Image via SiegeGG
With the first week of NAL competition looming, we have some key storylines heading into the stage. The reigning SI Champions, TSM FTX, are looking to rebound against an old foe, while the reigning Charlotte Major champs, DarkZero Esports, are looking to maintain their momentum. Here's some key storylines for the first week of Stage 2.
NAL Stage 1 was full of surprises: Spacestation, TSM FTX, and Soniqs struggled out of the gate, and did not qualify for the Major. On the first day, these three all have matches that will give a solid look at where they're at.
TSM FTX faces off against old boogeyman, Mirage. That isn't a typo: Mirage has defeated TSM FTX in their past three meetings. Who else better to shake off the rust than the team whose upsets have defined their regional inconsistency. Arguably, Mirage is the weakest team in the NAL. A solid win against Mirage would be big for TSM FTX's confidence heading into the stage.
Soniqs take on Astralis -- who embarrassed them with a 7-1 thumping in the opening game of the last stage. If Soniqs really have rebounded, a great performance, -- and maybe a win -- against the Charlotte Major finalists Astralis will be a good start.
Spacestation took XSET to church the last time they played. Since then, XSET has improved by leaps and bounds. A solid win over either team for either side would be a good start. Spacestation needs it a bit more, however: they missed the Charlotte Major by two rounds, and had to watch the team that beat them win the tournament.
Arguably, the best head-to-head matchup of the first week will be the first. The Troy "Canadian" Jaroslawski vs. Adam "Drip" Kolodokin rivalry enters a new era. DarkZero is coming off a Major title, and beastcoast is coming off a stage that saw them a mere regulation win from making a Major. These two individuals have traded barbs in the past. It's clear they respect each other as players, but don't think each other are exactly in the best position for success.
Both teams, like all, will be looking to make a statement. In a league with only nine best-of-ones every three months, every single round is necessary to qualify for a Major.
The league welcomes two new players: Tyler "Kento" Ross with Mirage, and Shaun "Gunnar" Pottorff with Parabellum. Both have been highly-touted prospects for some time, and in many ways are the future of the league.
Both will also be thrown directly into the fire. Kento will be facing off against TSM FTX, Gunnar against Oxygen. Those two teams are unforgiving first opponents. Regardless of the opponent, all eyes will be on this pair of players as they make their debut in North America's premiere Rainbow Six Siege league.
Last stage, Astralis, beastcoast, and XSET impressed fans and analystswith their combination of aggression and young mechanical talents.
However, do you know what's harder than making it to the top? Staying on top. Astralis was the No. 1 team in Stage 1, XSET was the No. 3. Beastcoast was just one win away from stealing a Major spot. However, now all of these teams have to face off against the veterans, who likely aren't too happy about their spots being occupied by teams and players that mostly were on the outside looking in during 2021.
How these young teams react will determine the direction of the league in 2022. Will the league increase in long-term competition -- will iron sharpen iron -- or will these teams regress to the mean?