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TACO: We respect Na’Vi a lot, but we’re not afraid of playing against them

Team Liquid is going up against Natus Vincere in the second semifinals of the event.

Joe Russo Jul 27, 2018 2:23 pm

Team Liquid have been looking solid at the ELEAGUE CS:GO Premier so far. With their semifinals match vs. Natus Vincere tomorrow at 4pm CT, they’re also not really feeling the pressure despite the CIS juggernaut’s strong form over the past month.

With Russel “Twistzz” Van Dulken making most of the impact for the North American squad, Liquid eased past MIBR twice in the group stage to earn their spot in the playoffs of the $1 million event. Support star Epitacio “TACO” de Melo, on the other hand, had a rough couple of matches against his former team, with whom he won eight international titles last year.

Related: Team Liquid stand strong against MIBR, eliminating them from the ELEAGUE CS:GO Premier

Tez Game spoke briefly with Twistzz and TACO in a press conference call days before their playoff match vs. Na’Vi. The duo talked extensively about their past matchups in Atlanta, their upcoming game against Na’Vi, and Liquid’s place in CS:GO compared to other top contenders like MIBR, Astralis, and Na’Vi.

Your match against MIBR was tough at times, but ended up being a 2-0 sweep. What do you think went right for you?

Twistzz: I think a bit of both. Our practice and preparation was really good coming into this event and MIBR just kind of looks like a mess right now, which you’d expect after them picking up a new player. Their way of practicing seems pretty flawed, considering they’re purposely going to events for practice I guess. That’s not really smart in my eyes.

TACO: I think that we have been together with this lineup for three or four months now, and we have improved a lot. The last week of practice was good for us. We had a chance to create new stuff and to change a lot of the stuff we were doing in the past as well. Since I joined the team, we hadn’t changed anything, and this week we had some time to change because before that we were traveling a lot for a few months just playing tournaments, so we didn’t have time to really change stuff. I think we were the better team, but I also didn’t see a strong MIBR. Maybe it was because they just changed a player and they need time to change stuff and get used to each other. Even though I think we were the better team, I also think that MIBR was not looking really good.

What do you make of the changes between Cloud9 and MIBR—has that opened the field up to create a chance for Liquid to become the number one team in NA?

TACO: In my opinion, as a Brazilian playing in the North American scene, I think it’s clear and easy for everyone to know that Liquid is now by far the best American team playing in the United States. I’m not talking about Brazilian or Mexican or Canadian or whatever. I’m talking about teams playing the NA scene. I think, even before I joined Liquid, they were already the best American team. Even though Cloud9 had a really good start by winning the Major, but after that Liquid became a super good team. They’re just improving, and now I’m a part of it and I also think that we are close to making it to the next level.

The last time Liquid faced Na’Vi was at the EPL Finals, where you beat them. How confident are you going into this match-up?

TACO: Na’Vi is a team we respect a lot, but it’s also a team we’re not afraid of playing against because, as you said, the last time we played in Dallas we beat them, and it was 2-0. I’m pretty sure they’re a strong team. They just won in Cologne. They’re doing really well this year [and] this tournament. They’re being really consistent, but we also think that we’re a strong team and we also think that we can just beat them like we did last time. Individually, my record against Na’Vi has always been good, so Na’Vi is not a team I’m afraid of playing even though I respect them a lot. I think s1mple and electronic are playing really well and are really difficult to play against.

You guys repeatedly run into Astralis at tournaments. The maps are all really close, but they tend to win. What do you think is the biggest stumbling block that you guys face with them?

Twistzz: Personally, I feel we lack preparation when we play against them. I feel like it takes something else, like a different playstyle, to beat them—something more loose, because every time we play them, and I think I answered this in the ELEAGUE pre-match interview. We kind of play the same way they do, but they have practiced and have had their playstyle for much longer than we’ve practiced ours. I don’t know, we always get so close. I feel like we’re getting closer every time. I definitely feel like this event we can beat them.

Tarik and Stewie2K are new to MIBR. Were their playstyles similar to Cloud9 or the past SK? Was there anything that really stood out to you about them?

TACO: I think they’re playing mostly like the old SK. They play kind of passive, holding, trying to get some space on the map, trying to find first kills. Then they regroup and do something else. That’s the style that FalleN likes to play, which I think is really good, as it’s really hard to play against. But in my opinion, they’re playing like the old SK.

