Team Liquid keeps momentum in win over FlyQuest

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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, FlyQuest 0

Team Liquid continued its dominance over the rest of the North American League of Legends Championship Series on Sunday by taking down FlyQuest in Los Angeles.

To the surprise of nobody, Team Liquid (10-4) finds itself on top of the NA LCS standings as the summer split approaches the postseason. Liquid jungler Jake "Xmithie" Puchero was huge on Kindred and made his presence felt throughout the early- and mid-game by landing clutch Lamb's Respite ultimates to keep Liquid alive in the face of FlyQuest's high damage composition. Meanwhile, Team Liquid top laner Jung "Impact" Eon-yeoung's Gangplank absorbed pressure early on and in turn pumped out damage in the late game.

Liquid is far from perfect, as shown by a sloppy late game Baron call that saw it lose several kills and the buff to FlyQuest, but it held off FlyQuest's comeback attempt with crisp teamfighting.

A commendable effort from FlyQuest (7-7) means it ends Week 7 with a 0-2 record, but the team still looks like a threat in the current landscape of the NA LCS. Unrelenting and unselfish play has put FlyQuest in position to potentially make playoffs this split, and the team showed just why it has been on able to climb the standings with that playstyle.

Some poor executions in the early game gave Liquid control of the early game, and FlyQuest has to work on helping mid laner Jang "Keane" Lae-young not get stomped in the mid matchup, but there are some positives to draw from this loss. FlyQuest's willingness to force fights paid off around 33 minutes, where it caught Liquid off guard for several kills and a Baron buff. If FlyQuest can work on its early game across the map and playing around star top laner Lee "Flame" Ho-jong, who had a good Rumble performance, then playoffs are definitely a possibility.

Liquid next takes to the Rift to battle OpTic Gaming at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday, followed immediately by FlyQuest battling the 10th-place Clutch Gaming at 9 p.m.

-- Noah Waltzer

Cloud9 1, Counter Logic Gaming 0

Cloud9 continued its winning ways on Sunday with a win over Counter Logic Gaming.

After a tumultuous start to the Summer Split, Cloud9 (7-7) has won yet another game, its fourth in a row, as it surges toward a potential postseason birth. CLG didn't make things easy; the team skirmished early and often as it took an early kill lead and converted that into a small gold lead.

Fortunately for Cloud9, the team drafted for the late game accordingly with scaling champions like Zilean for mid laner Nicolaj "Jensen" Jensen and double marksmen in Kindred and Kai'Sa for jungler Robert "Blaber" Huang and AD carry Zachary "Sneaky" Scuderi, respectively. The real star of the show for C9, though was top laner Eric "Licorice" Ritchie's Dr. Mundo, who did as he pleased throughout the game, running down CLG's backline en route to a 2/1/1 KDA (kills/deaths/assists) in this low-kill affair.

As soon as CLG took its foot off the gas, C9 capitalized by taking a Baron right in front of CLG, turning the heat up as it swarmed into CLG's base and closed out the game in just over 30 minutes.

Life is hard for Counter Logic Gaming (5-9) fans, as the once-storied team has lost its sixth consecutive game in a row. CLG has looked different in every recent outing, trying new playstyles and team compositions but nothing has worked for the squad yet. This time, the plan was to put veteran top laner Darshan "Darshan" Upadhyaya on AD Kennen and have him split-push against Licorice while the rest of the team would play for picks.

Unfortunately, Darshan couldn't get the ball rolling early on, and CLG abandoned the split-push strategy in favor of trying to simply out-teamfight C9. That might have worked in early- to mid-game skirmishes, but once C9 hit some key power spikes, there was nothing CLG could do to stay afloat. Indecisiveness, passivity, and poor execution on strategies have all plagued this team in the summer split, and by the looks of things, will continue to haunt CLG as it descends down the rankings.

Cloud9 looks to keep things rolling against Golden Guardians at 6 p.m. ET on Saturday, immediately followed by CLG attempting to save face in its legendary rivalry match against Team SoloMid at 7 p.m. ET.

-- Waltzer

Echo Fox 1, Team SoloMid 0

Echo Fox put the finishing touches on a 2-0 record in Week 7 as it split-pushed its way to victory against Team SoloMid, briefly moving into sole possession of second place in the North American League of Legends Championship Series Summer Split in Los Angeles.

The early game was dominated by Team SoloMid (6-8) thanks in large part to jungler Jonathan "Grig" Armao's Kindred. His constant gank pressure kept Echo Fox top laner Heo "Huni" Seung-hoon's Gnar behind in gold and levels in the early game.

The early kills gave Team SoloMid the confidence to make more proactive plays in the mid game, including a turret dive, but that confidence backfired. The misplay lead to a 3-for-1 teamfight victory for Echo Fox, giving a two-kill gold injection to Huni that put him back on track to being the split-push threat crucial to Echo Fox's success in the late game.

