Team Liquid tops 100 Thieves for sole possession of first place

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NA LCS Power Rankings: 8/3 (5:48)

The 2018 season is heading into one of the final stretches before worlds, and still there is little clarity regarding who will be representing NA at that final tournament. Ovilee May and Emily Rand tries to make sense of it all. (5:48)

Team Liquid 1, 100 Thieves 0

The battle for first place kicked off Week 7 of the North American League of Legends Championship Series Summer Split, as the defending champions, Team Liquid, made a comeback to topple 100 Thieves and claim the top spot in standings and extending its win streak to four.

It seemed as if 100 Thieves (8-5) identified Liquid's team weakness, early game deficits, and committed everyone to a Level 1 invade. The gamble paid off as it drew three flashes from Team Liquid, stole two buffs in its jungle and secured first blood for mid laner Ryu "Ryu" Sang-wook's Zoe.

Ryu used his advantage to add pressure to the bottom lane, which led to first turret gold, but gold advantage would slowly slip away as the contest transitioned into the mid game.

Slowly but surely, Team Liquid (9-4) managed to come out even in the ensuing teamfights, eventually outright winning them to take over the gold advantage. Whether it was mid laner Eugene "Pobelter" Park's Malzahar finding an opening to use Nether Grasp on a prime target, AD carry Yiliang "Doublelift" Peng's Ashe sniping someone with Enchanted Crystal Arrow or support Kim "Olleh" Joo-sung teleporting for a cross-map flank using Tahm Kench's Abyssal Voyage, there was no chance for 100 Thieves to escape.

After a slew of teamfight victories, Team Liquid finally found an opening to kill Baron around the 30-minute mark and went on a power play that swung the gold and map control in Team Liquid's favor completely for the remainder of the match.

While 100 Thieves barely weathered the first Baron power play, it had no hopes of surviving the second. Team Liquid easily used the second Baron to siege its way to victory.

Team Liquid will look to continue its winning ways against FlyQuest at 3 p.m. ET on Sunday, while 100 Thieves will attempt to even out its Week 7 record against the Golden Guardians at 6 p.m. ET later that day.

-- Ben Wong

Cloud9 1, Clutch Gaming 0

Cloud9's climb up the NA LCS standings continued as it picked up a win against a struggling Clutch Gaming.

Cloud9's draft put mid laner Nicolaj "Jensen" Jensen on the more support-oriented champion Zilean, which was aimed at helping out jungler Robert "Blaber" Huang's Nocturne. The plan worked out well as the duo made plenty of plays early, the results of which included Blaber securing an assist from first blood and two kills. The lead for Blaber wasn't squandered as he kept near-constant gank pressure after hitting Level 6 by diving on any target in sight if Paranoia was available.

The teamfighting wasn't always clean for Cloud9 (6-7) as Clutch Gaming (4-9) picked up a few kills, including a pair of kills in the mid game. However, it barely put a dent into Cloud9's gold lead or turret advantage. Any small amount of momentum gained would soon be lost, particularly after Clutch Gaming's defense of a turret resulted in Cloud9 picking up two kills and promptly securing Baron shortly thereafter.

The ensuing Baron power play ripped through two of Clutch Gaming's inhibitors, giving Cloud9 complete control. Opting to play it safe, Cloud9 reset itself before pressuring Clutch Gaming's final inhibitor, but despite its opposition waiting for the inevitable assault, Cloud9 would steamroll right through, scoring an ace before pushing to victory.

Cloud9's decision to bring back a handful of its normal NA LCS starters has paid off, as it has gone 4-1 in the last three weeks. The same cannot be said for Clutch Gaming who brought back jungler Nam "LirA" Tae-yoo, AD carry Apollo "Apollo" Price and support Nikolas "Hakuho" Surgent for Saturday's game following a failed Week 6 experiment.

Cloud9 still has its sights set on Worlds and will need a win against Counter Logic Gaming at 4 p.m. ET on Sunday to keep the ambition alive, while Clutch Gaming try to turn its luck around against OpTic Gaming at 7 p.m. ET later that day.

-- Wong

Echo Fox 1, Counter Logic Gaming 0

Echo Fox survived a chaotic matchup against Counter Logic Gaming on Saturday to secure second place in the NA LCS.

This game wasn't the best outing for either team, with misplays aplenty, but Echo Fox (8-5) prevailed in the end. Despite CLG (5-7) picking up an early kill lead, Echo Fox top laner Heo "Huni" Seung-hoon kept his team within striking distance as Rumble with several early kills as he scaled into a teamfighting terror.

Throughout the early and mid game, Echo Fox refused to shy away from fights, regardless of whether the odds favored the team or not. That strategy eventually led to a gold lead at 18 minutes that would last for the rest of the game. While Echo Fox looked shaky at times, new AD carry Lawrence "Lost" Hui was a rock as Xayah with several late kills and a build that shred through CLG's frontline.

This game showed that Echo Fox still has plenty of weaknesses, but with this team's mercurial nature, the only thing you can know for certain on any given day is to look out for Echo Fox as it hurtles toward the playoffs.

