Call of Duty League Week 1: FaZe dominate, LA Thieves steal the show

Brian BencomoNews & Events

Call of Duty Atlanta FaZe

A dramatic late push by Tyler “aBeZy” Pharris to secure a Hardpoint for the Atlanta FaZe forced a decisive Game 5 that would eventually lead to a 3-2 win over OpTic Chicago on Sunday in the Call of Duty League’s opening weekend.

The Week 1 meeting between two of the CDL’s top teams was evenly matched except on Search & Destroy. Chicago took the opening Hardpoint on Garrison, 250-225, followed by a 3-2 Control victory on Checkmate in Game 3, where all five rounds went to the defending team, to go up 2-1 in the series.

In Game 4, with OpTic seconds away from closing out the series, aBeZy cleared the streets of Moscow with a triple kill, allowing FaZe to set up a perimeter and pick up the final 29 points for a 250-246 finish.

“It was very nerve-wracking toward the end of it because, honestly, I don’t know how I came away with a three-piece,” aBeZy told CDL host Lottie Van-Praag postgame. “I was kind of mindblown myself.”

Read more: Team-by-team preview of the 2021 Call of Duty League

One player’s heroics aside, we need to talk about Atlanta’s utter dominance over OpTic in Search & Destroy.

Atlanta picked up a clean 6-0 S&D victory over Chicago in Game 2. Seth “Scump” Abner didn’t even register any kills in the game. The humiliation only continued in Moscow for Game 5, where OpTic lost 6-1, the team appearing visibly defeated afterward.

For those keeping score at home, that’s a 12-1 run for FaZe in S&D.

On Friday, Atlanta — the hosts of CDL’s opening weekend — took care of business with a 3-0 win over the Los Angeles Guerrillas, emerging from the weekend one of two teams with a 2-0 record.

The other was the Los Angeles Thieves.

Thieves steal the show in debut

If thrilling finishes are what you live for, the Los Angeles Thieves did not disappoint in their 3-0 win over the New York Subliners. Don’t let the score fool you. All three games were tight battles and, the first two in particular, nail-biters.

The squads went into the final Hardpoint in Game 1 tied at 234, with the action going back and forth until the Thieves — trailing much of the round — escaped with a 250-241 victory. LA came back from the brink again, erasing a 5-3 deficit in S&D to eek out the second game, then won three of the last four rounds in the Game 3 Control map after falling behind 1-0.

This is 100T’s first year in the CDL, but the organization has a long history in Call of Duty and a proven track record of quickly drawing fans. Winning early, and in such exhilarating fashion, certainly helps the new CDL franchise.

Neither the Subliners nor the Minnesota ROKKR — whom LA beat 3-1 on Thursday — look like slouches by any means, making an opening weekend sweep all the more impressive.

“We feel like we beat the best two teams other than Dallas so far, so I’m feeling pretty confident right now,” Kenny “Kenny” Williams told Van-Praag postgame.

Speaking about Dallas …

ROKKR knock off reigning CDL champs

Everything went right for the Dallas Empire in their opener, a breezy shutout of the Seattle Surge. Two days later, everything went horribly wrong, as they lost 3-2 to the ROKKR.

Dallas took both Hardpoint maps, but when it came time for S&D or control, Minnesota won in convincing fashion. By the time Game 5 rolled around, the Empire appeared to be unraveling, dropping a not-especially-competitive bout of S&D 6-2.

One explanation is the Empire was simply having an off match. The entire team was missing shots and making costly mistakes, while 2020 CDL MVP Anthony “Shotzzy” Cuevas-Castro in particular didn’t look the part, racking up only one kill but seven deaths in the decisive game.

Perhaps this was also the ROKKR making a statement in Week 1. With an entirely rebuilt roster, Minnesota enters this season with lofty expectations. Although they didn’t have a flawless opening weekend given the loss to LA, they put the CDL on notice by knocking Dallas off.

“Our heads were up and confident always,” Lamar “Accuracy” Abedi told Lottie. “You can’t get down on yourself after one loss like we had against the LA Thieves. That series looked a lot worse than it really was.”

Other notable Week 1 finishes

In what could be considered the upset of the week, the Surge scored a 3-2 victory over the London Royal Ravens. London almost came back, but Seattle closed it out with a Game 5 win after winning the first two games.

It was London’s only contest of the weekend, rendering it difficult to ascertain how much of the result was brought on by an improved Surge squad, a rough day for the Ravens or signs of broader issues since Trei “Zer0” Morris is currently sidelined by COVID travel restrictions.

The Toronto Ultra defeated the Florida Mutineers 3-1 in the only match of the weekend for both clubs.

After losing a 2-0 lead, the Los Angeles Guerrillas held on to beat the Paris Legion 3-2.

OpTic blanked the Legion to earn a split for the weekend, leaving Paris the only team with an 0-2 record.

Free agent frenzy doesn’t equate to Week 1 results

For all the hype over “rostermania,” continuity ruled on opening weekend. The teams that made the fewest lineup changes in the offseason tended to experience the most success in Week 1, with few exceptions.

Even with the switch from Modern Warfare to Black Ops Cold War, it’s probably no coincidence several of the top finishers from 2020 — Dallas, Atlanta and Chicago — are projected to be among the elite teams again after the core of their rosters returned largely intact.

If we learned anything from CDL’s inaugural season though, there are undoubtedly teams that will become more cohesive units over time as new teammates build a rapport and playstyles continue to mesh.

In other words, it’s only been one week, so don’t go crowning anybody just yet.

Lead image credit: Call of Duty League