The road to BDS's first international title

January 4 2022

Team BDS defined the RLCS X season. At the end of the year, they would finish with nearly two thousand circuit points more than the nearest opponent. Their most convincing achievement was the clean sweep of the three European Majors, defeating Renault Vitality twice and Solary once.

BDS FULL-LOGOTYPE RGB DARK-2

Image source: Team BDS

Without in-person events, BDS’ historic season finished during the Rocket League European Championship, where Vitality defeated them in two series. It was an incredible season for BDS, even if the last match did not go their way, and everyone wondered what could have been if there was a typical World Championship. As RLCS 2021-22 is still young, many more stories are to come, but BDS put together an incredible run to secure their first international title. Here is their path to follow up their RLCS X campaign with a trophy at the Stockholm Fall Major.

Regional 1 vs. Endpoint

After such an impressive RLCS X, it was fitting for BDS to make the new season’s first finals immediately. Their opposition would be Endpoint, the latest contender to threaten BDS’ reign atop Europe. Both series would go to Game 7, but Endpoint would win them both.

Despite BDS having a solid showing themselves, they could not take down Endpoint, who were playing near their peak level. BDS would put together extended pressure, sometimes outright dominating in the attacking third, but Endpoint would withstand the pressure with composure. As RLCS caster John “JohnnyBoi_i” MacDonald said during the series, “Even in tournaments they have lost in the past year, it is not usually a struggle to score that’s their problem. The other team will just sometimes get the better of them in the midfield, or out pressure BDS, maybe BDS are making some misplays.”

Endpoint would continue to be a threat throughout the rest of the Fall Split, but it was an early sign that BDS would not be able to repeat last season’s trophy haul as easily as might be hoped. In the first series, BDS went up three games to one. They allowed Endpoint to come back, despite the triple-series point. In the second series, it was BDS who had to crawl back from being down three games to one, but Endpoint snagged the victory in overtime of Game 7. At one point, Endpoint had won six of seven games in the series.

This would be the only finals BDS would reach in any of the three Regionals. The stage had been set for a grueling battle on their way through the rest of the split to reestablish their dominance.

Regional 2 vs. Dignitas

The next tournament would see BDS face another team playing at a level to put themselves in the category of teams capable of pushing for the top spot in Europe. Dignitas and BDS would face each other in the semi-finals, and Dignitas would go on to win the Regional. It was one of BDS’ most humbling defeats of the season so far.

In five games, BDS only scored two goals. Dignitas’ defense was solid throughout the entire series, only allowing one game where BDS felt in control. Even during that game, Game 2, Dignitas would win in overtime since BDS could not generate many dangerous opportunities despite the 10-4 shot count difference. The few chances they did fashion for themselves were often wasted with some poor finishing, as evidenced by their 6% shooting percentage.

BDS’ own defense was put to the test. Dignitas relied on air dribbles much more frequently than BDS, giving their players time to set up solo plays. This is showcased in several goals like an air dribble dunk from Joris “Joreuz” Robben in Game 1 or Kyle “Scrub Killa” Robertson’s impressive delayed shot off the sidewall in Game 5.

The largest warning sign of BDS’ troubles came from their own defensive miscues, however. As a team, they struggled to generate many counter-attacks to relieve pressure, but individual moments also became a trend. Much of the criticism leveled toward Marc “MaRc_By_8” could be supplemented by examples from this series. In Game 1, he spiked a clearance off the ceiling and back into the waiting Dignitas attackers. In Game 4, he was caught creeping off the goal line, setting up an open net shot for Joreuz.

Despite the passing plays lacking a final touch, or conceding a goal due to an impressive dribble, a much more convincing showing would be expected from the future Major champions. As impressive as Dignitas were, leading to their Regional trophy that weekend, BDS once again were left to ponder how they could get back to the top of Europe. BDS were still lining up for an easy qualification to Stockholm, but they did not inspire confidence for reaching their peak form.

Regional 3 vs. SMPR Esports

The European Grand Prix offered one last chance to win a trophy in the domestic campaign during the Fall Split. Yet again, BDS fell short of the finals. It was a tough matchup against SMPR, a team known for having a solid defense, that at least showed some of BDS’ ability to create against difficult opponents. Their shooting accuracy let them down again, though. They only had a 17% shooting percentage compared to SMPR’s 31%.