Twistzz: I feel like Stewie and Tarik’s playstyle has changed in a pretty negative way. They’re not supposed to be passive players, and they seem lost because they’re forced to play [passively] in an actual system. Whereas in Cloud9, I don’t think they even had a system, so I think they really damaged their individual playstyles joining this team.

Nobody has really dominated CS, except maybe Astralis coming up now, since the old SK lineup. What was it about that team that helped them dominate for so long? And why has no other team been able to find the same success you had for such a sustained period of time?

TACO: I think at that time CS:GO was our life. We lived to play CS, we traveled to play CS, we would do everything and anything to play CS. We were really hard working. We also had really good players. We had a really good in-game leader, we had the best player in the world, I was a good support as well. So I think we improved really fast, [and] we had the chemistry in our team, as well. Everything meshed. We were happy playing CS. I think it takes a lot of hard work, a good mentality, and we never had a mental coach or whatever.

Now, I also think that the competition is getting harder now. I feel like teams are getting more money to invest, we have professionals behind us, a performance coach. We have a lot of people that help us just focus on the game. Every top team now, if you look at the top eight teams in the world, they all have really good support from their organizations. A good salary, people behind them helping them focus only on playing CS:GO. Also, the tournaments are providing really good quality as well with practice rooms at the hotel, which makes a big difference for every team I’m pretty sure. So now players are most likely only focused on playing CS and that’s it. When we come to a tournament it’s to play CS, not to sleep at the hotel or go to a bar or whatever. So I think the level of competition is higher now.

In an interview that EliGE did with HLTV after Cologne, he said that the team needed to pick up the pace and get back on track, because you hadn’t had enough time to practice before the event. Right now, things seem to be going a bit better, but if you had to give a percentage, how prepared do you feel at the moment, between zero and 100?

Twistzz: I don’t know. I feel like there’s still a lot we have to go over in practice. I feel like our chances of playing vs. Astralis and doing pretty well… I mean, we took a map against them in Dallas, and right nowI feel like we have a pretty high chance of doing that, but on different maps. Our map pool has definitely changed and we have new stuff on every map. I think we’re playing at like 70 percent of what we can be playing at.

How long do you think it will take to get to 100 percent?

Twistzz: Not long, honestly, after the player break we’re going to have a bootcamp and I think we can really excel after it. We’ll be really ready and I feel like the second season is going to be ours.

TACO: I was going to say 70 as well. I would say 70.

Can you talk about how the team morale is right now heading into this tournament and approaching the player break?

Twistzz: Team morale is pretty high. Our practice went super well which is part of the morale being high. We’re constantly all in the practice room together playing CS, as a team or individually, having fun, and enjoying our time here. I think is super important if the team wants to stay happy and keep morale high and hopes high at the event. Going into the break, it seems like it just keeps going up. So far, so good.

Talking more about Na`Vi, it’s going to be an uphill battle for you guys because of the form they’ve shown, especially in Cologne. So what is the team mentality like going into that game? Is there any doubt amongst the team?

TACO: Our mentality [going up] against Na`Vi will be good. First, because we’re happy to be in the semi-finals and second because we have no pressure. I mean they are the favorites. we’re not favorites. They just won Cologne. They have to prove that they can keep winning tournaments. I don’t think we have something to prove, so we have no pressure. We’re happy. We’re confident because we beat them the first time we played against them, so we’re feeling great going into this semifinal. I also hope that we can win and play another grand final.

Liquid constantly plays Astralis at almost every single tournament. What do you have to say about playing them? What makes it so frustrating to play against, and the fact that every event you end up paired up against them?

Twistzz: To be honest, I feel like every time we played them before they always had the advantage, even before going into the game. We haven’t had time to practice new things so everything we were doing vs. them is stuff we’ve always done and it became really stale. We’re still getting 12 to 13 rounds or even maps off of them, but I feel like when we get real practice in it won’t be a difficult game for us anymore. Even at this event, when we play them, and I think we’ll play them in the grand final, I think it’s not going to be as difficult as the group stage match.

TACO: In my opinion, I wouldn’t use frustration as the word. I think every time we played them and lost they were just the better team. Astralis are a really good team. I don’t think I even have to say that. I don’t think there’s any doubt about this because they’re a super strong team, so there’s no shame to losing a finals to Astralis, although we’ll work very hard to try and change that. I agree with [Twistzz]. I’m pretty sure next time it’s not going to be as difficult anymore because we’re still a young team. Liquid was not a team that was used to playing on the big stage and in grand finals as well.

