North went from being a solid top 10 team to a verge team who fell in the first stage of the CS:GO London Major. Mathias “MSL” Lauridsen is the crux of the issue, in more ways than one. The MSL effect seemingly extends to the entire team and whether or not it succeeds.
The MSL effect
In most European teams, in-game leaders give the most advantageous opportunities to their star players, while the in-game leader takes the more sacrificial role within the team. MSL, for whatever reason, truly believes that he can perform against tier-one players. MSL’s last event with an overall positive K/D ratio (prior to DreamHack Masters Stockholm) was DreamHack Las Vegas 2017. If you have the amount of star players that North has, usually you can find a player who can carry games, but somehow under MSL’s leadership those games are few and far between.
One of the primary problems with MSL is how he feels the need to AWP on this roster. This not only puts a drain on North’s economy, but when MSL does get kills, it is quite ineffective and is simply not worthwhile. MSL plays B site wherever he wants. He chooses to play off angles that guarantee one kill but can fall apart when it is a full rush. It also can put whoever is playing site with him in an awkward spot and at an immediate disadvantage before any other factors are considered. This can be repeated on different levels on North’s map pool and has been a constant problem for the team since its incarnation.
The “Not Astralis” lineup
When this team moved from Team Dignitas to North, it was no secret that the group was not going to be better than Astralis. Top to bottom, Astralis had this team beat in every department. Initially, North was closely behind Astralis and breathing down their necks. But as Astralis started to pull away from the pack, North fell away performance-wise. At the Boston major, North went 0-3 against Vega Squadron, Astralis, and BiG. In two of those games, North should have won. Seemingly the better Astralis got, the worse North became.
However, there is no doubt that North has been slowly rising recently. Beating their rival Astralis in a scrappy best-of-three was an important start, and culminating with a win at DreamHack Valencia inspires hope. That said, qualification for IEM Chicago did not come easy. It is hard to be confident in a team that was almost eliminated by Ence twice. North is seemingly able to beat tier-two or tier-three teams, but they struggle against top teams who are better player for player.
At DreamHack Masters Stockholm, the script was flipped. In possibly the craziest series of events, North somehow won one of the most important non-major events this year. In their run, they beat Astralis twice and beat both Natus Vincere and Mousesports in best-of-threes. This helped them jump to fourth in the world, according to HLTV – six places better than they were prior to this event. Beating the first, second, and fifth best teams in the world is nothing to scoff at.
But then a week later at the FACEIT Major, North failed to meet any of the newfound expectations they gained at DreamHack Masters Stockholm. The team fell to HellRaisers and Team Spirit in the opening two rounds, only to murder an already dead Virtus.pro. Their final win in the FACEIT Major was in double overtime against Rogue. They almost lost to a team that is barely in the top 30 according to HLTV. Then they lost in a best-of-three to Vega Squadron. North had one of the easiest draws throughout the tournament and still failed to make it through to the Legends stage.
The problem lies in the fact that North’s skill was measured by just one tournament: Dreamhack. In this one event, every single thing went right for them. While they completely deserved to win DreamHack Masters Stockholm, North have been grossly overrated because of that. In a single event, North went from a complete mess of a team to a promising team situated within the top five. Everyone over-performed at Stockholm, but the expectation to perform at every tournament like that is simply not going to happen. MSL’s leadership is still an issue. A short-lived victory will bring happiness and sunshine until the grim realities are apparent once again. The Major was just a taste.
What does the future look like?
In short, this team needs a complete overhaul. Luckily, North has been very much willing to spend money to get the players that they need. But this team can’t be centered around a player like MSL. While his mid-round calling is very good, his overall leadership has put the team in a constant slump. If North choose to bring in another leader, they can potentially shine. Until then, expect more of the same.