Neo has his work cut out to transform FaZe Clan's fortunes
The excitement on social media on Monday was palpable when the news that former Virtus.pro and Golden Five legend Filip ‘Neo’ Kubski would be joining FaZe Clan as a substitute, taking up the role as their in-game leader, immediately replacing Dauren "AdreN" Kystaubayev in the team. While it is understandable to have some expectations when such a legend joins a roster like FaZe, the odds are far higher that this ends up being something of a disaster, with neither the team or the player in the correct place to truly succeed.
Neo led the Virtus.pro five to arguably their most successful period, but it was a long time ago, with titles such as Katowice 2014 and DreamHack Masters Las Vegas in 2017. Equally, the legend of Neo has grown beyond his achievements in CSGO as a game, with many fans struggling to separate the player who played in early versions of the franchise with the Neo we saw performing in Global Offensive, the current iteration of the series.
His last 12 months or so with Virtus.pro saw the team drop out of the top 20, and eventually miss out on even wildcard invites to large events, leading to the organisation deciding to drop the team that had served them for so long. That is no injustice, as they had long since passed the point of being a functional CSGO side, and were still earning the reported $25,000-a-month for doing essentially nothing in competitive CS.
The authority to lead
As a team, FaZe have some fairly unique problems, with a four-man roster of stars that apparently prefer to just play and be told where to go and what to do, according to an interview with their interim in-game leader Nikola ‘NiKo’ Kovač. The most positive spin you could put on the move is that there are few players more legendary than Neo, and respect is something in-game leaders at FaZe have struggled to maintain.
The problem with that theory is that previous in-game leader karrigan is superior, at least over the last couple of years, in most ways. FaZe were unable to make the team work with the Dane in charge, and adding a man who spent his last year on a top team losing to any and all comers seems an odd move, but CSGO is still very immature when it comes to roster moves and scouting generally.
How it works out only time will tell, and it is unfortunate for all involved that their first match as a five came against the new Virtus.pro, which is a collection of Polish players you’ve probably never heard of, and who certainly aren’t on as much money as the former five or the FaZe guys. Things looked OK in that match before VP brought it back with 11 consecutive rounds to take the victory, suggesting Neo has to see into the code itself if he wants to turn this dysfunctional team into a new Golden Five.
Picture: Helena Kristiansson / ESL