This Brutal 'Rocket League' Fake-Out Helped Seal NRG's X-Games Victory
Faced with a stingy defense, NRG turned to all-out aggression to clinch a comeback.
ESPN's Summer X Games added a new sport this year—and it's an esport. Eight of the world's top Rocket League compete at the venerable extreme sports festival in Minneapolis this weekend for the FACEIT X Games Rocket League Invitational, a $75,000 tournament.
Garrett "GarrettG" Gordon, a player for North American stalwarts NRG, had his own extreme skills to show-off. Just look at this dazzling strike during Game Six of the grand finals against Gale Force Esports, one of Europe's hottest squads.
Meeting the ball just past midfield, GarrettG dribbles, taps it to the left, and then quickly zips underneath to vault it up and over the hood of Alexandre "Kaydop" Courant, who doesn't come close to reacting in time. Instead, it gently glides into the goal, tipping off of the crossbar before the explosive finish.
It's a remarkable solo play, but more importantly, it was a critical goal at that point in the series. NRG trailed the best-of-seven series 3-1 after four games, and had just grinded out a close win to keep the series alive at 3-2. With that, the team started to look more comfortable and more dominant, and this goal helped continue the momentum that would carry them to the rousing game seven win.
The highlights don't fully tell the tale of NRG's championship run. Captain Jayson "Fireburner" Nunez nearly matched GarrettG for headline plays and offensive consistency, following his switch from the flatter, heavier Batmobile to the all-around, pro-favored Octane car. Meanwhile, Jacob "Jacob" McDowell was an assists machine this weekend, and frequently turned key saves to keep close games within reach.
Fireburner admits that the team played safe early on to avoid mistakes, but says that "Gale Force's rotations and defense especially were nearly perfect." Once down 3-1, NRG realized that they had little left to lose by returning to their usual approach: "Just play our game, play aggressive, and be unpredictable," he says. "It started working."
"We know we're good enough to come back and beat anybody," adds Fireburner. "In this case, we just all kept our heads together, kept composure, and all knew and believed that we could come back."
The victory is especially sweet as it is NRG's first live Rocket League event championship, despite being the top NA seed at all three Rocket League Championship Series (RLCS) finals.
With that monkey off of their back, NRG will have a quick opportunity to try and make it two: the $50,000 DreamHack Atlanta tournament is this weekend, and nearly all of the game's top teams will be playing in the last major 3v3 LAN tournament before RLCS season four begins.