Opinion

Epitácio “TACO” de Melo - A TACO sandwiched between Burgers and Poutine

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Past week, TACO parted ways with SK Gaming, the team he helped grow into one of CS:GO’s all-time great squads and two-time Major winners.

When he and fnx joined FalleN, coldzera and fer in Luminosity in 2015, it immediately propelled the Brazilians into the highest spheres of Counter-Strike.

Typically, when a team brings in two new players, an adjustment period of three to six months is required to reach its full potential. Oh boy, did Luminosity demonstrate what’s possible with exactly zero days of practice before competing in the FACEIT Stage 3 Finals in 2015 right after TACO and fnx joined.

Unforgotten is their run into the finals of FACEIT Stage 3 after getting stomped 16-0 by Fnatic in the opener, laughter was abound, and the always quick to judge community already deemed the roster move a failure. What followed was one of the most memorable and miraculous runs in CS:GO, where Luminosity made it out of groups, ahead of NiP and Team EnVyUs, two of the strongest sides back then, before beating Team SoloMid in the semi-finals (karrigan, device, dupreeh, cajunb, Xyp9x), another top five team at the time.

In the finals the invincible boys from Fnatic awaited again, again proving too much to handle in a tight three map series. Still, with a second place finish at their first tournament with the world’s elite teams in attendance, TACO and his boys left an impressive mark.

And only five months later, TACO & Co. won their first Major at MLG Columbus, the beginning of utter Brazilian dominance in the first half of 2016. Gold medals at DreamHack Open Austin and ESL Pro League Season 3 followed, a second place finish at the ECS Season 1 finals and after the move to SK Gaming the Brazilians won their second, back-to-back Major title at ESL One Cologne 2016 against Team Liquid.

After that title, TACO’s team fell into its first slump. For the remainder of 2016 no more trophies followed, which led to another roster change – felps joined SK to replace fnx. The move reanimated the Brazilians as they collected five more titles in the first half of 2017 (cs_summmit 1, IEM Sydney, DH Open Summer, ECS Season 3 Finals, ESL One Cologne 2017).

With boltz in the line-up, who rejoined the roster to replace felps, another three titles at EPICENTER 2017, BLAST Pro Series Copenhagen and ESL Pro League Season 6 Finals were added to the cabinet.

In total, TACO collected 13 titles since 2015 with Luminosity and SK Gaming, more than any other team in that timespan, making him a crucial part of one of CS:GO’s all-time great teams, alongside Fnatic and NiP. An argument for any of those three sides to be the GOAT can be made.

Finally, after an underwhelming start into 2018, with an unacceptable group stage exit at WESG China, TACO noticed he was no longer happy playing for SK and felt that change was needed to boost his state of mind again.

In hindsight, it is admirable TACO stayed with SK for as long as he did. As SK’s support player, fragging wasn’t his responsibility. That’s why he became the team’s scapegoat every time they lost. It really is a testimony to the strength of his character, how well he dealt with the often vicious and unbearable abuse he received from fans of the Brazilian team.

Especially when we consider how underserved that abuse was. TACO is the quintessential embodiment of a support player. He’s willing to sacrifice everything for the success of the team. He’s a very intelligent player who rarely blunders. He can lurk and entry kill. His aim is underrated, especially on the Deagle he is amongst the world’s best.

Often overlooked is how clutch TACO is, with a clutch percentage as good as coldzera’s. He doesn’t get nervous and doesn’t whiff when it matters most. Just think of his 1v1 against karrigan at ELEAGUE’s Major in 2017 to force OT.  

Now, when it comes to Team Liquid, it seems odd they would undergo a roster change after having evolved into NA’s number one team in the past six months. They are dominating in ESL Pro League Season 7 and probably still haven’t reached their full potential.

And Zews did go on record to state that, in fact, Liquid weren’t looking to change players, as there is no reason to change a winning team. It was just a lucky coincidence that TACO was available after Lucas “steel” Lopes announced his wish to leave the team, due to personal reasons and unhappiness with his individual performance.

Indeed, it is a blessing for Team Liquid that TACO was available. He’s a similar player to steel, and Liquid may get away with not having to change too much in their system. Even though it is always difficult to predict how a move is going to impact team dynamic, TACO is even an improvement when it comes to individual skill.

Through his likeable and easy to deal with personality, his integration into the team should also go smooth. There will be no language barrier, as TACO’s English is already decent, and through rankS and FPL he’s used to English call-outs.

On paper, TACO joining Liquid looks like a slight improvement that shouldn’t affect the team too much. But so many small factors can potentially decide over the teams fate, a prediction is difficult to make.

If the personalities match, TACO will be able to add another layer to Liquid’s game, as he is more versatile than steel. It’s quite possible that by leaving SK Gaming and joining Liquid, TACO is now part of the better team. Who would’ve thought that six months ago!

Let’s go Team Liquid!

Tune into the stream here to watch TACO, nitr0, ELiGE, Twistzz and NAF defend their number one seed for the finals in Dallas. If you want to watch the season finals, you can purchase tickets here.

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