When Team Vitality bought into the off-season roster bonanza after a sixth-place finish in the final European Pro League season, they showed an intent to compete with the strongest teams in the region. Signing legendary In-Game Leader Fabian "Fabian" Hällsten from G2 Esports and their own former support player Valentin "risze" Liradelfo from Rogue, much was expected of this new Vitality.
The two were replacing Loïc "BriD" Chongthep, who joined rivals BDS Esport and brought them to the top, and Teemu "Stigi" Sairi, who joined GiFu eSports, with a clear direction that they needed more experience moving forward.
The moves brought a higher expectation to Vitality and a new level of intrigue, with Fabian starting a new journey in his highly decorated career and bringing his acclaimed leadership style to the French roster, for the likes of highly-rated fragger Bastien "BiBoo" Dulac and a reunion with former G2 teammate in support Daniel "Goga" Mazorra Romero to progress on to the next level.
While the change in direction was going to take time, the expectation was that Team Vitality would push on from the previous season.
The new European League was the perfect start for this roster to build and become a recognised force within the region. With no relegation worries until stage three when only one team face that prospect, the inclusion of two new teams from the Challenger League to round the league off at 10 should have meant a team like Vitality would have been in a position of team's who was expected improved from their previous season.
This was not the case, however, as the first five play days saw Vitality struggle with only a win and a draw during this time. This was despite the fact that they had promising results in the 6 French League and the team openly admitting that it was unable to transfer their scrim performances into league play. This also included the fateful first meeting between G2 and Team Vitality that saw neither Fabian nor the rest of the team, perform to an expected level.
In fact, it was only BiBoo who was able to play to the level that had been expected of the entire team, abd thankfully this was a trend he continued with a Stage 1 rating of 1.12, a KOST of 69%, and an average KPR of 0.84. Without his performances during the stage, Team Vitality would have been in a deeper hole than they found themselves in.
The last four play days are when Vitality seemed to start clicking as a unit and feeling more comfortable with the new playing style and In-Game Leadership style Fabian brings, with the team beating both Team Empire in play day seven 7-3 on Clubhouse and then stunning eventual stage winners Rogue 7-2 on Kafe.
While they lost to Na'Vi 7-4 on Oregon, it was their first game on the newly redesigned map and one that Na'Vi showed an early preference to, which allows them a pass. The draw against Chaos Esports on Kafe seemed to be more of an underestimation of Chaos than a dip in form again, as they had to battle back from 4-2 down on their attack and defend for their lives to bring it back.
The late-season turn around was vital for the team as it pulled them back towards the middle of the table in what was an incredibly close and competitive Stage 1. Fabian finding his rhythm with the roster was clear to see and despite his 0.07 rating in his first match against G2, he still managed a stage rating of 1.00, a KPR of 0.72, and a headshot percentage of 52%, showing that he was starting to make his shots count as he went along.
Hungry and Goga both seemed more comfortable, too, as they went on as Hungry had an average rating of 0.99 and a 69% KOST, while Goga’s average rating was 0.96, which should not be taken lightly.
The major break has also seemed to helped Vitality get on the same page as they beat BDS Esport 7-4 in the return of the 6 French League Season 2 to position themselves well for the return of the European League’s second stage.
If Vitality continues of this projection, though it may have taken them longer than anyone expected it to, they may just be able to contend for a spot at the European Six November Major.