Version1 take the trophy and qualify for the RCLS Winter Major
March 2 2022
Version1 had the chance to qualify for their first Major. After the team was riddled with inconsistency for so long, their breakout event came in a stunning fashion. Not only did they secure a top-four spot for the split—they took their place atop the podium.
As the third North American Regional began, several teams were on the hunt for a last-minute qualification to the next international Major in Los Angeles. Oxygen Esports looked revitalized, Complexity Gaming was hoping for a bounce-back, and Spacestation Gaming had a star rookie driving them forward. But it was Version1 who took the spotlight.
Underdogs can sometimes sneak through unnoticed. A few close results, they wiggle through some tough series but still finish well. That was not the case for Version1. At the start of the Group Stage, they dominated. They swept all three series 3-0 and allowed fewer than a goal per game. It was impressive enough when they swept Shopify Rebellion, a solid squad in their own right. But NRG? The number one ranked team in North America? This team was making noise.
This fantastic run in the Group Stage set them against Complexity Gaming in the Upper Bracket. It would be their closest series, only securing the victory in a Game 7. Early on, Complexity seemed to be routing their opponents. Some loose touches allowed an aggressive Complexity to create chaos in Version1’s defensive half. Although they fell behind early, some signs emerged about how they would win the event.
Robert “Comm” Kyser likes to hunt for demolitions and bumps, and this play shows how much he can impact a play. Watch it here.
After a hectic run of events left the ball floating on the goal line, Comm got a demolition as he was coming back to defense. The ball was still set for an easy shot, so he quickly jump into the oncoming attacker to stop any chance from coming through.
Version1 was one game away from losing the series. With a 1-3 scoreline, it would require three straight wins to avoid the lower bracket. Their defense tightened up, but their offense was the deciding factor. They scored most of their goals off bump plays. The disruptive play opened up easy chances for Version1. In Game 6, Comm chased down the goalkeeper so Kyle “Torment” Storer could finish with an easy flick for the game-winner. In Game 7, Comm took it upon himself to get both the bump and the goal as he bulldozed the goalkeeper out of the way.
After pulling off the comeback, the reigning Regional champions, G2 Esports, were the next test.
Again, Version1 faced an early deficit. G2 punished Version1’s mistakes and scored on several counterattacks when V1 overcommitted, leading to a 5-1 victory for G2. After that first game, though, Version1 locked in. This time, they were the ones taking the initiative in punishing mistakes from G2 and finding opportunities in transition. Against a team like G2, Torment’s style was unmistakably valuable to his squad’s victory. Part of what made Version1 so successful was Comm’s and Landon “BeastMode” Konerman’s aggression, but Torment anchored the team. He was the Most Back on his team 41% of the time, but that does not mean he was uninvolved. Focusing on Torment throughout the G2 series, he made an absurd number of clutch saves and helped initiate the counterattack. In offense, he recycled possession with his control of the midfield line.
In overtime of Game 3, a rather typical goal added some personality to the team’s exciting run. Check it out here.
On the counterattack, Torment was given space as Comm, as always, went for the demolition. Look at the excitement on their faces as they think the shot goes in—and when it gets saved! Torment quickly put away the rebound, but moments like that when the players are all together for such a thrilling moment make it easy to cheer for them.
After defeating G2, they found themselves in the Grand Finals. Torment is a former World Championship MVP. In a Tweet, he said how happy he was to be back in his first Grand Final in three years. This is only the first split that these three players have been together. It did not take them long to find their style and showcase what they can do together.
At this point, they already secured a spot in Los Angeles. They guaranteed their highest finish as an organization. The only thing left for this weekend was a fight against NRG for the trophy. NRG, the number one team in the region—the team they already swept in the group stage.
Beastmode was one of the best statistical performers of the tournament. He posted a 0.96 goals/game and 67% goal participation. He made his mark early in the biggest match of the tournament. The first goal of the series was a cleverly timed flip reset. A loose ball gave him free possession, and he never hesitated to take to the skies. It looked like he weaved right around the defender at midfield to avoid a bump, and quickly regained control to pop the ball over the goalkeeper at the last second. It was wizardry like this set the pace for the rest of the series.
In Game 2, he scored the equalizer with some quick decision-making in tandem with Comm, who, of course, went for the disruptive bump. He would finish the game with a hat trick.
Version1 went up three games to one and finished the series with a brutal five-goal blowout. Within the first minute, Version1 were up 3-0. Beastmode created several plays upfield, Torment refused to let NRG into his half of the pitch, and Comm was creating goals without hesitation in his physical style. The series was never in doubt as Version1 dominated the matchup. They were reading the play well, executing on their chances, and avoiding mistakes of their own. They were able to turn small opportunities, like their sole goal in Game 3, into highlight plays. A loose ball fall in NRG’s box and Torment was quickly able to find Comm rushing into the box for a tidy passing play.
A notable stat was just how efficient Version1’s offense was in shooting. As a team, they did not generate an overwhelming amount of shots, but they were clinical with the ones that they did send on net. Their team shooting percentage was 29.6%, the best of any team in the tournament. Beastmode and Comm led the effort as both finished with top-five rates.
In the post-match interview after the Grand Finals, Comm discussed how they developed as a team so quickly.
I think we have the best mental of any team. We didn’t get tilted at all, anytime any of us made mistakes, we bounced back extremely easily. And on top of that, none of us have any kind of egos, so we are extremely easy to work with. And we are not afraid to admit our mistakes or point out other people’s mistakes. And we make sure that we are always improving from every single match, every single scrim, and that way we are always getting better going forward.
Comm also commented on his team’s defensive adaptations throughout the split. If conceding less was the objective, it was evident throughout the entire weekend. In the Group Stage, they never conceded more than a single goal in a game. They only allowed NRG, one of the most dangerous offensive teams, to score five goals in the Grand Finals. The dynamic between this solid defensive performance and the ability to disrupt and create opportunities in attack bodes well for the team moving forward. Domestically, Spring Split looks like it will be as intense as ever. Spacestation Gaming barely held onto their top-five spot. Oxygen and Complexity both looked like they could force a late breakthrough. G2 continue to push NRG for the top spot. But before then, we all get to watch Version1 at the Major.
They head to Los Angeles in their peak form. They played 27 games over the weekend, and only lost six. It would always be exciting to follow this team in a surprise run with their Major qualification on the line, but they did it in dominant fashion. Version1 still have lots to prove. In only one split, they have showcased fantastic growth and attitude toward their game. But what they need to prove has switched from “Can they manage to make the Top Eight?” to now, “What can this team pull off on the international stage?”
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Stats courtesy of OctaneGG.
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