Image: Ubisoft/Joao Ferreira
World Champions TSM have had a tough 2022, but they finally managed to qualify for the Jönköping Major in Stage 3, their first event since winning the cabre in February. To do so, they brought in two new rookie players straight from the Challenger League, after somewhat surprisingly dropping Brady "Chala" Davenport and Emilio "Geometrics" Leynez.
But now, Geometrics stands in their way having reignited his fire on his new team, Soniqs.
Soniqs’ presence here is somewhat more surprising, especially given their far more sizeable changes that included an IGL retirement -- even if TSM, too, made two changes. This super team has broken past the group stage for the first time in Soniqs' fourth Major as the reigning NAL champions finally gained some teeth.
Who are the favourites?
No matter who they're playing, Jason "Beaulo" Doty will be the fan favourite and, despite being the second seeded team, fans may have a point here.
TSM won Stage 3 of the NAL ahead of Soniqs, have previously made it to the top four at SI 2022, 2021, 2020, and DreamHack Montreal 2019. And at the first and last events, not only were they top four, they won it all, and continue to have a trio of world-class fraggers under their now FTX-less banner.
Additionally, Soniqs first seed came from what's widely seen to be the easiest group. This isn't to say they don't deserve their spot in the playoffs or will not be able to win this game, but there's a massive jump between beating CAG and MNM to beating TSM.
Soniqs have completely avoided Kafe and Theme Park, while TSM avoid Border and Skyscraper almost completely.
TSM has beaten Soniqs in five out of their seven meetings since the NAL started, with Soniqs wins coming during Stage 1 in 2022 and Stage 1 in 2021.
Their three most recent meetings came on Chalet, Clubhouse, and Bank, with Soniqs only winning the former.
Statistically, Soniqs’ best map is Clubhouse, while TSM prefer Bank. This would make TSM's Stage 2 win over Soniqs on Clubhouse notable, but four players across both teams have changed since.
With no overlap in favoured and most banned maps, we're more likely to go to three maps as one team isn't greatly favoured by the map pool.
Currently Keegan "Gasher" Slovensky has the lowest kill rate in the tournament. While he is the hard breach player on TSM, it is notable that many of the other top teams see more plants and kills from their hard support. This is less of an issue in this game, though. Just ahead of Gasher in this metric as the player with the second lowest kill rate is Geometrics, Soniqs' hard breach.
Nick "Snake" Janis, meanwhile, is third on TSM by SiegeGG Rating. Compared to his NAL performance, he's gone from TSM's top player by opening record to completely even in this metric and it will be interesting to see whether this figure returns to its prior heights against NA opponents.
On the other hand, TSM has Matthew "Achieved" Solomon doing better than expected, who went from a rather disappointing 0.89 Rating in the NAL to becoming the lone TSM player with more opening kills than deaths.
That is even better than Bryan "Merc" Wrzek, who was the sixth-best fragger in the NAL in Stage 3, but is now going negative.
Obviously, comparing a nine game NAL stage to a middling group stage performance will see a fall in their statistics, but the key is looking at where the drops have occurred. This shows us that Merc was the big missing piece in these games and probably the player to watch in this upcoming quarter-final for TSM.
Soniqs’ player to watch is obviously Geometrics. As well as being the new guy, the most successful guy, and the guy at the center of the grudge match, he is also the guy who has had the most disappointing performance.
While a hard breach player finishing with the lowest Rating isn't surprising, he was doing better than this in the NAL where he went even. Now, against arguably easier opponents and while his team was dominating five out of six games played, he finished with 26 kills to 40 deaths and with only half of his team's defuser plants.
The rest of the team is about as you'd expect. Richie "Rexen" Coronado and Pablo "Gryxr" Rebeil are leading the team by kills as they have for multiple years at this point, while Gunnar, though not quite at his Parabellum numbers, has become a required backbone of the roster.
It is a good sign that no matter who they face, NA, APAC, LATAM, or EU, they're really consistent. The issue is that they lost against TSM twice in a row already and need to be more than their consistent selves.
Who will win?
TSM have the head to head, the NAL Stage title, the fans behind them -- a notable advantage considering it'll be in front of a crowd -- and have a history of titles. While a Geometrics revenge tour is very possible, money probably should be on the world champions.
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