The ESL Pro League season might be the biggest event to come before the Major. Right now it’s well under way, with three groups already concluded. In the fourth and final group, though, sits Team Liquid—a dark horse in the top 5 of a hyper-competitive CS scene. We sat down with Josh “oSee” Ohm, the team’s fast-rising NA AWPer, to talk about his career, Liquid’s trajectory in recent months, what’s in store for the Pro League, and how all of it builds to the Major later this year.
2022 was your first year in Liquid playing at the top. How has that first year been? What have been the learnings, maybe the surprises, of this first year?
The first year of Liquid, obviously I was super excited for the opportunity, but at the same time I never really played in the tier 1 scene consistently. On Extra Salt and my past rosters, we would play these teams once in a while, but we wouldn’t get consistent practice or matches against them. So stepping into Liquid and finally being able to consistently practice against them, that’s the fastest way you can improve. When you play against these top teams, they expose your mistakes.
The first year was a little bit surprising. I had an image in my head that it was going to be really difficult. When I first stepped in, it felt pretty relaxed and not too different. [...] It's been a super good experience so far. I’ve learned a lot so far in this past year.
Liquid has been on an upward, but bumpy, trajectory since around the last Major. How have you been looking at this specifically and have you identified something that could be improved?
The thing is, the CS scene is so competitive nowadays. Within the top 5, or top 10 teams, anyone can beat anyone on any given day. To be consistently winning tournaments these days, to be consistently on the top, you need a lot of work, and you need to be super innovative because people are going to watch you.
I think right now, we have a really good grasp on how to play as a team. We believe in our system that we’ve built, with YEKINDAR joining. However, I think that as individuals we aren’t performing the best we can, including myself. [...] As a team we have a really good system, but as individuals we need to step up. If all our individuals are on point, then the sky's the limit.
How do you strike the balance between the time needed to build that system, and the pressure from wanting to win fast?
It’s just a matter of if we see improvements in ourselves. If we’re consistently placing in the top 4, getting second places, and we’re stuck there for a while, it’s going to get tougher to handle these losses after some time. The main thing is that even if we’re having this kind of result, as long as we see that, game by game, we are improving, that’s the best way we can handle it.
Coming back to more recent results, in Katowice you managed an impossible comeback, down 0-12 against Vitality. What has been your experience in that match, especially given that you were a key player for that comeback? Can this have a long term impact on the confidence of this roster?
For the Vitality comeback, we had a slow start on the T side. It’s hard to stay in it mentally when everything you’re trying is getting shut down, and you end up down 0-12. I’m happy with how we managed, mentally. Even when we were down 4-14, everyone was still communicating, and trying their hardest, trying to lift each other up.
After that win, it was definitely a very good feeling, not just because it was a huge comeback, but especially since we were able to do it in such a high pressure situation, on stage. It definitely does help our confidence, knowing that in any match we can come back and win as long as we’re all working together.
After that Vitality match, you met G2. They’ve been on a tear recently. They also won in your finals against them at BLAST Premier at the end of last year. How do you see your matchup with them? What makes it hard to play against them?
Going back to the confidence thing, when you watch G2 play at the moment, it seems they don’t have any hesitation or doubt in their minds when they’re playing. All their players, they aren’t hesitating, they’re going for the plays whenever they feel like it. Their timings to re-aggro certain areas are very precise, too. It seems like everyone in the team believes in each other.
They’re playing very well right now, with the addition of HooXi [...] especially when they [already] had immense firepower. It’s definitely a tough match any time we play against G2, because any or their individuals can pop-off at any moment and save a round. It’s super hard to play in general when everyone [on the enemy team] is playing without any doubt and is confident swinging everything. The main thing is that we need to have the same confidence as them.
Looking beyond ESL Pro League, we’re soon going to be at the Major. How is the road looking for you?
Everyone is super excited to play at the Major. Obviously, our last Major appearance wasn’t the best. We feel a lot more confident, we’ve performed a lot more consistently as a team, with our current roster. I was super upset we lost in the group stage, the last match against Spirit, because the environment was insane, and I never actually played on a main stage at a Major before. That was a big deal for me.
Even though we want to win all these tournaments before the Major, our main goal is to perform well at the Major, and we’re making our best [effort] to get to that level, get to our best. [...] Everything that we’re working on right now is intended to lead to us having our best performance at the Major.
Finally, the rumor mill has been spinning a lot in recent times about Source 2, or CS 2. What do you make of it?
Of course, I’ve heard about it, but I haven’t looked too much into it. I’ve still been focusing on CS. My mindset is that whenever it comes, it comes, and we’ll just have to adapt. I’m sure it won’t be too different from the original game because everyone still loves the game for what it is. So I think the changes they’re going to make aren’t going to be too drastic.
I’m still super excited because I’m sure it’ll be more polished. [...] Definitely super exciting and I think we’ll see a lot more players come back to CS. Ever since Valorant came out, some players switched to it, but I think some will come back and play the game again, so it’ll be good for CS in general.
Don’t forget to tune in for ESL Pro League Group D on March 15, to watch Liquid’s journey through EPL begin against Rare Atom. Can Liquid fight their way to the Finals again? This time, could they win it all? What will it mean for the Paris Major? Watch and find out.