After being perceived as a “bottom-two” team heading into the 2023 League Championship Series Spring Split, it’s safe to say TSM has exceeded expectations throughout its first nine games. At a record of 5-4, TSM is currently tied for 4th place with Golden Guardians, and they made sure to end the first half of the Spring Split on a high note.
After losing their first game of the week to Golden Guardians, TSM bounced back with a shocking win over the undefeated FlyQuest. With matches in week 4 against Immortals, TSM, and Counter Logic Gaming, FLY was expected to finish the first half of the Spring Split without a loss, but TSM had other plans.
That’s not to say TSM had a smooth victory over FLY from start to finish — the match began in chaotic fashion, with TSM giving over First Blood before the one-minute mark despite the initial play looking in their favor.
“We didn’t expect the level 1,” TSM AD carry Toàn “Neo” Trần explained after the game. “We hit a five-man knockup with a five-man E from my Varus, but we lost for no reason. The game was kind of difficult after that, but I didn’t think about it. We just needed to play the game and keep things 50-50 for us so there would be no need to worry in teamfights.”
TSM did just that. After keeping the game even through the mid-game, they began to create an advantage that allowed them to take full control of the late game. “The gameplan was just stacking dragons,” Neo explained. “We thought that if we got the first three dragons the game would be a 100% win for us, or we would just kill their AD carry or their mid laner.”
TSM weren’t able to get the first three dragons on the map, and while they were in full control of the game by the time they secured that third dragon buff, it still took them almost another 10 minutes to finally put FlyQuest away.
This was due in large part to the individual performance of FLY AD carry Lee “Prince” Chae-hwan, who is the early frontrunner for MVP of the 2023 LCS Spring Split. Despite TSM getting the upper hand in bot lane, Prince held his own on Jinx and maximized opportunities in the form of kills and farm to try and keep FLY in the game.
But Neo, who also had a strong performance throughout the game, didn’t come into the match any differently than he would against any other opponent: “I just played my game the way I always do and made sure not to be afraid of him just because he’s a big name from the LCK.”
The performance was a vindication for Neo, who was demoted to Academy by Dignitas last year after a quietly strong 18 months with the organization in favor of DIG Academy AD carry Trevor “Spawn” Kerr-Taylor. Spawn has remained as the starting AD carry for DIG in 2023.
“When they put me in Academy, I just thought that I needed to do better in Academy so that the next year, I will have more looks at LCS offers,” Neo recalled.
Fortunately for Neo, there was still faith in his ability: “TSM just DM’d me when I posted on Twitter that i was looking for a team in the LCS. They DM’d me two hours after I posted.”
Hello everyone! As of Today Im allow to explore my options! Looking for LCS/Academy spot! I know for sure I can do better next year!!And Shout out to @dignitas and Toby It was good 2 year and half and appreciate it!
DM are open! Discord:Neo#3384
(RT and Like) Thank you everyone!
— TSM Neo (@ukpneo) October 6, 2022
To end the interview, Neo was asked about how he felt about TSM’s next match against Dignitas. This match would mark the first time Neo would play against his former team, and he did not hold back: “I want revenge. They put me down into Academy and I don’t think their AD carry is that good. I’m not going to be scared of him.”
TSM finished the first half of the 2023 LCS Spring Split by defeating Dignitas, and Neo had a highlight performance on Lucian. TSM’s hopes for the LCS Spring Playoffs are far from guaranteed, but their recent wins and Neo’s confidence and performance are a huge feather in their cap regarding potential title hopes.