As a player, I was used to it because I’ve played like 15 to 16 grand finals already when I was playing for SK, so I’m used to it. I know that before that it was really hard for us as well. If you look at our record in SK, for example in HLTV, you’re going to see that the first six or seven tournaments we always lost in the grand finals to Fnatic or Na`Vi. So it takes time, and I know that. I have that experience already, and I know that at some point if we keep working hard and doing our best in practice, at some point we’ll win a tournament, so I’m very calm about it. I also want to give props to Astralis because I think they’re a team that work really hard and they are no doubt the best team in the world.

Twistzz: Yeah, they definitely work hard. I’m never frustrated losing to them. It’s more like [a], “damn they’re good,” kind of thing, which just proves that we have to work harder.

TACO, during the first match you played against MIBR, were you a little bit nervous playing against your former team? Do you feel like you played better in the next match against Astralis and then in the next one against MIBR? In the interview DBLTAP did with EliGE, he said you had to stay in Brazil before Cologne and didn’t have your own setup, so were you able to practice the way you usually do after that event?

TACO: My preparation, being really honest, was terrible. I was not able to practice at all. For this tournament, we had five days of practice, which is okay, but still not enough, at least for me, as a player. I like to play a lot, I have to play a lot. I don’t think I’m gifted [laughs], so I have to work really hard to play in the highest level. Of course, the match against MIBR was really bad for me. First, because I was playing bad. Second, because the decisions that I took in-game were really bad as well. I mean you have to look at both sides, always, I’m that kind of guy as well [laughs], so the positive side for me was that I was really calm during the game even though I was playing bad. I knew it. It was easy to know that I was playing bad only by looking at the score, all you had to do was press tab to see how bad I was playing [laughs], but the positive part/side was that I was calm. I was communicating. I was giving calls. I was helping my teammates. I was not blaming someone because I was playing bad.

Even though I wasn’t doing my job and playing well, I was helping my teammates in some way. I think other players in my place would be blaming someone or smashing tables or complaining or being a bad teammate, and I was not that guy. I was always positive, even though I was playing bad. I also think it’s normal. I was talking to NiKo and he said that when he left Mousesports and joined FaZe [Clan] he also had a really hard time playing against Mouz, so I think it’s normal. I also think I changed my mentality for the second matchup and I didn’t play great, but I think I did my job. Even though I didn’t play great, after the match I felt like I did my job, and it was enough because my teammates. I think they like to play against MIBR. Twistzz and NAF were playing super well and nitr0 was giving great calls as well and EliGE was on point, so it helped me. I think now, for the first time, after we won against them and I played okay, or good. Now I think the pressure is gone. The curse is gone also. I think the next time will be better.

Any thoughts on the upcoming Major, since you’re coming in as Challengers?

Twistzz: I think the Major qualifier last time around was… I don’t know if it keeps getting harder or if it keeps getting easier. Because last time in the other Major qualifier, there was FaZe in it. Vega Squadron was playing really well too although now they’re kind of irrelevant, Cloud9 was in the Major qualifier, so I think last time around it was harder than it is going to be now. Even other NA teams that should be there like NRG didn’t make it [past] the Minor. I feel like the competition this time around is going to be easier and I don’t think it’s going to be difficult for us to get through.

I remember Na’Vi anti-stratting Astralis really well in Cologne, especially on Inferno. How will the team adjust if they anti-strat you as well?

Twistzz: It’s pretty easy to tell when a team’s anti-stratting you. There are giveaways in the first three rounds, like if they know what we’re going to do on the first gun round and they make it really obvious that they knew. That’s usually the signal of them having a game plan against you and you have to change whatever you’re doing. So I feel like adjusting to someone knowing what you’re doing is pretty easy, because they’re not going expect like random aggression, so you’re safe if you’re a pretty basic team that just has setups that you usually fall into, and that’s sometimes what we do. Individually, I think all of us make sure that we change how we play throughout the rounds and throughout every map, so I feel like it’s going to be hard for teams to anti-strat us now.

Twistzz, what do you want to say to the fan that said, “Every time he sees you on his monitor he wants to touch your hair?”

Twistzz: [laughs] Um, I don’t know, man. Everyone’s talking about my hair and I’m just trying to play CS. I want CS compliments, man. It sucks. I look at my Twitter feed and it’s all hair comments. I’m like, “Did they even watch the match?” I don’t know. I’m just playing CS, I don’t really care what I look like on stage. I’m just playing.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

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