Grounded: The Echo Fox Conundrum

Echo Fox preparing for a game. Photo by Echo Fox.
Echo Fox preparing for a game. Photo by Echo Fox.

At the outset of the summer split, everything looked to be trending up for Echo Fox. The squad, led by Danish midlaner Henrik “Froggen” Hansen, was regarded as one of the most promising in the NALCS. It had finished the previous split in 7th place, largely in part to visa problems which sidelined Froggen and the rookie Korean top laner Jeong-hun “kfo” Park. When the team was finally made whole again towards the end of the split, they enjoyed success and a solid record. The team’s fan base, sizeable for a new team, hoped for better results and even a playoff spot in which Echo Fox could establish their place as a formidable NALCS team. However, such a rosy future was not in the cards for Echo Fox, and they have struggled greatly this split.

The team’s fortunes did not drop immediately, however, as they began the season with a pair of excellent results. In their first match in the best of three format, they played two strong games to dispatch Phoenix1. While Phoenix1, a new team this split, may not have been the most competitive opponent, Echo Fox still was able to close out consecutive games, a feat which they have not yet been able to repeat. In their second game of the week against perennial contenders Cloud9, Echo Fox again acquitted themselves well, taking the first game off a won teamfight. Though they lost the second game and came within a failed kfo backdoor attempt of victory in the third, Echo Fox was once again able to compete against top-tier competition.

In the weeks since, however, there have been few such bright spots. One came against the then undefeated TSM in week 4, in which Echo Fox was able to take the first game off of the spring finalists. Though this win may have been due more to TSM’s indecisive macro play and ill-fated objective control, Echo Fox was still able to stay even with a team widely regarded as one of the best in the world.

Echo Fox has not won a match since the first set of the split. Though there have been close 2-1 losses, the team’s fortunes have been sunk by bad early games, lackluster performances from jungler Anthony “Hard” Barkhovtsev and support Terry “Big” Chuong, and a seeming lack of purpose during the team’s games, in which they are consistently outrotated and outplayed by every team in the NALCS.

As a result, the team has been eliminated from playoff contention and will face the chance of being dropped to the NACS in the Promotion Tournament at the end of this season. The squad’s chances of remaining in the upper league are not guaranteed by any means, with strong Challenger Series contenders Cloud9 Challenger and Team Liquid Academy providing a tough challenge.

Even if Echo Fox remains in the NALCS for another season, their record cannot hope to improve unless wholesale change is made. A start would be to replace Hard and Big with better talent and to rebuild around the talented core of Froggen, kfo, and ADC Yuri “Keith” Jew. Such replacements alone cannot guarantee success without the additional improvement of macro play and objective control.

Team owner Rick Fox would do well to bring in additional support staff with LCS experience in order to train the younger players, many of whom are fresh from the ranks of the amateur ladder. If all their needs are met, Echo Fox may finally be able to reach the heights of the NALCS playoffs, but until then they are doomed to languish in lower ranks.