The Season 2 finals of the ESL ESEA Pro League kick off tomorrow at the ESL studios in Burbank, California, where eight of the top teams from both Europe and North America will battle it out for the Pro League championship title and the lion’s share of the US$500,00 prize pool.
In the leadup to the event, we chatted with competing players Andreas “Xyp9x” Højsleth of ? (formerly Team SoloMid) about the upcoming finals, his team’s recent performance and more.
ESL: Hi there! We of course have to start with the big news you shared with the world recently about leaving the Team SoloMid organization after nearly a year. For now, you will be operating under “?” - when can we expect the big new organization reveal?
Andreas “Xyp9x” Højsleth: Hehe, you can expect us to reveal it when the time is right - I can’t say much about that. We have, however, already decided where we are going to play next year.
ESL: Let’s go back a bit by talking a bit about the team’s recent performance, specifically at Intel Extreme Masters San Jose. How did it feel to play at North America’s first ever stadium CS:GO event?
Xyp9x: It was amazing - the US fans are very enthusiastic, even though we faced Cloud9. A lot of people were rooting for them - it was a great atmosphere to play in, and that’s where we pro players want to play. Although it’s nice to play in a quiet place (e.g. a studio), it’s just not the same as when you have thousands of fans roaring in front of you.
ESL: You made it all the way to the finals but eventually lost to Natus Vincere, who had a great showing. Can you tell us a bit about the matchup and what you think went wrong?
Xyp9x: Guardian had a lot of impact against us which we couldn’t shut down, and he played a great match - so did his whole team. We thought the Dust2 game was in our hands, but at the end of the match they knew what we were doing and they were countering us pretty hard. The Cobblestone match was brutal, and we didn’t get into it properly as we lost the first half 14-1. With respect to Na’Vi, it felt like we did everything wrong in that match, and it’s a match I don’t want to remember :)
ESL: You most recent tournament was DreamHack Winter. You breezed through the group stage with a 2-0 score, including a perfect 16-0 win over Team Liquid. Your run ended in the semifinals where you lost to Luminosity Gaming, who went pretty much from zero to hero during the event. Tell us about your games against them and why you think they had such a great performance.
Xyp9x: We won the first map pretty convincingly, which was their map pick, so we felt quite confident going into the next map, which was Overpass (a map which we had won our previous 23/24 matches). And as much as we won the first map convincingly, they outplayed us on our home map 6-16. It was very confusing and the last map was Inferno, which went to overtime and was a game I believe they deserved to win. They just changed two players and with great success. I was also surprised at how many tactics they used and how coordinated they were considering they had just swapped out two players before the LAN. So them being organized - and they are also incredibly skilled individuals - was what beat us at DreamHack Winter. I look forward to meeting them again!
ESL: You placed first in the Season 2 standings of the ESL Pro League with eighteen wins and four losses. Do you think you could say that the online matches were quite easy for you for the most part?
Xyp9x: We started the online season off with one win followed by two losses, so at that time we were struggling hard. So I wouldn’t say it was easy, and the scores in some of the matches was very close and could have gone either way. I think, however, we had a very good period of online games during the season where we won a lot of matches in a row. So it wasn’t easy, but we were on a good streak at the time the online part happened.
ESL: Do you think the North American teams will give the Europeans a hard time or will Europe prevail once again, even on American soil?
Xyp9x: Of course the Europeans are favorites in this tournament. However, Luminosity showed up great at DreamHack and that was without practice with their new lineup. Now they have had some time to practice, and I expect them to show up great in LA.
ESL: Are there any particular matchups you’re looking forward to? Perhaps a rematch versus Luminosity Gaming?
Xyp9x: Hehe, yeah, as mentioned earlier I look forward to a rematch against Luminosity. We might be able to do that in the groups depending on how the matchups play out.
ESL: You are often the favorite to win any tournament you take part in but most of the time you don’t reach the very top. What do you think is the team’s Kryptonite?
Xyp9x: I don’t know if we’re “the favorite” to win any tournaments, but we are up there. I think we get pressured too much in big tournaments and it gets a big chaotic sometimes. It’s something we are trying to work on and get on the right track, but it’s a hard task.
ESL: 2015 is almost at its end - can you reflect on your and the team’s performance in the past year? What are you most proud of and what were your biggest disappointments?
Xyp9x: Taking 2014 into consideration, where we never went to a final, 2015 has been a very successful year for us. Winning five LAN tournaments and getting into ten finals is a great achievement. The biggest disappointment of 2015 is that we didn’t show up the same way in the big tournaments.
ESL: What can we expect from the team in 2016?
Xyp9x: You can expect a motivated team and a team that is even more eager to win titles and major tournaments than before. We have proved we can do it and now we just need to replicate it and get the consistency back. DreamHack and Fragbite Masters weren’t particularly great tournaments for us and it is a slap in the face, but we will bounce back.
ESL: Thanks for taking your time to chat with us! Would you like to make any shoutouts?
Xyp9x: Thanks for the interview. Yes, I’d like to thank all the fans watching us and cheering for us and sticking with us even though we are having a rough period!
Tune in for the great matches ahead
The CS:GO Pro League finals begin tomorrow, December the 10th, at 10:00 PST. Be sure to join us online for all the action - you can find the full schedule and available Twitch channels here.