TSM, defending Pro League champions Natus Vincere, and the strong if arguably inconsistent European squad of Rogue, SSG faces an incredibly tough fight to get to the playoffs. Nevertheless, with an army of support staff -- second only to DarkZero -- the team has been given all the resources to make it happen.
To know more about his team’s preparation, SiegeGG spoke to the in-game leader, Canadian:
Your team, despite the US Nationals victory, has not been lighting up the Pro League as much as had been anticipated. Was this a case of oversized expectations, or has there been something lacking in your team?
I think preparing for the online Best-of-One Pro League format is something which we as a team need to improve on. The preparations for Best-of-Three bracket style tournaments is a lot more widespread as opposed to the laser focused sort of prep which can really pay off in the current Pro League format.
Your group has been labeled the “Group of Death” by many. Do you agree with the assessment?
I would for sure say that our group as well as Group A are definitely what would appear to be the toughest groups. Things can always change though, never know how teams can change heading into an event.
This will only be the third international event with this roster for your team. How confident are you that all the parts will click?
I think we, as a team, are all pretty confident that we will be able to show up back in our comfort zone playing offline Best of Threes. Of course, that being said, anything can happen so we as usual need to put in our work beforehand and make sure we show up and play our game.
SSG has always been known as the team to beat expectations at Major events. However, this time the expectations are significant and the group is far from easy. How is your team dealing with this pressure?
We all know what we're capable of and what we expect from one another on this team. The only pressure we have is what we place on ourselves and to us that is no different from the previous events we have attended.
The OGA PIT Minor was a significant learning experience for your team, but you now face three teams that play very differently. Of course, knowing TSM domestically is an advantage, but how different is preparation for this group than for the Minor?
Heading into the minor we were still kind of solidifying our identity as a new team and heading into the event our preparation was focused more on that than anything. Now our preparation is more focused towards refining and expanding upon that identity. We have our scouting reports and other preparation that our coaching staff, of course, has prepared for whoever we may face, but we just take it one match at a time and focus on ourselves.
Analysts have noted that key members of your team can sometimes be frozen out of the game to put your side at a significant disadvantage. How has your team been working on this perceived weakness?
I personally don't keep too in the loop with analysts’ takes on our team and whatnot, so I'm not entirely sure what you are referring to and which key members of our team you're speaking of. That being said, I think that is just an observation some people make from the outside looking in on the game as the brunt of our frags come from Rampy and Fultz. However, I do believe isolating and having key members of our team "frozen" out of the game is a lot easier said than done since I find it is pretty difficult to isolate players on our team due to our play style.
How do you think that the double-elimination playoffs will change the dynamic of the event, and what is your opinion of the one-map advantage in the grand final?
I think double-elimination playoffs only allows for more storylines to be created which only leads to more and better competition for the event. I think it's a great thing and really weeds out the best teams of the event. I think a one-map advantage in the grand final is a bit extreme, although I do think it's hard to find a sweet spot of finding an appropriate advantage to give to the team from the upper bracket.
Do you have anything else to say to your fans?
I would just like to say that myself and the team all really appreciate your support. We're excited to show what we're capable of at the Invitational and hope to make you proud. Please make sure to say hi to us if you see us at the event!
Spacestation Gaming plays Natus Vincere in its opening match, with matches against either Rogue or Team SoloMid scheduled afterwards. Check back here at SiegeGG for more Invitational Insights and full coverage of the event as it comes.