Note: Interviews of Rexen, Kanzen, and Bagel for this article were conducted before the latter was dropped by eUnited.
Nothing is ever as it seems on the surface, but for eUnited's Stage 1 it was hard to look away from the surface.
Baffling plays, an abysmal map win percentage, and clearly disjointed communications dragged an upstart squad in Pro League Season 11 down to the last place in the inaugural stage of the US Division of the North American League (NAL).
From the outside looking in, you could be forgiven for thinking that eUnited was a team that didn't practice and was wildly undisciplined. According to their former coach, Colby "Bagel" Smith, who spoke to SiegeGG over a Discord call, it was a simple ideology clash that doomed their first stage.
"The style that people have seen since I've joined this roster is a failed attempt at replicating what the old Obey roster was," said Bagel. "We had a lot of discourse on the team with identities, how we liked the game to be ran."
"Pre-roster change eUnited had some glaring issues with its direction and identity," said current head coach Matthew "meepeY" Sharples in a Twitter DM. "There was a lot of confusion, especially on game days. The staff would prepare analysis, breakdowns, VOD reviews, paired with suggestions as to how to tackle what problems we could potentially face. This would be taken on board, learned, practiced, and then when these situations arise in the match, the prep was not utilized for reasons unknown. So all that prep and practice goes to waste."
"Players are left confused in the match because we aren't following the gameplan, we lose matches and Reddit posts memes. At the end of the day, the in-game leadership needed to be changed. If the voice that leads us doesn't follow the plan, then we have an issue."
That discord was abundantly apparent itself during the United States Division's Stage 1. eUnited went winless in Best-of-Threes (Bo3), and only won two maps during the stage. Their final series of the stage, a (7-5, 7-3) 0-2 loss to Tempo Storm, was the last straw. There were changes that had to be made. Seth "Callout" Mik and Roman "Forrest" Breaux were dropped.
In order to complete the transformation, eUnited signed a known player and a recently-infamous player: Richie "Rexen" Coronado, fresh off a stint with CL team RentFree, and Evan "Kanzen" Bushore, a tier-three player who was embroiled in controversy earlier in the year.
In May, Kanzen had Photoshopped a video of himself scrimmaging Spacestation in hopes of getting a tryout at the professional level. To his credit, Kanzen's apology seemed genuine; it the kind of mistake you make when you're young and hungry. To Spacestation's credit, it seemed like a mistake that was smoothed over easily with some effort on Kanzen's end.
"Basically, we just talked to them (Spacestation) and shared our knowledge on the situation," said Kanzen, when asked how he smoothed over relations after the error. "They seemed okay with it, knowing that I made a mistake."
"I just realized that you can't do dumb stuff like that anymore," said Kanzen. When asked if he felt that he's under more of a microscope coming from the third tier straight to professional Siege, Kanzen agreed.
"He's a young up-and-comer," said Bagel when asked about how Kanzen fits into new eUnited. "I did a lot of research into picking this kid up. He's really mature for how young he is."
Currently, there's a movement in the NAL towards younger, mechanically skilled players. Two rookies, David "Iconic" Ifidon and Nick "njr" Rapier are in contention to be some of the best in the league at their roles. The Susquehanna Soniqs utilized Marc "Lags" Lagestee and Jack "J90" Burkhard as substitutes, both received significant amounts of playing time while the Soniqs dealt with visa issues.
"Kanzen has been considered by the community as an odd pick up," said meepeY. "There is little known about him, apart from some old drama. Younger gunners are the future of Siege. As more and more talented players become 18 years old, we'll see them slowly but surely integrate into the competitive scene. All Kanzen needs to do is show up on game day, and his gameplay will do the talking. His role may be one of a more support-ish type but don't be fooled; this guy hits his shots. Kanzen is not the first, and he won't be the last younger gunner out of NA."
So, Kanzen will hold the flank watch role for eUnited. He credits his time in the third tier with giving him a good foundation in terms of mechanics and strategy but also says the clearly professional play is a different level of depth.
As for the team, Kanzen is optimistic. "We're definitely making steady improvement," he said.
On the other hand, Rexen is a known commodity, a hyper-aggressive, mechanically talented entry fragger. Despite being more or less proven at the professional level, he still had to fight and scrap his way back to the top-flight. Before he played for RentFree, he was on the Luminosity Gaming roster that arguably had their Pro League spot unfairly taken away.
Ubisoft and Luminosity could not come to an agreement regarding the new look of professional play, which at that point was transferring from "Pro League" to what we now know as the NAL. The season before the switch, Luminosity placed sixth, low, but outside of the danger of being relegated.
