Froggen and Alex Ich’s dual paths through the NA LCS

Taylor Cocke at Yahoo Esports

Image courtesy of Lolesports/Riot Games.

This year has seen two legendary European mid laners make their way to the North American LCS. Henrik “Froggen” Hansen left the team built around him in Elements, while Alexey “Alex Ich” Ichetovkin finally returned to the LCS stage after three splits away from the professional stage.

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Both have long histories. Froggen was a core member of CLG.EU during their run as one of the greatest League of Legends teams of all time, while Alex Ich held down the mid lane for Moscow 5 (later Gambit Gaming), a team that revolutionized how the game was played. There are few players as well-respected as these two in the West, and they’re both starting new chapters in their careers.

It hasn’t a been particularly smooth ride for either of them, however. Froggen has had visa problems, leaving him on the sidelines for a few weeks while his team, Echo Fox, played with a substitute roster and failed to find wins. Meanwhile, Alex Ich’s Renegades were unable to transition their Challenger Series success into wins once they reached the LCS.

Now, it’s time to recover. Their legacies are at stake.

(Image: Lolesports/Riot Games)

Comebacks

For weeks, Froggen was helpless to do anything to stop Echo Fox’s slide. Due to visa issues, he was forced to sit out of matches for three weeks as his team’s substitute squad failed to find a single win. As a result, when he returned in Week 6, he found himself sitting at 1-7, solidly at the bottom of the standings.

But his influence was immediately felt. Echo Fox won four in a row. They looked rejuvenated, especially with top laner kfo back in the starting roster (he also had some visa issues). And while you’d think there would be some issues with the roster switch — the sub squad’s practice times likely cut into the starter’s — as it turns out, the main roster never stopped playing together.

“I don’t think it was very hard [to come back],” Froggen told Yahoo Esports. “Whenever we were using the subs, we were practicing with the main squad the whole time.”

(Image: Lolesports/Riot Games)

They didn’t even worry too much about whether or not the subs managed to find a win.

“If [the subs] picked up wins, that would be nice, but if they don’t, it’s whatever,” says the mid laner. “We just keep practicing and look forward to playing. That’s pretty much it. There was no morale loss from those games.”

Froggen’s veteran experience has been instrumental in making sure his team doesn’t slide to the bottom of the NA LCS and into relegation. As a member of the League of Legends old guard, he knows how to turn green rookies into vital members of winning squads.

“You make it as normal as possible to be at the LCS,” he said. “You’ve got to improve and show everyone what you’ve been practicing. You can’t think that, if you fail, you’re going to get sh*t talked and flamed for the next two months, and no one will ever play with you again. You obviously want to avoid that. [laughs] You want to have the least amount of pressure as possible. You just want to come in and do what you normally do.”

Despite dropping both games in Week 7, his influence is clear: With Froggen starting, Echo Fox is a different animal.

Image courtesy of Lolesports/Riot Games.

A new way on

Meanwhile, Alex Ich and Renegades are having similar problems.

Freeze missed games due to — what else — visa problems, original support Remi stepped down, and top laners RF and Flaresz are regularly swapped in and out. But unlike Echo Fox, they can’t seem to find their footing. After Week 7, they’re sitting at 2-12, two games behind Dignitas and in last place. With only four matches left on the schedule and Team SoloMid and Cloud9 left on the docket, it doesn’t look likely that they’ll escape relegation and the promotion tournament.

“I feel like we’re improving, just maybe not fast enough,” said Alex Ich. “For us, it’s much more important to find out mistakes and fix them rather than keep a negative attitude. When you give up, it’s when you start having problems with Challenger teams. I don’t really like to give up. We’re struggling, we understand that, and we’re trying to fix it… I’m happy to be back in the LCS, that’s a good feeling. But if you’re on a team that’s struggling, that’s really hard.”

Renegades have shown signs of life, but Alex Ich believes that they need figure out a way to come together as a team.

“I think it’s mostly mentality and communication issues within the game,” he said. “I think our communication, even though we’re doing a lot of fixes to it, is still struggling a lot. I’m working mostly on what to say, how to speak to the team.”

Image courtesy of Lolesports/Riot Games.

The biggest challenge for Alex Ich personally is to overcome the pressure and stress of being on a struggling team.

“The downswing was really hard, and I was really depressed,” he said. “But now I am starting to feel much better. I had to make that upswing for myself. I still feel like I can do more to help the team to get more wins. I’m trying to do my best to figure out how I can help myself and how I can use that to help the team win games.”

For both players, the final weeks of the LCS will be vital for not only their season, but for making sure they’re able to defeat any Challenger Series teams looking to take their slots via relegation. They need to find their rhythm to gain enough confidence to defend their status as LCS squads.

“The goal is pretty simple,” Alex admits. “Get as many wins as we can.”

Taylor Cocke’s Anivia isn’t quite at Froggen’s level, but it’s getting there. You can follow him on Twitter @taylorcocke, where he will be talking about playing the Cryophoenix support.

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