The 2021 Los Angeles Valiant have unveiled their new roster to the dismay of fans and experts alike. While it does reunite the former core of The One Winner, who was a competitive team in Overwatch Contenders China, confidence in the team is shaky ahead of such a difficult year. From the players chosen to the odd roles listed in their roster announcement, experts familiar with Chinese Overwatch are concerned for the Valiant.Months prior to the announcement, the Los Angeles Valiant had not been able to escape the headlines. On November 11th, 2020, Bloomberg reported that Immortals Gaming Club (IGC), was considering options that included the sale of its Overwatch League franchise, the Los Angeles Valiant. On January 29th, 2021, the Los Angeles Valiant released the entirety of its staff and players to the shock of the community. Nearly a month later, the Valiant announced that LinGan e-Sports, a Chinese esports organisation experienced in the Overwatch space, would be the franchise’s operating partner for the 2021 season. On March 18th, 2021, the Los Angeles Valiant announced its roster for the 2021 Overwatch League season. And this all took place before their 2021 Overwatch League season debut on April 17th.To say there was push back against the move, the messaging, and the late decision would be an understatement. English commentator and expert for Overwatch Contenders: China, Eren "Kenobi" Erkey, weighed in on how well he believes the Valiant’s 2021 roster will perform. “I think this team on paper is obviously one of the weaker teams in [the Overwatch League], if not the lowest,” he said. “I have a hard time seeing this team having much success and they are in very real danger of not winning a single series this season.” Chinese Overwatch expert and commentator, Gai "Alan" Yandahan, voiced concerns on the expectations around Los Angeles Valiant as well, but gave them the benefit of the doubt.“I expect them to be bottom of the APAC region, but maybe not 0-16,” he explained. “Eventually, I think there will be a patch or hero pool to fit them in, or their opponents just play even worse.” Alan also shared that there were rumours that the Valiant was performing well in practice but warned against looking too far into that saying “[...] I would take this hearsay with a grain of salt.”As the Valiant’s 2021 roster seems to attract most of the ire of the community, more speculative eyes trend towards some of the talented players left on the shelf. Be it promising rookies that have been looking for a chance or tenured veterans trying to carve a path back into the league, there multiple recurring players brought up that were absent from the Valiant’s roster.“[Weida "Diya" Lu] would obviously be someone who I would want on this team, but I can understand a lot of players not wanting to join the team because of the issues surrounding the Valiant,” Kenobi said. He also pointed towards support specialist Wu "Superich" Gengtuo as another player that could change the perception of the team. Kenobi also drew serious concern with former The One Winner tank player, Zhang "Highbee" Zening, role swap to support. Alan echoed many of these same sentiments. “Superrich would be my choice. I think the major problem of their roster is the lack of an experienced main support player, where Superrich can fit in.”It is understandable that western social media has been white-hot with criticisms of the new roster—but unfortunately, it does not stop there. When asked about the Chinese social media response to the move, Alan furthered a voice of concern. “[It is] not good,” he explained. “[There is] a lot of backlash especially due to the role switch of Highbee and the lack of experience of [Yelin "NvM" Wen].” NvM was the former main tank of LinGan e-Sports and was reported to have retired towards the end of the 2018 Overwatch Contenders season. This would mark a two-year layoff from competing domestically in China, let alone internationally within the Overwatch League.Both their biggest concerns for the roster are situated around the roster itself. Kenobi cited the size of their roster as a major culprit in worry surrounding the new-look Valiant. “They are role-swapping their players and bringing in a tank who hasn't played since 2018,” he said. “They clearly aren't prepared and haven't been able to secure the best Chinese talent available.”“If we are talking about [a] position or roster I think it’s the [main support],” Alan said. “If in a bigger picture, I think the lack of time and the talent pool to build a well-rounded team. Time issue will result in a lack of scrim and blending between players. They choose to build a full-Chinese roster, which is understandable in marketing, but really hurts when you want to build a competitive team since you rule out all the players that can’t speak Chinese.”However, nothing is without its silver linings. The Valiant does have elements that they can leverage in some positive facet. “I think purely in a vacuum and without looking at the ‘off the field’ issues, their DPS line is probably the strongest part of the team,” Kenobi said. “[Liao "MoLanran" Yang] is a solid projectile player and despite all of the issues [Cai "Krystal" Shilong] has had, he's still a very talented DPS player.”Alan on the other hand pointed towards the shared history of some of the players from their time on The One Winner. “I think the old chemistry that these players have is the crucial element of their possible success. A [The One Winner] reunion means a lot in emotion, but also in making it easy to blend everyone in. In particular, Highbee, Molanran, [and] [Han "Silver3" Haibo] played together not long before [this]. So generally speaking, you have to trust the chemistry between these players.”One of the more beloved Overwatch League franchises is on thin ice both from a community standpoint and a competitive one. With the league’s continued move towards more of a tournament format, it seems highly unlikely that the Valiant will be earning any extra league points through their subsequent placings. On top of that, now that they are playing in the Eastern Region, their competition is even more difficult and their 2021 playoff chances seem slim. If you enjoyed this piece, follow the author on Twitter at @Volamel
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