Gold Coin United have signed Longzhu Gaming mid laner Song "Fly" Yong-jun, who will take over for Kim "FeniX" Jae-hun on the starting roster, according to the team's coach Choi "Locodoco" Yoon-seop.
Locodoco spoke to theScore esports about their Korean acquisition, as well as developing domestic talent and league franchising.
"FeniX was a really good player, but he didn't mesh the best with our coaching staff or our players, so we decided we needed someone new," Locodoco told theScore esports. "And after talking to Longzhu and Longzhu's coaching staff, it seemed like the environment set up in Longzhu wasn't the best for Fly to succeed and they were interested in transferring him so we talked to them and picked him up."
GCU performed well in their inaugural split, winning the Challenger Series playoffs and coming within a hair's breadth of qualifying for the NA LCS after 3-2 losses to Team Liquid and Team EnVyUs in the summer promotion tournament.
With the addition of Fly, Locodoco says they're well-poised to clinch an LCS spot in the summer split.
"We felt like we developed faster than the LCS teams did and we made bigger improvements and we feel like we made upgrades in our roster, so we're very hopeful. Fly is doing well in scrims, the entire team is doing well in scrims. Colin [Colin "Solo" Earnest], our toplaner, is taking extra time to make sure Fly feels welcomed here."
While bringing in players from Korea has been common practice in Western teams for years now, some in recent months have questioned its effectiveness. Following their victory in the spring finals, Team SoloMid's Kevin "Hauntzer" Yarnell commented at a press conference that he felt playing against the most recent wave of imported Koreans had been underwhelming.
"They’re not as good as the fans say they are, and it was just kind of playing against mediocre opponents," Hauntzer said.
A Korean import himself, leaving the LCK to join Counter Logic Gaming in 2012, Locodoco says that if teams want to get the best out of their imports in-game, then they need to ease them into a new life in a new country.
"It really depends on the player mindset and player attitude and what kind of support the team provides," he said. "All the imports that I worked with, I talked to them before to tell them what's hard or difficult and how they had to prep and I feel like I've been very successful with importing players. For example, Lustboy, Madlife and now Fly."
According to Locodoco, with the pressure to secure a spot in the LCS next split, it's simply more realistic for GCU to import an established Korean player than to cultivate a domestic. He says that if the NA LCS were to adopt a franchising model, then perhaps teams would be better able to dedicate resources to building talent.
"I love working with domestic players and I do think that NA needs to develop NA talent, but for a team like us that are working super hard to get into NA LCS within 3 or 4 months, Fly will be the best option, moreso than developing an NA talent from the ground-up," he said. "Once there's franchising and there's more long-term development opportunities, I think that's where we'll see teams pick up younger NA talent and develop them."
However, he says while his team is aiming to go all the way in the summer, they're aware their competition has also been making improvements, and they aren't going to take anything for granted.
"We know the other teams, Tempo Storm and EUnited, made big upgrades in their roster and also coaching staff and the first step to getting upset is taking people lightly. We're going to take every opponent seriously and if we lose to them, it won't be because we took them lightly. It will be because they played better than us that day."
Sasha Erfanian is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.
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 Discipline Priest Pharah. You can follow him on Twitter.