Echo Fox appeared to be heading to an embarrassing first season of the NA LCS. Due to visa issues, its two import signings, Henrik "Froggen" Hansen and Park "kfo" Jeong-hun, hadn't played since Week 1. The team had become a joke following their solid 1-1 start on opening weekend, losing all six games without Frogen and kfo. The narrative became less and less about Echo Fox's ability to win a game and more about their ability to field a starting lineup without a majority of them being from minor league team Ember.
The halfway point of the season saw the Danish mid laner and Korean top laner make their way back to the NA LCS; their visa troubles finally resolved after three weeks. The reformed Echo Fox (3-7) put on its best showing of the split on Sunday, securing a 2-0 scoreline with a convincing victory over ailing NRG eSports (5-5). The wins over Renegades (1-9) and NRG saved a campaign that was surely done for with another disappointing weekend.
Fox's bottom lane of Yuri "Keith" Jew and Terry "BIG" Chuong performed admirably in the team's makeshift lineups, with starting jungler Anthony "Hard" Barkhovtsev even missing time, but making the playoffs will depend on their two returning imports.
Froggen was flawless in his return to North America. He first beat his old European rival Alex Ich and Renegades with a 4/0/7 showcase on Corki. That was followed up by another game on Corki without any deaths, downing fellow NA LCS rookie and mid laner, NRG's GBM, by a scoreline of 5/0/10. The Dane has proudly taken back the title of 'ace' for his team, and the Foxes have fallen in line behind their All-Star mid laner.
The wild card for Echo Fox will be the Korean, kfo, in the top lane. An amateur player who was scouted due to his impressive results in his country's solo queue, there is always the chance of him never learning how to transition from an online mindset to offline. Short and bright-eyed, kfo's first two games in the NA LCS weren't the greatest. There were a few instances in which you could see his raw mechanical skill at work, but it was quickly forgotten due to a needless overextension or a similar mindlapse.
kfo's reintroduction to North America went much more smoothly than his debut. He was the star in their victory against NRG eSports alongside Froggen, frequently breaking up NRG's attempts to get back into the game with well-timed Malphite ultimates. Whenever NRG tried to siege or knock a tower down, the rookie showed no hesitation in using Malphite's knockup to serve his opponents on a silver platter for his teammates. Fox's top laner played like the prospect they hoped they were picking up when they signed him.
As a five-man unit, the starting lineup of Echo Fox has a chance to surprise the league in the second half of the season. Keith, their AD carry, has proven over the past two splits on Team Liquid and then Team SoloMid that he's capable of being thrown into chaotic roster situations. As a steady AD that is best when he has a strong ace to back up, the partnership between Froggen and Keith should be one of the better one-two punches in the competition if they can find any sort of chemistry.
"I think I'm mostly team-oriented," Hard said about what type of jungle style he fits into. "I definitely -- I think I maybe ward more than most junglers. ... I don't really go for kills or try to carry. I just make sure my lanes are ahead."
Echo Fox looks like a team that is slowly finding its specific roles on the team. Froggen as the ace. Keith as the secondary back-up carry. Hard as the team-oriented specialist that gets his lanes ahead. BIG as the initiator on champions like Alistar (five games) and Thresh (two). kfo is the only one that needs to find his place on the team. We know that he has the pure skill to be a carry due to his impressive results in Korea's cutthroat solo queue, yet his best game thus far was on Malphite, a tank that is customarily used for engage and frontline soakage. If the young Korean can find his footing -- as a carry, tank, split-pusher, etc. -- the Foxes might be in place to make a miracle run toward the postseason.
Looking ahead, Echo Fox is now in a must-win mode if it wants to think about playoffs. They will be against two teams they'll need to topple in order to make it with Team Liquid (5-5) on Saturday and the next day Team Impulse (4-6). As well as they played this weekend, it'll be all for naught if they go back to their losing ways in six days.
The Foxes are starting to figure out the puzzle that is their lineup. We'll see if they can put together the pieces in time.