Sports

Dallas Fuel Aims to Kill Its Fifth Season for the Overwatch League Next Month

The Dallas Fuel face off against the Los Angeles Valiant at the Arlington Esports Stadium at the beginning of the 2020 season.
The Dallas Fuel face off against the Los Angeles Valiant at the Arlington Esports Stadium at the beginning of the 2020 season. Envy Gaming
Last year, the esports franchise the Dallas Fuel finished at the top of the Overwatch League (OWL) season standings in the west region, second overall and third in the league playoffs behind the Atlanta Reign and the first-time championship winning Shanghai Dragons.

This year, the team returns for its fifth season with a new roster, a new Overwatch game update and a new home base. All of this is giving them and the fans a renewed sense of confidence for the schedule that lies ahead of them, says Dallas Fuel's general manager Mathew Taylor.

"The fanbase for the Dallas Fuel is massive," he says. "Dallas fans in general with other sports like the Mavericks are super passionate. Even last year during COVID, we managed to do a fan event where people were able to spectate playing while we were live online and we managed to sellout. It's impressive to see how far we came."

The Dallas Fuel will kick off its fifth OWL season on Friday, May 6, with its annual "Battle for Texas" match against the Houston Outlaws in San Antonio. Starting June 2, the team will host a four-day "Kickoff Clash" tournament at Esports Stadium Arlington, which the city gave to Envy Gaming in January. Players returned to their team's hometown offices on Monday to begin prepping for the new season.

The Dallas Fuel's fifth season in the OWL will also mark its third season in Dallas after the team moved its home base from Los Angeles in 2020. The team planned to start strong with a series of home tourneys at its Arlington stadium, but the pandemic caused a string of cancellations and rescheduling. This will be the first full season the Fuel will play home games at a venue that its parent company and team crew control in terms of operation and organization.  "Now you're given basically free rein over what you want to do," Taylor says. "Obviously, you've got to abide by the fire marshal and other stuff with the city, but it allows for smoother organization of the space. It's just a benefit in every single way."

Just like any other professional sport, having your own turf to play visiting teams on also gives you a competitive edge and drive.

"Esports players are very young, and coming in front of a crowd that's booing you ... especially the first home crowd we played against the Los Angeles Valiant and the Houston Outlaws," Taylor says with a laugh. "The amount of booing and support for our players at these events, there is some home field advantage especially in Dallas. We're a popular team and our fans get behind us."

The team is going "full Korean" this season with a roster of players and coaches. They include some heavy, seasoned hitters like Taehun "Edison" Kim who finished second last season with Atlanta and Hyeon-seok "ChiYo" Han from the Korean Contenders, who won last year's Korean championships with O2 Blast. Rookie damage dealer Min-seo "guriyo" Kang is also joining the team. Taylor calls the player "a diamond in the rough, rookie talent we're looking to develop."

The Dallas Fuel also lost a couple of key contenders for the 2022 roster including assistant coach Yong-jin “Yong” Kim, who had to return to South Korea to perform his mandatory military service requirements and will be replaced by former player Kim “Rascal” Dong-jun. The team also felt the hurt after the sudden loss of player Jung “Xzi” Ki-hyo, who retired last year because of complications from scoliosis.

"We didn't know how to play around it for awhile," Taylor says. "It was definitely a tough time to lose a player like that. We definitely did perform very well this season even though we lost him, but it's like losing a running back for the season."

This year also marks some noticeable changes for the league as game-maker Blizzard's update for Overwatch narrows down the opening roster from 6-on-6 to 5-on-5 with room for only one tank on each team instead of two. Taylor says that despite the curveballs the team has had to weave through leading up to now, he still feels confident about the new roster and season for the Dallas Fuel.

"Fortunately, we have a great coaching staff and players who worked hard and produced, winning a championship in the middle season and finished first place in the west," Taylor says. "We're definitely happy with that result but moving forward with new game, make sure you have all the holes filled and anything that comes at us, we're ready for."
click to enlarge
The first person shooter Overwatch produced by Blizzard Entertainment made some major changes between seasons, including a new 5-on-5 starting roster for all matches.
Courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment
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Danny Gallagher has been a regular contributor to the Dallas Observer since 2014. He has also written features, essays and stories for MTV, the Chicago Tribune, Maxim, Cracked, Mental_Floss, The Week, CNET and The Onion AV Club.

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