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Reign stave off upset bid by Mayhem in Countdown Cup

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The Countdown Cup continued on Saturday with upsets and close calls as the Dallas Fuel, Atlanta Reign and Toronto Defiant picked up wins.

The Atlanta Reign (10-5, 11 points) survived an upset bid from struggling Florida Mayhem (4-9, 5 points) in a sloppy, 3-2 slugfest. The Mayhem came into this series in a serious slump, needing wins to stay alive in the playoff hunt.

Unfortunately for Florida, Atlanta continued their upward trajectory as one of the best teams in the Western Region, extending the Mayhem’s match loss-streak to eight matches.

The Reign started strong with a 2-0 win on Oasis, but then the series devolved as it went on, with both teams going deep into their playbook to bring out new looks to counter each other.

The Mayhem took Havana 3-2 and dominated Hanamura 2-0, looking to close out the series from there. Florida was led by DPS Jun-ki “Yaki” Kim, who was exemplary on multiple DPS characters throughout the series, almost single-handedly powering Florida to wins.

Eventually, though, the Reign figured out how to shut the Mayhem down. In Game 4 on Numbani, the Reign played to their strengths, waiting for Florida to get over-eager and punish their mistakes. This led to a 3-1 win on Numbani to force a tie-breaking Game 5 on Nepal, which Atlanta took 2-1 to close the series.

This loss hurts Florida a lot, as they need to win out and for other teams ahead of them to lose in order to qualify for playoffs. The win moves Atlanta into sole possession of second place.

In other matches, the Toronto Defiant (8-6, 8 points) dominated the Washington Justice (8-7, 8 points) in a 3-0 sweep. The Justice came into the 2021 season with tons of hype, but they have struggled to turn their star-studded roster into a cohesive team.

On the other hand, the Defiant have outperformed expectations, coming together in the back half of the season.

Toronto started with a 2-0 win on Lijiang Tower, setting the pace early on. Washington’s lack of pressure and pace made them easy pickings for Defiant tank Min-hyuk “Michelle” Choi, who set a league record with five ultimates absorbed as in Toronto’s 2-1 win on Havana.

By the time the series made it to Game 3 on Hanamura, Washington looked desperate. Still, Toronto played fundamentally sound, beating the Justice 2-1 to close out the series sweep. With this result, the Justice have lost nine consecutive maps in the Countdown Cup.

Finally, the Dallas Fuel (11-4, 17 points) took care of business in their 3-1 win over the London Spitfire (0-14, 0 points). The Fuel looked shaky early on despite their 2-0 win on Nepal to start the series, allowing the Spitfire to dominate Game 2 on Route 66 2-0. After both teams played to a 2-2 draw on Volskaya Industries, though, the Fuel regained their composure. Dallas went on to take King’s Row 3-0 and Busan 2-1 in the series win. With this result, the London Spitfire have officially been eliminated from the postseason.

The Countdown Cup qualifiers continue Sunday with six matches:
Philadelphia Fusion vs Seoul Dynasty (East)
Chengdu Hunters vs New York Excelsior (East)
Shanghai Dragons vs Guangzhou Charge (East)
Boston Uprising vs Florida Mayhem (West)
Atlanta Reign vs Dallas Fuel (West)
Vancouver Titans vs Washington Justice (West)

Overwatch League standings by region, with win-loss record, map differential and league points

1. Dallas Fuel, 11-4, +16, 17
2. Atlanta Reign, 11-5, +18, 11
3. San Francisco Shock, 10-4, +14, 10
4. Houston Outlaws, 10-4, +11, 10
5. Los Angeles Gladiators, 9-5, +15, 9
6. Toronto Defiant, 8-6, +1, 8
7. Washington Justice, 8-7, 0, 8
8. Boston Uprising, 7-8, -2, 7
9. Paris Eternal, 7-7, -2, 7
10. Florida Mayhem, 4-9, -10, 5
11. Vancouver Titans, 1-12, -28, 1
12. London Spitfire, 0-14, -33, 0

1. Shanghai Dragons, 11-4, +17, 19
2. Seoul Dynasty, 11-4, +17, 11
3. Philadelphia Fusion, 10-5, +14, 10
4. Chengdu Hunters, 8-5, +9, 10
5. Hangzhou Spark, 7-7, +4, 7
6. New York Excelsior, 7-8, -1, 7
7. Guangzhou Charge, 3-10, -20, 3
8. Los Angeles Valiant, 0-14, -40, 0

–By Noah Waltzer, Field Level Media

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