The Vancouver Titans officially parted ways with their remaining Overwatch League roster on Wednesday, and will reportedly turn to a Contenders Division team to fill the vacancies.
Titans esports director Tim Holloway announced the team has “mutually” parted ways with HyoJong “HakSal” Kim, Minsoo “Seominsoo” Seo, Seongjun “Slime” Kim, Chunghee “Stitch” Lee, Juseok “Twilight” Lee and JeHong “RyuJeHong” Yu along with assistant coaches Yangwon “Yang1” Kweon (coach) and Jae Hong “Andante” Hwang. Offseason acquisition Chan Hyeong “Fissure” Baek was also released.
Andante had announced his free agency earlier this week, following the departure of tank HyunWoo “JJANU” Choi and head coach Hwang “PaJion” Jisub on April 30.
Later in the day, ESPN reported that the Titans will sign five players from the North American Contenders team Second Wind: William “Caden” Loll, Abtin “ShRedLock” Shirvani, Dalton “Dalton” Bennyhoff, Colin “Higan” Arai and Randal “Roolf” Stark. All are 18 or older and thus eligible to compete in the Overwatch League. According to ESPN, the other three players on Second Wind’s roster — Zachary “iced” Hughes, Benjamin “UltraViolet” David and Nicholas “Speedily” Zou — are minors and cannot yet sign Overwatch League contracts.
Those additions would fit with Vancouver’s stated goal of helping “aspiring young players make the leap into professional play” with its new roster.
The personnel changes had been expected as speculation about a complete roster breakup has increased steadily since all of the players removed Titans references from their social media pages last month.
In Wednesday’s statement, the Titans outlined the challenges that have befallen the team during the coronavirus pandemic.
The team was forced to cancel its homestands for the first season of city-based play and moved its South Korean roster back home to train closer to family. However, the time zone difference created technical challenges and made it difficult for management to effectively communicate with players.
Canucks Sports & Entertainment, which owns the British Columbia-based Titans, ultimately decided to move the team back to the North American division.
“With the organization unable to meet the players expectations in Korea, and after much deliberation and conversation with the players, the difficult decision was made to move the team back to the North American division and both the players and management agreed that finding a new home for the players would be in everyone’s best interest,” Holloway said.
The Titans are scheduled to next play on Saturday. Vancouver is 2-2 with a minus-1 map differential in Season 3, sitting in 12th place overall and sixth in the Pacific Conference.
Meanwhile, it brings to a close the latest chapter of one of the most storied rosters in Overwatch history. The former RunAway roster was one of the most popular in the Overwatch scene before joining the Titans for Season 2 of the Overwatch League.
The Titans set an OWL record by winning 19 consecutive matches, winning the Pacific Division title and reaching the Grand Finals last year, losing to the San Francisco Shock.
Following their strong inaugural season, the Titans parted ways with Sangbeom “Bumper” Park, Dongeun “Hooreg” Lee, Junggeun “Rapel” Kim and Janghyeon “TiZi” Hwang, while adding ryujehong and the controversial Fissure. However, the Season 3 roster was unable to match last season’s success as it coped with the issues created by the COVID-19 crisis.
Vancouver will now undergo a similar overhaul as the London Spitfire, who replaced all but one player after winning the Season 1 title.
“These players were able to leave a lasting impression on fans from around the world,” Holloway said. “We wish them all the best as they move on in their careers.”
Chinese caster Liu “Roy” Yuanyi reported last week that ryujehong plans to retire and that Hasal has already found a new team, while adding that the Titans were indeed seeking to replace their Korean lineup with a North American Contenders team.
Several Third Impact players quickly dismissed a report Monday that they would be joining the Titans.
“Our goal from the beginning has been to create an environment that can embody what competitive Overwatch means for those in Vancouver,” Holloway said. “Aligning with our core values we will always aspire to be a team that believes in community and engaging with the fans that love watching them every minute of every game and beyond. We recognize that we have a lot to learn and want to make sure we do all we can to improve and deliver a great team for our fans and Vancouver.
“A force of nature is a collective one, and we know that we need to step up our game in order to truly make that force felt across the league for years to come. We look forward to announcing our new roster of Titans in the coming days. We hope that you join us as we move into this new chapter of Vancouver esports.”
—Field Level Media