The Foxes are on the prowl in the North American LCS.
A surging Echo Fox (5-7) is breathing down the necks of the top teams in the league; after a 1-7 start mired in visa issues and stopgap lineups almost derailed the Rick Fox-owned squad, it has come together with the return of its full starting five and reeled off four straight wins.
Heading into the final three weeks of the regular season, the Foxes are currently tied for the sixth and last playoff spot with Team Liquid (5-7).
The catalyst for Echo Fox's turnaround has been the team's ace in the middle lane, Henrik "Froggen" Hansen. He returned to action two weeks ago after missing six straight games, due to those aforementioned visa issues. Froggen's been nothing short of masterful since inserting himself back into the starting lineup, going 4-0 and putting up elite numbers. If he can continue on this stellar pace, it'll be hard to keep his name out of MVP discussions even with the lack of games compared to the rest of the field.
LoL NA LCS: Team Liquid vs Echo Fox - Week 6
Echo Fox is at full strength with the return of Froggen and kfo, but can they take down yet another playoff team?
"The dynamic on the team is pretty good," Froggen told ESPN following its fourth straight win last Sunday. "Even though we didn't play in the LCS [for three weeks], we still kept practicing with the same lineup...nothing really changed for us. It's just now that we can actually show how much we've improved."
In only twelve games, Echo Fox has already played with 10 different team members through the first six weeks. Without Froggen and Korean-import top laner Park "kfo" Jeong-hun for a lengthy period, the team devolved into something completely different. While the Foxes were still practicing together during their attempts to reinstate their original starting lineup, members from the minor league team Ember were more prominent in the starting five than actual Fox players.
The Ember and Echo Fox Frankenstein hybrid fought valiantly in the face of turmoil, but they lacked the cohesive shot-calling and late-game coordination that separates the top teams from the ones lingering in relegation.
"For the shot calling, we want to try and have [Terry "BIG" Chuong] shot call most of the time," said Froggen. "And I think that's working really well. He's been improving constantly since week one."
Froggen wasn't the only player to miss that chunk of time, as kfo similarly languished on the sidelines. A Korean amateur player that made his name in the scene through his constant Vladimir play in solo queue, his development has been similar to BIG's as an in-game leader. The first two games of the season for kfo were largely forgettable, with the young import looking out of sync next to the rest of his teammates. As a non-fluent English speaker, the weeks of scrimmaging and living alongside his teammates have been crucial for his all-around refinement.
"[kfo] has no competitive experience so far, and he's coming in from solo queue," Echo Fox's ace said about his top lane teammate. "He barely speaks English, so he has a bit of a tough time learning the game. But we have a translator and he's learning English every single day, so he's [getting better]. Now we're at the point where he actually starts talking to us [in English]."
Froggen doesn't want to get overconfident about his team's chances. Although he knows they're playing well currently, he also divulged that he believes there are a few teams currently playing better than the Foxes in the LCS. His mind-set to overtake those teams is to continue working together as a five-man unit, take every opponent seriously, and diligently work through the remaining schedule.
"I think we just mesh with each other pretty well," he said when asked what he believes his team's greatest strength is in its current stage. "We've been [rapidly] improving since day one. And even though we're almost two months into it now, we've barely had any problems with attitude or anything like that. I feel like we can respect each other and [grow as a team] while doing so."
The Foxes will look to continue their rapid ascent up the standings this weekend, though they're faced with quite a challenge. They'll take on Team SoloMid (7-5) on Saturday before meeting the undefeated Immortals (12-0) in Sunday's Week 7 finale.