David "DAVEY" Stafford is a Canadian CS:GO player for Splyce and one of the people responsible for the team's new multi-region roster, which brought together players from the North American, European and Asian regions.
DAVEY took the time to chat with theScore esports about how the roster formed and the state of North American CS.
What’s your opinion on how the team have performed up until this point?
I think we’ve had a pretty inconsistent performance. In some places we’ve gone above expectations, but in other places we’ve gone way below our expectations.
On LAN, we’ve sort of reached our accomplishments. Qualifying for the Major was above our expectations at that time. But then online we performed badly, and more recently on LAN, we haven’t performed as well as we had expected to.
Really inconsistent overall, and that’s why we decided to make the roster changes that we did.
I guess not qualifying for Cologne was kind of the last straw?
Yeah, pretty much. If we performed well and qualified for the [Cologne] Major, then we probably wouldn’t have made these changes that we made.
Yeah, even just dropping three members by itself was a big change — but then you came out with this awesome roster. What was the process for picking up those players?
I guess the process for picking up those players was just me sitting down and watching tons and tons of demos. We’ve actually be talking to Machinegun [Enkhtaivan "Machinegun" Lkhagv] for a few months, not anything insanely serious, but we’ve been in contact entertaining the idea for months. Though it never really materialized, and we sort of just sat on it.
After the Major qualifiers, he was the first person that we contacted, because we knew he was interested and he was down right away. We were originally just looking for one more player, an AWPer, because we were keeping myself, arya [Arya "arya" Hekmat] and jasonR [Jason "jasonR" Ruchelski].
The roster was originally me, arya, jasonR, CRUC1AL [Joey "CRUC1AL" Steusel] and Machinegun, but then AcilioN [Asger "AcilioN" Larsen] approached us. We didn’t think he was available, honestly, but he said, “Hey I’m supposed to be joining this team, but I’m not sure if I want to do that. Some stuff happened with us not too long ago, and I don’t know if I want to stay with these guys.”
So we talked it over with Marty [Strenczewilk], the owner of Splyce, and arya and I talked it over a lot. We decided that AcilioN's experience playing in top European leagues, playing at big European LANs, and all that experience, would be perfect to add into our team, because we’re bringing over two players with almost no experience.
AcilioN is really motivated too, so we decided that he would be worth bringing over. And that’s why we decided to make that third change that wasn’t originally part of the plan.
Does Machinegun speak English?
Yeah, he speaks English, but the thing with him is, while he understands English very well, he’s not fluent or anything. The problem he’s going to run into is more elaborate sentences, and trying to express what he’s thinking, so if he has an opinion on something and wants to express it, he doesn’t always fully convey his thoughts how he wants to.
It’s a problem for him, and so it’s obviously a problem for us, because we want his opinion on things, right? He’s on the team, we want his opinions. So if there’s times where he can’t express it fully, it hurts us and him.
We’re working on it with him, but he understands everything just fine, and in-game communication isn’t a problem. He understands everything we’re saying and he can call stuff out and communicate everything just fine. It’s just afterwards, when we’re analyzing and coming up with strats — that’s when he struggles.
The multi-region roster also brings up another issue — do the Asian and EU players use similar callouts as the NA guys?
No, even the Europeans use weird callouts for a lot of stuff... Well, actually, it’s probably us that use weird callouts, to be honest. So, that was the first thing we did, we came up with overlays of each map, wrote down what everything was called, and we went over every single map and went, “OK, what’s this called? What’s this called?” And every single person had to know.
It was definitely a problem, but we worked it out, and it only took a day or two of practice. We ground it all out.
So is everyone in one location now?
No, not yet. We have a house in L.A. on August 1, and that’s when everyone will be moving into the house. Right now, everyone sort of had vacation plans already made before this happened, so everyone is just finishing up their little off-season by the end of July.
I guess you guys haven’t had the chance to really practice yet then.
So we haven’t practiced in terms of scrims. We haven’t played against other teams yet. Mostly just because Machinegun is in Mongolia, and his ping would be way too high to be able to play. We have scrimmed a little bit with the Europeans and our coach standing in, just early on, to get the feel of each other and to practice some stuff that we had worked on, like CT setups, etc.
We haven’t practiced as a full five yet, but we’ve gone over our strats and what we want to do in each map, stuff like that.
So you have a strong idea of what your setup is going to be too, with arya as the in-game leader. Or is AcilioN going to help with that too?
arya is going to be our in-game leader, Professor_Chaos [Andrew "Professor_Chaos" Heintz] is our coach and will be helping him out with that. And we also have AcilioN who was the in-game leader for ex-SK for a long time, so he can help out with that for sure. Actually, Machinegun was also the in-game leader for The MongolZ team, but he also did everything for that team.
