New York Excelsior sweeps Shanghai Dragons, sets stage for No. 1 seed in Stage 2

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New York Excelsior 4 - Shanghai Dragons 0

The New York Excelsior took a clean 4-0 victory over the Shanghai Dragons to open up Thursday's action in the Overwatch League at the Blizzard Arena in Burbank, California.

New York systematically dismantled Shanghai on each of the four maps in a mostly straightforward series. Despite its shortcomings, however, Shanghai can be find some solace in tank Dongjiang "MG" Wu's play. MG was on top of his game after shining in Shanghai's one map victory against the Seoul Dynasty last week. This time around, he switched to Tracer, showing off that he can do more than just play D.Va and other tank heroes. In his place in that D.Va role was Junjie "Xushu" Liu, who performed as well as can be expected given a matchup against the league's best team.

While those performances might have been enough to salvage some of the Dragons' pride, they were still not enough to do anything against the might of the Excelsior. Any changes the Dragons attempted to make ended up being virtually useless thanks to the Excelsior's clean play on each map. The closest things got was on the final map, Route: 66, where New York walked away with a slim 3-2 win.

New York is now in a strong position to take the No. 1 seed in the Stage 2 playoffs as it heads into the final week of Stage 2. With a 7-1 record, a plus-seven map advantage and a head-to-head tiebreaker over Seoul, NYXL would need to give away an eight-map advantage to give up the top spot and a bye to the stage's finals.

The Shanghai Dragons will start its week next Wednesday against the Houston Outlaws at 11 p.m. ET, while the New York Excelsior take on the Dallas Fuel at 9 p.m. ET next Thursday.

-- Steven Nguyen

Florida Mayhem 3 - Los Angeles Valiant 1

The Florida Mayhem put itself on a win streak for the first time this season after a 3-1 victory over the Los Angeles Valiant on Wednesday at the Blizzard Arena in Burbank, California.

While Stage 2 hasn't been too kind on the Valiant, it has done wonders for the Mayhem ,who have now picked up back-to-back wins this week alone after having only one win prior to Week 4. Consistency is the name of the game, and Florida looks to have finally found the winning formula this week. Meanwhile, each outing seems to spring more leaks for Los Angeles as it tries to find its place in the OWL during this Stage.

In the first half of this series, the major hurdle for the Valiant came in the form of a lost Terence "SoOn" Tarlier. While the DPS player is usually the focal point of Los Angeles' strategy, SoOn looked to be on a completely different page than the rest of his team this series.

On the other side of the equation was Florida DPS Andreas "Logix" Berghmans, who easily exploited the Valiant's disjointed approach and danced his way into the backline, laying waste to his opponents on the way to a 2-0 lead at the half.

Being in such a dominant position, the Mayhem seemed to get a bit too confident. Throughout the second half, Florida tried using niche hero picks such as DPS Kevyn "TviQ" Lindström's Sombra or triple-tank compositions featuring flex Joonas "zappis" Alakurtti that resulted in a loss for Florida in Game 3. Unfortunately for the Valiant, the Mayhem wised up and got back to business after the loss and held strong on the final map to secure the surprising 3-1 victory.

The Florida Mayhem's next match is against a similarly surging Los Angeles Gladiators at 7 p.m. ET on Friday, while the Los Angeles Valiant will close out Friday with a match against the Boston Uprising at 11 p.m. ET.

-- Liam Craffey

Los Angeles Gladiators 3 - Houston Outlaws 2

The Los Angeles Gladiators closed out Day 2 by taking another step toward the title of best in the West with a 3-2 win against the Houston Outlaws during Overwatch League play at Blizzard Arena in Burbank, California.

In Stage 1, the Gladiators could be charitably described as the understudy of Los Angeles. The team was scrappy and filled with potential but not as talented as cross-town rivals, the Los Angeles Valiant. However, Gladiators has dramatically improved since the signing of former London Spitfire main tank Baek "Fissure" Chan-hyung. After a patchy start to Stage 2, the Gladiators now look to be the Western team to beat after taking down Stage 1's Western darlings, the Houston Outlaws.

It was a close series to be sure, but the way the Gladiators won was more impressive than the match score on its own.

It's impossible to look at Fissure and not see a potential Stage 2 MVP candidate. Fissure styled all over Outlaws main tank Austin "Muma" Wilmot, routinely outplaying him whether on Winston or Reinhardt. Fissure's frontline dominance wasn't all that gave the Gladiators the nod, though, as DPS Choi "Asher" Joon-seong was a menace as Tracer, continuing a strong run of form with a whopping 61 eliminations and seven Pulse Bomb kills throughout the series to lead his team to victory.

In contrast, while DPS Jiri "LiNkzr" Masalin was as threatening as ever on Widowmaker and Genji, he couldn't seem to do enough to help the Outlaws take crucial fights. Despite LiNkzr's ability to carry Houston through most fights, his team's inability to deal with an enemy Tracer has been its Achilles' heel in Stage 2.

All three of the Outlaws DPS players -- Matt "Clockwork" Dias, Jacob "JAKE" Lyon and LiNkzr -- tried their hands at Tracer in this series, but none of them matched Asher's proficiency. Going forward, it might be time to give "secret weapon" DPS Lucas "Mendokusaii" Hakansson some playing time on the role, or learn to play around the fact that Houston lacks a reliable Tracer.

The LA Gladiators next take on the Florida Mayhem at 7 p.m. ET on Friday, while the Outlaws close out the week against the San Francisco Shock at 6 p.m. ET on Saturday.

-- Noah Waltzer