Regardless, when the organization lost its spot in NAL, so did the players. They were effectively relegated without playing a relegation match. The situation audibly fires Rexen up to this day, when he speaks about it, you can hear the emotion.
"Rexen brings an unprecedented amount of firepower and confidence to eUnited's frontline," said meepeY. "This man is the dictionary definition of an entry fragger who gets results. I'm excited to see him in action on game day."
Beyond the controversy, Rexen was a top-flight entry for Luminosity. The Luminosity roster's best placement was fourth in Pro League Season 10, and sixth in Season 11 directly after. When you add in Luminosity's several high-place tournament finishes, you can conclude that they were not unsuccessful by any stretch of the means. Often Rexen was their top fragger and, especially after the addition of Spencer "Slashug" Oliver, Luminosity showed a metric-ton of potential.
After the fallout with Luminosity and Ubisoft, the LG players left the team house one by one. "We all go back home," said Rexen. "I get on, I don't know what to do. I relax for a few days, collect my thoughts, see what teams are looking."
"A few of the guys (former LG) quit, I decided I still wanted to play. It's my passion to play games, and I can perform at the highest level in this game. I want to play on an Invitational stage. That's my goal: I want to win."
After a series of various former Luminosity players backing out and patchwork rosters, there were only two players left attempting to make the CL run: Rexen and Adam "Drip" Kolodkin, also known as "Yardy".
After some time, the RentFree roster formed; Rexen and Drip had a semi-permanent five to make the push for the NAL. During the CL season, Rexen tried out with and got an offer from the Susquehanna Soniqs, but ultimately decided to remain with RentFree.
Now, he's decided to put ink to paper with eUnited, and seemingly in a similar spot to another point in his career: the time period in which the '92 Dream Team was attempting to iron out some of their non-traditional methods. It's a good thing Rexen and Kanzen are no strangers to controversy, because drama would follow their careers even after they were announced as the two newest members of the eUnited roster.
On Sept. 2, several professional players began posting eUnited gifs, but one most of all: a gif of the recently-dropped Callout and Forrest looking at each other then walking away from each other, the phrase "yikes..." in impact font appearing behind them.
What seemed innocuous turned out to be ominous. Moving Callout and Forrest wasn't the only roster change in the cards for eUnited this offseason, and their latest move happened with lightning speed.
At the time SiegeGG spoke to Bagel, he was still the coach at eUnited. On Sept. 3, he was removed from the eUnited roster following an argument where he said what he describes as "something personal" according to a Tweet.
Almost immediately, the Rainbow 6 community was in an uproar. New head coach meepeY declined to comment on Bagel's specific situation during a Twitch stream following the announcement.
Bagel has since deleted all of his non-reply tweets from Sept. 3.
Bagel joined eUnited after moving on from the TSM roster following their third-place finish at the 2020 Six Invitational. He quickly became a polarizing figure due to his comments after leaving TSM.
For now, it appears that Bagel will be taking a step back from the public eye to consider his options moving forward.
Now, meepeY is left pulling double duty as analyst and head coach, and is attempting to pick up the pieces and make something of this current roster.
"I don't foresee any long term issues with me juggling both hats," said meepeY "My analysis work has been trivialized due to extensive work done to automate my spreadsheets. Since I first joined this team I have been acting as a second coach alongside Bagel, offering the team solutions, advice, strategies, etc."
A glimpse under eUnited's new hood reveals two new players who have been through quite a bit and a massive coaching change. It's fairly safe to say that this is a roster in the midst of a significant amount discord, both internally and publicly. What was once a promising squad has seen enough drama between the in-server results and personal relations to derail most hopes and dreams. However, Kanzen, Rexen, and meepeY are still confident that they can compete in the NAL.
"There still are some issues we can fix, like over-peeking and our communication, but we're definitely making steady improvement," said Kanzen.
"I plan to continue what Bagel and myself had built post-roster change; A system where the players can grow together and an environment where everyone can improve," said meepeY. "Without Bagel, it will now lean more towards my style of doing things, but I don't see this as being an issue."
"As of now, I don't know how much I can speak on it, but we're playing a little more traditional Siege, with aggressiveness in between, because that's how we are as a team," said Rexen. "...The playstyle has definitely changed from what it used to be with the two previous players, at least I feel. I feel like with time, we will contend in Majors."
"I don't think we are the worst team."
Currently, eUnited have zero series wins in the NAL to their name. They'll look to change that statistic when the NAL returns.