FalleN Joins Team Liquid
FalleN has officially joined Team Liquid's CS:GO roster, replacing Twistzz and taking over as the AWPer and IGL.
The Godfather of Brazilian Counter-Strike, Gabriel "FalleN" Toledo, has officially joined Team Liquid, filling the shoes of Canadian rifler Russel "Twistzz" Van Dulken. Initially reported by Rush B Media, the move should resolve Liquid's struggles to find a dedicated AWPer and in-game leader.
While Cloud9 is the only North American team to have won a Major, Liquid is the team that really legitimized NA's ability to contend with European opposition. In the Summer run of 2019, the squad notably lifted trophies at five back to back events and even won the second Intel Grand Slam, managing to clinch the #1 spot away from Astralis in the process. 2020, however, certainly wasn't Liquid's best year, as the team didn't take too kindly to the new online era, often losing crucial series to Evil Geniuses and FURIA Esports. In August, the team even lost its IGL and AWPer, Nicholas "nitr0" Cannella, who was perhaps the first high-profile Counter-Strike player to pursue a career in VALORANT. While the team picked up a fantastic up-and-coming rifler in Michael "Grim" Wince, Liquid looked almost lost at times, despite Jacky "Stewie2K" Yip's best efforts. Liquid had a surprisingly strong run at the IEM Global Challenge to end off the year, but it was clear that the team needed a dedicated AWPer and in-game leader.
FalleN is undoubtedly one of the most accomplished leaders in CS:GO history, having lifted two Major trophies in 2016, a feat many only dream of. However, while he was deemed the second-best player of 2016 and sixth-best player of 2017, FalleN is far from his glory days; the only notable event he won under the MIBR banner was the ZOTAC Cup Masters 2018. While FalleN and the merry band of MIBR achieved a few deep runs in the past couple of years, they were few and far between, which led to much criticism by the community. From an outside perspective, it essentially felt as though the MIBR core had become complacent, and in September 2019, the organization's management decided to make changes. Following the benching of Fernando "fer" Alvarenga and Epitácio "TACO" de Melo, FalleN also requested to be removed from the active lineup, expressing his discontent with the decision. While the trio initially looked to play together under a new organization, the players began fielding individual offers.
A new challenge
That roughly brings us to where we are today, with FalleN being the prime candidate to fix Liquid's leadership and AWPing issues on paper. However, it's worth noting that this is a significant change for FalleN, as it's only the second time he will be calling the shots in English, with the first time being when Stewie was previously on MIBR. The move also marks the first time FalleN will be playing without his right-hand man, fer, since 2014. In-game leaders with FalleN's level of experience are always in high demand, and perhaps Team Liquid was the highest bidder when it came to acquiring the Brazilian's services, but it's unlikely that he would've joined the North American side if he wasn't finally feeling ambitious. After all, if FalleN wanted to ride out the rest of his career smoothly, he would've just joined any one of the domestic projects currently under construction. It's essentially a fresh start for the Brazilian captain, which is great because, for the first time in half a decade, FalleN will be pushed outside of his comfort zone.
Piecing it together
While he may not be partnered up with fer anymore, FalleN still has a familiar face at his side in the form of Stew. With Stewie being the secondary caller on the team, the duo's synergy will be key in Liquid's quest for success in 2021. As previously mentioned, FalleN is 29, and it's reasonably safe to say that his best years are probably behind him, individually speaking. However, his role isn't to put up insane numbers; it's to give the team some much-needed direction. His addition frees up Stew from leading the team, meaning that he can once again focus on his individual game; after all, he was once the best entry player in North America. FalleN also fills the AWPing void left behind by nitr0, allowing Keith "NAF" Markovic to return to a more suitable rifling role and AWPing on CT sides. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter if FalleN isn't playing like it's 2016, as he's surrounded by NA's finest players and could easily build strategies around any of them. With phenomenal talents like Jonathan "EliGE" Jablonowski under his command, an experienced captain like FalleN should be capable of leading Liquid back to the top.
The Canadian expatriate
While FalleN's addition sadly came at the cost of Twistzz's departure, it's far from over for the Canadian rifler. Moving forward, it seems as though Twistzz will be looking to continue his career on the Old Continent as he is currently fielding offers from European teams. While 2020 was his worst year to date, averaging a career-low rating of 1.06, Twistzz is still an immensely talented player. As the ninth-best player of 2019, many teams would jump on the occasion to sign him in the hopes of seeing him return to his tournament-winning form. After all, Twistzz is only 21 years old, and he still has quite a few good years ahead of him. As a side note, it's also worth mentioning that both he and Liquid were on the same page regarding his benching, and there's no bad blood between the two parties, and Twistzz is ready to take the next step in his career.
Building from scratch
With FalleN at the helms, Liquid looks poised to reclaiming its title as the best North American team. On top of being an experienced leader, FalleN was once among the best AWPers in the world. Still, the change is a significant one for both him and Liquid, and it will most likely take quite a bit of time until we see this lineup's full potential, as FalleN adapts to calling in English with an entirely new set of players and the team adjusts to his style. With competition seemingly being oriented towards Europe this year, it'll be interesting to see just how quickly Liquid will develop under FalleN's leadership if the team gets to practice against the strongest opposition from the get-go.