The second half remained close in gold and objectives as Team SoloMid slowly peeled away all the outer turrets, while Echo Fox's split-push tunneled one lane to expose an inhibitor. The threat from Huni lead to Team SoloMid making some predictable macro decisions around the 42-minute mark. Anticipating a Baron siege after TSM took down its inhibitor, Echo Fox ambushed its opposition at the pivotal buff.

A four-man squad from Echo Fox came away with a 2-to-0 kill advantage in the ensuing exchange that proved to be the dagger. With the majority of Team SoloMid fleeing for its life around the middle of the Rift and the rest helplessly waiting to respawn, Huni had an easy path to knocking down the Nexus.

Echo Fox has a chance to test its mettle against another top team as it opens Week 8 facing off against 100 Thieves at 5 p.m. ET on Saturday, while Team SoloMid's push to make playoffs pits it against Counter Logic Gaming at 7 p.m. ET later that day.

-- Ben Wong

100 Thieves 1, Golden Guardians 0

100 Thieves hung onto its tie for the second-place spot in the NA LCS with a win against Golden Guardians.

100 Thieves (9-5) took a commanding lead against the Golden Guardians in the mid-game thanks to a dominant performance from top laner Kim "Ssumday" Chan-ho's Jayce in the side lanes. The Thieves had a clear gameplan coming into this one: Focus on getting Ssumday a lead in lane by feeding first blood over to him and setting him up to be a split-push threat for the rest of the game.

After 100 Thieves managed to pick up first blood around six minutes for Ssumday, the next 20 minutes were just textbook split-pushing by 100 Thieves, which found the perfect balance between applying pressure and disengaging from any fight that the Golden Guardians tried to pick.

The chances of Golden Guardians (5-9) miraculously finding a way back into the game quickly ran out as it found itself facing a nine-to-zero turret deficit at the 30-minute mark. While it wasn't making any progress on securing any towers for itself across the map, the Guardians' defense was holding on for dear life at its inhibitor turrets and was surprisingly effective at keeping the Thieves out of its base.

However, 100 Thieves got just what it needed before pushing to victory: the Baron buff and ensuing power play. A clean 2-for-0 teamfight victory opened up the opportunity for 100 Thieves to take the Baron kill that would eventually empower its game-winning push. Golden Guardians didn't make much of a final stand, giving up only one kill before cowering in its fountain while 100 Thieves knocked down the Nexus.

100 Thieves has a chance to break the tie for second place as it opens Week 8 facing off against Echo Fox at 5 p.m. ET on Saturday, while Golden Guardians will try to stop the late-split surge of Cloud9 at 6 p.m. ET later that day.

-- Wong

Clutch Gaming 1, OpTic Gaming 0

Week 7 of the NA LCS came to a close on Sunday with two streaks breaking as Clutch Gaming put an end to its five-game losing streak while snapping OpTic Gaming's five-game winning streak.

Each team played cautiously in this low-kill contest, but Clutch Gaming (7-7) held a gold lead built on turrets through most of the game. OpTic Gaming (5-9) started to show some life in the mid game with a kill, and it postured for more but did little to alleviate its side lane problems. OpTic started to focus on CG's split-pushing threat, top laner Colin "Solo" Earnest's Gangplank, trying to catch him off-guard, but Solo remained elusive. In addition, Clutch Gaming was ready to reply to any map movements that OpTic made as it steadily increased its lead heading later into the game.

Things stalled in a bit thanks to a Herculean effort from OpTic mid laner Tristan "PowerOfEvil" Schrage's Orianna. PowerOfEvil was frantically bouncing around the Rift to defend turrets and contesting objectives, but his back would eventually break under Clutch's map pressure. OpTic started to make some crucial mistakes, such as getting caught out while rotating to defend its structures, leading to Clutch securing Baron and Elder Dragon. Despite the objective lead, though, OpTic's defense kept its Nexus standing.

OpTic couldn't stall forever, though, as Clutch dealt the killing blow around the 41 minutes, when Clutch Gaming finally got the confidence to pull the trigger on a game-winning engage. OpTic Gaming's four-man squad got torn to pieces while top laner Niship "Dhokla" Doshi's Yorick was split-pushing in the side lane, leaving him the only one standing to try and stop Clutch from winning. Dhokla just couldn't stand up to a united Clutch Gaming as it finished off the ace before knocking down the Nexus and ending its losing streak.

OpTic Gaming will look to prove that it's still playoff-worthy as it takes on the first-place Team Liquid at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday, while Clutch Gaming will hope to climb out of the bottom of the standings against FlyQuest at 9 p.m. ET later that day.

-- Wong