BDS did not hold a lead until there was barely more than a minute left in Game 3. It had been over seventeen minutes of game time to that point. The one positive way to look at it was that it was finally on an impressive goal as Evan “Monkey_M00n” Rogez initiated a solo counter-attack. As BDS continued to generate more and more shots throughout the series, a hope flickered that they might be regaining their stride.

After falling one game to three, BDS once again found themselves desperate for a win to make the finals. In Game 5, they got one of those inspiring wins that can swing a series’ momentum. SMPR took a commanding lead, 4-1, but BDS stormed back by scoring four unanswered goals to steal the victory and provide a lifeline. This goal by MaRc_By_8 showcased the incredible playmaking from players like Monkey_M00n that fans are used to seeing.

MonkeyMoon Corner Pass

Monkeymoon Corner Pass to Marcby8 on Twitch

However, it would not be enough for BDS as SMPR would take the series in Game 6 overtime. Both overtimes in the series went over four minutes. It is frustrating for teams to be able to defend for four minutes without taking at least one of those tight games. Those moments were too common in the series against a SMPR team that looked to outclass BDS in midfield for extended periods of time. Just like BDS struggled to maintain their dominant challenge game against Dignitas in the previous Regional, SMPR was able to win the ball too frequently in BDS’ own half. BDS were unable to start counter-attacks with regularity, meaning any mistake would be heavily punished by their opponent.

BDS made another semi-final, but it was just another tournament where they fell short of their goal. They had easily secured their spot in Sweden, though, and could begin working out their slight problems with confidence that they had some building blocks.

Fall Major Swiss Stage

The Swiss stage began with worrying signs once more for BDS. An impressive, underdog team in Complexity Gaming had come to play against the reigning European champions. Complexity snagged a 2-1 game lead, and all of a sudden, BDS were left on the brink of even more criticism. Were they really about to fall to North America’s fifth seed in the first round?

Putting any signs of trouble out of mind, they won the final two games to secure an important victory. A Game 4 overtime victory and a 1-0 shutout in Game 5 made sure they took down an eventual Top-8 finisher. It was not an electric offensive performance, but their defense ensured they stayed tight throughout the series. They conceded three goals in the first game, but never more than one through the final four games. They did not score more than two goals of their own in a single game, but some of the flair and important midfield pressure had started to return.

Their second-round matchup was the most hyped meeting for international teams entering the Major- BDS vs NRG. It was the true breakthrough match for BDS, leaving fans finally wanting more after a critical match. It was a 3-1 series victory for BDS, and much of it was due to Monkey_M00n’s influence. He was scoring goals like his Game 3 redirect hit perfectly to the top corner, or his Game 4 series-winner. His midfield presence was pivotal as he kept possession for his team, set up plays, and helped take possession away from a dangerous NRG attack.

Suddenly, BDS was sitting 2-0 in the Swiss standings and had already defeated the first North American seed. Fans could not know for sure that it would finish with BDS facing NRG in the Grand Finals, but it was certainly a fine way for BDS to show once again what makes them great. Against NRG, they only conceded three goals in four games and their midfield play was finally paying dividends toward their success.

The only faltering step would come against FaZe Clan—some may even sweat reading the words, “Firstkiller in attack.” If BDS truly was still below the level required of them, this series would be the type to prove it. FaZe Clan took the series three games to one. It would have been difficult for any team to run through the tournament undefeated, so a loss to FaZe Clan was not ideal, but hardly the end. It showed that BDS was still vulnerable, but several highlight goals from their opponents were understandable rather than incriminating. They displayed speed of their own necessary to keep up with teams that are so reliant on it. For example, Extra’s goal in Game 2 exhibited his awareness to turn on the play and catch a high ball in the attacking half to put one in the net. Likewise, MaRc_By_8 followed up an aggressive Extra interception in Game 3 to pounce on a mistouch from the FaZe defender.

BDS locked in their quarter-finals in the fourth round of the Swiss, a tough matchup against their chief competitor from Europe in Endpoint. It went to Game 5 when BDS finally broke away with six goals to secure the series. It was another series demonstrating their capability when playing at their best. In Games 2 and 3, both victories for BDS in overtime, they only conceded one goal in thirteen minutes of game time.

