The Brazilian-majority XSET took NA by storm after SI 2022, buying the 10th NAL license and assembling an all-new roster to replace its old one that was relegated at the end of the 2021 season.
In their very first NAL stage, despite their inexperience and lack of time together, XSET qualified for the Six Charlotte Major and finished the group stage in second place.
But at the start of the first day of playoffs, they were rocked by a shocking ruling -- their coach, Matheus "Budega" Figueiredo, was suspended for 12 months and fined for repeated rulebook violations. The suspension meant that he could not be on stage during the Major and NAL, though he could still coach the team in an off-stage capacity.
When speaking to SiegeGG shortly after the announcement and before their quarter-final against Astralis, Leonardo "Kyno" Figueiredo put on a brave front, saying that his team could “definitely push through” Budega’s suspension. But after their 0-2 loss, he revealed that the team had been badly hit and “didn't even know when to call timeouts”.
Now, they head to their second event in a row -- the Berlin Major -- but with a full stage of practice without Budega behind them on the stage.
“The boys couldn’t focus on the game, we couldn’t focus on our strats… our prep for the game was just talk about the bans and that’s it,” recalled Budega in an interview with SiegeGG ahead of the Berlin Major.
As a result of the ban, XSET’s players also had their focus split in the short downtime between the end of the Major and the start of Stage 2, he added. Furthemore, assistant coach Igor "Vivas" Vivas was still awaiting his US work visa, which also meant that they had to play their first five games in Stage 2 without either him or Budega on the stage.
“[Getting those four games at least] has been very crucial, I mean, for Vivas,” said Budega. “It’s been his first experience as a (head) coach.”
While Budega says the energy Vivas exudes on stage is very different to him (Vivas is more quietly analytical than loudly energetic, for one) both of them think the same way, calling timeouts at identical moments and “talk(ing) about strats same as [each other]”.
Despite some serious consideration lent to retirement, Budega returned to coaching XSET behind-the-scenes after being convinced by his players and the XSET COO.
“Everything that you see from XSET, every single play, every single step has been through my game,” said Budega about his role in the team since the suspension. “I had a participation in every single aspect of XSET.”
Stage 2 of the NAL was extremely touch-and-go for every team except Oxygen Esports and Mirage, with the former being the first in the world to qualify for the Major. XSET, like Astralis and Soniqs, only qualified on the final play day. Small margins certainly came into play, and a “deepened strat-book” was vital for XSET.
There was much pressure on XSET to make it on the final day, with Budega not shying away from exposing his players to the reality of the situation.
“What I told basically to the boys was that we had to play like a bunch of ‘MFs’,” he revealed. “I didn’t wanna hide anything from the players, this was a very pressure game and they should feel the pressure.”
Sure enough, XSET delivered, beating OXG to qualify for the Berlin Major.
Now, they’ll have to “embrace the pressure” again next week in Berlin as they hope to properly showcase their potential and progress past the quarter-finals.
Catch XSET on the international stage again at the Berlin Major, which will run from Aug. 15 to 21, and read up on everything you need to know about the event.