Cloud9 as an organization suffered quite a downturn in 2019. The London Spitfire have not found much success lately in Overwatch, the Rocket League team won one event but have looked awful since, the League team failed to either win a split or make it out of groups at Worlds, and now the CS:GO team is forced to make yet another change to their roster.
C9 gutted their earlier roster after bombing out in the Americas Minor qualifier and retooled it to bring in Oscar "mixwell" Cañellas, Kenneth "koosta" Suen, Damian "daps" Steele, and TenZ to build around star player Timothy "autimatic" Ta. The roster was not the only place where Cloud9 was fiddling with addition and subtraction: the team switched Soham "Valens" Chowdhury from Head of Data Science to Coach after they cut Ronald "Rambo" Kim as head coach. The team then made Valens head of data science again and picked up James "JamezIRL" Macaulay as coach and added Chris "Elmapuddy" Tebbit as assistant coach.
A few days ago Cloud9 decided to part ways with valens and now Cloud9 looks to fill the hole that TenZ will leave on the starting roster. While they are bringing in veteran journeyman Yassine "subroza" Taoufik to replace TenZ as a "stand-in," what the team really needs is a focused direction for veteran IGL daps to mold C9 into a strong NA contender.
Oftentimes, young talent that is heralded as the "future" does not work out. In both esports and traditional sports, high tier prospects are either busts or hall of famers with little in between. While TenZ has only just started his career in professional CS:GO, there is a lot to be concerned about in the future.
A lot of fans (hopefully) gave C9 some time to breathe as C9 went all in on the overhaul by only retaining 1/5 members on the team. The team's first LAN was not horrible, taking a win over FaZe Clan, two ties (NRG, MIBR), and a loss to RNG to secure a semi-final 0-2 loss to event winner Team Liquid. Unfortunately, that was the highlight of this short-lived five man roster. C9 flew out to Finland to place fourth out of four at the Arctic Invitational where they lost 0-2 to FURIA.
The team had some better results online in ECS Season 8, but their next and final LAN appearance was where the cracks started to show. The new ESL Pro League format has teams separated into four man groups were the top team qualifies for finals, two and three are placed into stage two with a chance to make finals, and the bottom team goes into pre relegation.
Cloud9 had a tough group to be fair, but the only American organization to ever win a major going out of their group without a single series win is a sad state of affairs. Looking at TenZ, he finished the event near the bottom of the stats leaderboard with a 0.86 HLTV rating across eight maps with a -30 K/D differential. To be fair to TenZ, Cloud9 has a whole did not have individually inspiring performances, but for a young fragger, this was an abysmal performance.
Why would such a young player be so off at a tournament that lacks a large stage, is spread across multiple days, and is located in their home region? Some of it may be that Cloud9, despite being a large organization, has seemingly been in a constant state of turmoil this year. Sure, the organization boasts a lot of successful partnership activations (BMW and Puma come to mind), but great tweets don't help 17-year-olds acclimate to a team environment.
From following TenZ's streams, tweets, and the coach's statement, it seems that there were the usual "personality conflicts" that forced C9 to move on from the young star.
Those "personality conflicts" must have been very serious for the organization to move on from a potential franchise star so young into his professional career. Oftentimes players fresh from FPL stardom collapse on team environments because the FPL playstyle of dry peeking and flashy highlight reel triple kills almost never works out at the pro level for a variety of reasons. While some players can integrate those plays into a team environment successfully (Jakey "Stewie2k" Yip), how those players interact with their team is almost never seen from an outside perspective.
Being a "star" or focal piece of a Counter-Strike team is very stressful at the high levels because of how much pressure it can be to carry when the times are bad or to take the blame when you are not on your A-game. That's what makes the s1mples and NiKos of the world so special. TenZ has a lot of individual skill, but this is the one time in history that it is not a benefit of being on Cloud9 at the moment.
While Cloud9 will always be one of the top dogs in North America, it is clear the team has been prioritizing other games and leagues for success compared to their CS:GO team. They dragged their feet on changes after wallowing in mediocrity for several months by trying to flex seal massive holes in their lineup. When they did make changes, they skipped out on several high tier free agents, and have spent a lot of time changing the back end, suggsting that there is at least some internal turmoil on what the organization wants to do with the team in the long term.
TenZ was blessed with an opportunity on a professional team with an excellent in-game leader known for turning good players into great players, but the surrounding issues really put a damper on things for the young star. What TenZ needs is to spend time more time on a team with less weight on his shoulders so he can grow into a star rather than try and become one overnight. Not everyone can rise to the occasion and TenZ clearly has the skill to become on the best but needs more time to develop. Unfortunately, CS:GO is headed into potentially uncharted territory.
I was excited that Cloud9 seemed to be finally committing to fixing their roster by trying something entirely new, but so far that experiment has not produced much fruit. Teams looking for a fifth don't often end well, and unless Cloud9 is willing to compete for one of the big named free agents available they will be left in North American CS:GO purgatory.
TenZ's future is tied to his contract buyout and Cloud9's willingness to lend him out to other teams. Plenty of North American orgs should be looking for firepower upgrades (eUnited, Team Envy, and Singularity) and TenZ would be best served by finding a new team as soon as possible.
Will Cloud9 be able to move on from TenZ and find a better route to the top? They have survived this long and have the perfect IGL to do it with. Will TenZ be able to either reinvent himself or find someone that will take him as is? With a lot of new organizations moving into Counter-Strike and teams already in need of roster changes, he should be able to move on from his short stint at Cloud9. Yet, you can't help but feel as if both sides could have come to an agreement and witness TenZ involve into something more than what little we saw of him during his three months on Cloud9.
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