-nitr0, -zews? How do you fix Team Liquid?

It’s rare that we learn something about a team from a tournament they didn’t attend, but somehow this weekend it happened. As ESL One New York was coming to a shuddering halt on Sunday night, with a ChrisJ-inspired Mousesports taking out a Team Liquid that could and should have finished the series an hour earlier in their favour, Astralis stretched their lead at the top of the world rankings.

Admittedly, the Danes did play on the weekend passed, in Istanbul at another one of the Blast Pro Series events. For those not in the know, the events are owned and run by the same people who own the Astralis org, meaning there is a serious lack of competitive integrity before a pistol has been fired in anger and, while we make no specific accusation of conflict of interests being abused, the simple potential for it is enough to make esports look stupid.

No, it was the Grand Final of ESL One New York that really rubber-stamped our current world order, as Team Liquid snatched defeat from the jaws of victory against Mousesports. Even with their star man, Twistzz, playing out of his mind, the overall five-man unit once again failed to show the killer instinct they need to challenge at the top level, and fell 3-2 in the Grand Final.


As it turns out, this is far from the first time that Liquid have got to the final hurdle only to crash into it like a drunk baby taking out a Jenga tower and the other contenders for the crown are equally flawed in other ways. Na’Vi were already out of ESL One NY, having lost to Gambit, while FaZe Clan are eating themselves from the inside out, apparently for our viewing pleasure.

Flaw at the core

Most of the pieces are already in place for Team Liquid, which is what makes their current predicament so frustrating to observe. In TACO they have a world class support, something FaZe and Mouz lack at the moment, and in the Twistzz/NAF/EliGE axis there is more talent that in most five man teams combined.

Even their coach, zews, is considered one of the best in the world, although you do have to question that when you look at their record in big finals since he joined in the dying moments of 2016. In fact, if you were to cast doubt on any part of the Liquid project right now it would have to be zews and nitr0, the in-game leader/AWP player, who get the majority of the criticism, as they are the ones responsible for turning talent into trophies.

Whether it is nitr0 or zews who needs to improve or leave is a more complicated question, but there needs to be more examination of exactly what the Brazilian legend brings to the table for this team. Many experts are happy to credit him with much of the success and leave the IGL to take the flak, but if you were to change nitr0, it would also make a massive amount of sense to this writer to consider changing zews, or at least give the new leader that option.

Who knows, that might not make any difference long term, but it’s time to ask the question. Ever since his attempt to return as a player, zews has enjoyed a great reputation while earning a lot of money in North America. The fact he has failed to turn one of the most talented rosters ever to come out of that region into event winners has to be laid at his door, if you also want to credit him with Liquid’s progress, and after New York it may be time for the owners to accept their current leadership structure is the problem.

The talent has proved itself time and time again, but as long as the plan is weak and the mindset shaky, the Danes will continue to take home the bacon, and Liquid will miss the solidity they need to win the titles this core obviously deserves. It’s time to ask why, when Cloud 9 can win a Major, the best American mix ever can’t even beat Mousesports in the Grand Final of ESL One New York, and how we fix that.