Yeah, he really did, he was like their NiKo basically.
Exactly. But we don’t want him to be worried about in-game leading at all, though he can still help out for sure. We have lots of players on this team who can help out with tactics, so we’re not too worried about that. But arya is the in-game leader.
Considering you guys picked up Machinegun, were there any other Asian talents you were scouting?
There were definitely a few that we considered. There were a couple AWPers in China that are pretty high quality — we considered Savage [Bin "Savage" Liu], who is a pretty well-known, high skill level player. But we didn’t pursue it at all, we decided that looking at European AWPers would probably just be better, because for the Asian region getting visas for the United States is always weird. Especially for China. We weren’t sure exactly how that would work, so we decided not to even pursue.
You mention the visa issues. I’ve heard that it’s actually harder for Mongolian citizens in particular to get their American visas.
As far as I know, getting travel visas is an issue, like if they want to just come here and visit, because they had those denied before when they tried to come for the Major qualifier. But for the P-1 visas, it’s quite a bit easier.
They cost more money, but it’s actually easier because we're professional athletes employed by Splyce, and we also have letters from all the leagues saying, “Yes these are professional athletes. They need to be able to move to the U.S. to compete,” etc.
Did you guys immediately look towards Asia and EU for talent, as opposed to NA?
No, there were players in NA that we considered early on, even back before the [Cologne] Major qualifier, because Professor_Chaos was originally supposed to go to coach. We tried out a couple young talents, but overall the work ethic from the Europeans and other regions is just way higher than the North Americans' work ethic.
The other big thing for me is that young up-and-coming North American players, if you throw them onto a pro team, their egos get so big and they think they’re so much better than they are that they stop putting in the work that they need to. That’s the biggest problem with the American scene.
But not only that, North American up-and-comers notoriously choke on LAN. I feel like it’s because they think they’re so good online, then they get told about how different LAN is, and become worried about how they’re not going to be as good on LAN. There’s just so many up-and-coming American players that notoriously choke on LAN and it’s just not something that we’re interested in.
The NA talent pool has always been good, we’ve never lacked talent or players. We’ve always had players with high talent, they just can’t put it all together in the end. We have players that have the skill, but they can’t put it together at big events on LAN and become the best players in the world, even though they have the ability to do that. It has to be your work ethic, your drive and your will to win. That’s what it has to be, because it can’t be anything else.
Do you think there’s a way of fixing that, or do you think it’s a systemic regional problem?
I mean, right now it’s a systemic regional problem, and I don’t know how you could fix it, but I know there’s a lot of American players that don’t have that problem. Stewie2k is a good example of a player who’s put in a ton of work, got really good. And he has a big ego, but he doesn’t let that stop his work ethic. There’s other young players that did the same thing. So it’s not everyone, but the majority of them, that’s what happens, and I don’t know how you could fix it.
I believe that if you bring up a problem, you should offer a solution, but I honestly don’t know what a solution for this would be — besides having coaches that are good at controlling young players' egos. But because of all the people that they talk to online, and all the people telling them how good they are all the time, I don’t think they can do that.
Your new roster hasn't played yet, but in your head, what’s the next step to getting the roster to 100 percent?
In our practice for the first month we’re mostly just going to run defaults on our T-side. And for someone who doesn’t really follow, that just means that everybody spreads out and we sort of just work the map slowly. Then we can work on our teamplay, work on our mid-round calling, and small things that you need to work on as a team.
We can work on that for the first month. Then once we have our teamplay and our team identity down, that’s when we can really work on our more in-depth strats and come up with some crazy shit.
What will be your goals for the rest of the year?
Our goal is always to win. That is always the goal. Whatever we’re playing in, we want to win.
Our first goal is to qualify for the next Major, that’s a big one, and in online play we want to qualify for the ESL Pro League Season Finals. So Top 4 in NA. Those are our two main goals right now.
OK, last questions… are you playing Pokemon GO?
I am dude, I just downloaded it a couple of days ago.
What level are you?
I’m Level 9 right now,.I haven’t been playing a lot.
What’s your strongest Pokemon?
I have a… 322CP Snorlax right now.
Dude, you have a Snorlax? When did you get that?
Like, on my second day.
You’re kidding, just walking around?
Well, there was a big thing with like 50 people all playing. I don’t know, I’m not the best at this game yet, like I don’t really know everything and what to do yet.
Well, the Snorlax is a pretty rare one.
Is it? Yeah, alright!
This interview was edited and condensed for clarity.
Dennis "Tarmanydyn" Gonzales is a news editor for theScore esports who enjoys whiskey, D&D and first-picking
Abaddon Slardar Clinkz Medusa Oracle a P90 my Souvenir Negev. You can follow him on Twitter.