On the flip side, things looked great for CLG early on before Echo Fox crashed the party, but CLG showed some ugly tendencies in the process. After 15 minutes, CLG simply looked lost, not playing around its composition's ability to collapse around side lanes and instead grouping up to force fights, which worked sometimes but not enough to swing the gold lead.

The best-case scenario for CLG took place at 36 minutes thanks to mid laner Choi "huhi" Jae-hyun's Ryze. The mid laner used his Realm Warp to get behind Echo Fox and pick up a couple of kills and a Baron while CLG was down in gold. While huhi was a playmaker throughout the game, CLG simply couldn't figure out how to properly play around the Rogue Mage.

With a team filled with veterans, CLG's indecisiveness in the late game is surprising, but this problem might just be the final nail in the coffin for CLG's playoff chances if it can't get things together.

CLG looks to turn its fortunes around against a resurgent Cloud9 at 4 p.m. ET on Sunday, immediately followed by Echo Fox taking on Team SoloMid at 5 p.m. ET later on.

-- Noah Waltzer

OpTic Gaming 1, FlyQuest 0

OpTic Gaming persevered in the face of aggression from FlyQuest on Saturday to win its fifth straight game.

Slow and steady won the race again for OpTic Gaming (7-6). Sure, OpTic got on the board first when AD carry Noh "Arrow" Dong-hyeon picked up first blood pre-10 minutes, but the team found itself on the back foot after that, unable to use its split-pushing and pick composition to any effect.

Things looked grim for OpTic as FlyQuest cracked open OpTic's base, taking the mid lane inhibitor at 28 minutes and accruing a roughly 6,500-gold lead. Then, in a teamfight OpTic had to win, mid laner Tristan "PowerOfEvil" Schrage landed a perfect five-man Scatter the Weak as Syndra with his dying breath, giving his team a 5-for-1 ace and breathing new life into OpTic.

Suddenly, OpTic was in full control of the map, thanks in large part to the split-pushing efforts of top laner Niship "Dhokla" Doshi's Camille, who was diligent in his mission to break open FlyQuest's base. One Elder Dragon and Baron buff combination later, and OpTic closed things out in 42 minutes, staying alive and healthy in a hectic postseason scramble.

FlyQuest (7-6) threatened to simply roll over OpTic in the early to mid game, teamfighting like gods thanks to its potent draft. Once the damage dealers got rolling, particularly AD carry Jason "WILDTURTLE" Tran's Ezreal, FlyQuest was in business, but it seemed to run out of gas around that time, unable to respond to Dhokla's split-pushing or initiate another teamfight cleanly.

As the game went on and OpTic scaled up, FlyQuest simply couldn't get in position to flood a teamfight with damage, ultimately falling in 43 minutes. Still, considering how bad things looked last split for both of these squads, and the fact that FlyQuest remained a force to be reckoned with around the 30-minute mark, things are looking up for FlyQuest despite the loss as it now ties OpTic in the standings at fourth place.

FlyQuest faces a big test in Team Liquid at 3 p.m. ET on Sunday, while OpTic looks to continue its winning streak against the 10th place Clutch Gaming at 7 p.m. ET later that day.

-- Waltzer

Team SoloMid 1, Golden Guardians 0

Team SoloMid closed out Saturday's slate with a one-sided win over Golden Guardians.

Staring down the barrel of the worst split performance in franchise history, Team SoloMid (6-7) put on one of its best performances of the Summer Split. Led by mid laner Soren "Bjergsen" Bjerg, who had a monster game as Zoe, TSM picked up kills early and often, playing around Bjergsen and enabling him to roam around the map and make plays.

After punishing a head-scratching tower dive by the Golden Guardians, TSM cemented its gold lead a few minutes later with its first Baron kill of the game, which it used to lay waste to GGS' towers.

Putting all of its effort into keeping Guardians' jungler Juan "Contractz" Arturo Garcia's Trundle down, TSM played methodically in the mid-late game, taking its time to make sure it didn't make any boneheaded mistakes in closing out a sure-fire win. One more Baron buff is all TSM needed to decimate all of the Guardians' structures, taking a clean win in 34 minutes and staying alive in a hotly contested hunt for a playoff seed.

Golden Guardians (5-8), on the other hand, got manhandled, to put it mildly. From mid laner Son "Mickey" Young-min's Ryze getting abused in lane by Bjergsen to top laner Samson "Lourlo" Jackson's Kennen getting stuffed by TSM's Kevin "Hauntzer" Yarnell's Gnar, the Guardians simply didn't have any win conditions left by the time late game came around.

Contractz, normally the rock for this team, struggled immensely, and that seemed to keep Golden Guardians from making any proactive moves early on. What's more, while the Guardians' might have picked up early kills by ganking the bottom lane several times early on, it couldn't keep TSM AD carry Jesper "Zven" Svenningsen's Ezreal from scaling into the late game and dealing tons of poke damage.

With only a few weeks left in the season, GGS will need to learn how to play when Contractz isn't leading the charge but, given how close the standings are, the (admittedly slim) chance for a Cinderella run to the playoffs still exists.

Team SoloMid faces a big test next against Echo Fox at 5 p.m. ET on Sunday, immediately followed by Golden Guardians trying to turn things around against 100 Thieves at 6 p.m. ET.

-- Waltzer