Not only were they able to shut down a potent offense, all three members of BDS got involved in the offense. All three players posted a goal participation of 55%. Their Game 3 overtime winner was a perfect example of all three getting involved. Monkey_M00n intercepted the ball and set up Extra, who dropped the ball on a high aerial to MaRc_By_8 for a powerful shot that deflected off a defender. There were still moments of concern, as BDS’s six-goal game slightly skewed the goal difference in the series. You cannot erase that game from happening, but BDS had five to Endpoint’s six goals until that point. It was an intense series against a top contender, but BDS got the result when they needed it to avoid a nerve-wracking win-or-go-home Round 5.

Fall Major Top 8 bracket

A rematch against Complexity awaited in the quarterfinals. BDS’ quality shone through once again. Their ability to remain composed against scrappy teams that demonstrate lots of flair in the attack was key to setting up dangerous counterattacks. Complexity was unrefined with many of their touches, giving BDS opportunities to jump on the play and read the play quickly enough to set each other up for goals. One example of Complexity’s poor defensive touch allows MaRc_By_8 to set up a pass and instantly try to disrupt the goalkeeper.

Mark Monkey Moon

Check out MaRc_By_8 to Monkey_M00n Disruptive Play on Twitch

MaRc_By_8 continued his redemptive arc throughout the tournament, and it showed against Complexity as BDS began to look truly dangerous again. Despite some criticism for uncharacteristic misses during the series, Monkey_M00n put up a timely performance with a 73% goal participation, the best on his team while averaging a goal per game. BDS won the first three games in the series to set themselves up to finish the job in Game 6 and create another rematch- not against a team that they already played in Sweden, but against SMPR, the team that defeated them in the third Regional.

It was the semi-finals, and SMPR was fresh from a victory against Dignitas, the team that went through the entire Swiss stage without dropping a game. If SMPR could beat Dignitas—a speedy, flashy team—were SMPR threats to BDS, too? BDS answered that question with a resounding performance. They ran away with the series through a combination of explosive games, where they scored five goals in Game 3 and another six goals in Game 6, along with controlling, limiting games like Game 1. They only managed three shots of their own in that game but still claimed the win as they made SMPR’s offense look flat.

SMPR only managed a 10% shooting percentage throughout the series. BDS’ ability to stifle opposition in such a fashion is their trademark. In this series, it led to a 15-4 goal difference in their favor. Any criticism, any doubts—suddenly, gone. BDS were in the Grand Finals for their debut LAN tournament after their year-long reign throughout RLCS X.

The top seed from North America, NRG, had put themselves between BDS and any title, though. It was sure to be a tough matchup despite BDS defeating NRG in the Swiss stage. In their half of the semifinals, NRG walked through FaZe Clan as Justin “justin.” Morales continued his electric tournament.

Early in the series, BDS looked set for the challenge. After dropping Game 1, they roared back by winning six games in a row. It was tense as all of those victories were by a single goal, but that is to be expected in the Grand Finals. Tight moments make the difference against teams like NRG that boast big-time talent like justin. BDS were decisive, showed little hesitation, and used that to capitalize on chances that only appeared for a moment. In Game 3, a M0nkey_M00n challenge rocketed off the backboard for MaRc_By_8 to beat both defenders. In that overtime, Extra hit a clearance to the side wall and hit the early redirect to score over Garrett “GarrettG” Gordon. Those are only two goals among many from BDS that demonstrated their speed and ability to read the game faster than their opponents in crucial moments.

Any Grand Finals is going to be a demanding challenge. Winning two Best-of-Sevens takes consistency, focus, and determination. The first series looked comfortable, featuring the first four games of their dominant six-game stretch, but NRG bounced back to make the second series more nerve-wracking. It was interesting to follow the BDS players’ reactions throughout the match. They seemed nearly as excited to kill the ball when holding off an NRG comeback as they were when they actually secured the first set. In the final moments of Game 7 in the second series, with a two-goal lead, it was set. BDS were seconds away from victory. MaRc_By_8 pulled off one final save, and BDS were champions. Their reaction was most telling—no screaming, no instant group hug. They looked like they felt relief after such a trying tournament against the best teams in the world. They had proven to everyone they were still on top. Their legacy, if ever in doubt after such an extraordinary RLCS X, had been pushed to greater heights as they claimed victory at their first-ever international event.

Team BDS Stockholm Major 2

Image source: Rocket League Esports

Follow Team BDS on Twitter and Twitch to stay up to date with their latest news.

Stats credit to OctaneGG

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Matt Gerrity
Matt Gerrity

Sports fanatic, card game connoisseur, and fan of the Oxford comma. Make sure to support your healers.

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