Sam “Octane” Larew and Zack “Drazah” Jordan will both compete on a Championship Sunday for LA Thieves today (June 5).
It is the first time since the start of the Cold War season that the Thieves organisation has made a Champs Sunday.
To make it through to the last four of the Toronto Ultra Major, they had to go through OpTic Texas.
Playing against OpTic gives extra motivation to players to compete at the highest level. It was even more so in this iteration of the matchup as Thieves came into it on the back of a 3-0 loss to Atlanta FaZe.
Octane told The Rotation: “We were a shell of our team against FaZe. We were not playing to ourselves.
They then went down 1-0 against OpTic, with Texas taking Gavutu Hardpoint in their favour. Even still, the momentum started to swing.
“I knew that we were starting to catch fire, even with a loss on the map, it felt infinitely better than the series before.”
OpTic then raced out to a 4-1 lead on Berlin Search and Destroy. The pivotal moment of the series was Brandon “Dashy” Otell falling off the map to swing a 2v2 in favour of Thieves.
Drazah told The Rotation: “Being down 4-1 is a super tough situation. After winning that map and knowing the next map is coming up, it was such a huge confidence boost for us.
“When you get a good comeback like that, it gives you full confidence.”
Octane added: “If you’re looking at it like you’re 4-1 down then it feels way worse than if you take it round by round.
“Once we brought that back, we thought the series was ours. Going into a triple Berlin, that’s one of our strongest maps as a team.”
Beating OpTic and beating the crowd
The crowd will always favour OpTic Texas in any series that they play. But in turn, they hand motivation and fuel to teams to send those fans home disappointed.
Octane told us: “I love it when the crowd’s against you. I just love it. I’ve been playing for eight years and it’s always the same thing.
“It’s a ‘Let’s go OpTic’ start and then you win a map and there’s just not there.
“We always kick up against OpTic. I wish it was a switch we could flick against everyone but that’s how Call of Duty works.
“Whenever you play against OpTic there’s always a chip on your shoulder. I love playing those guys, Ken loves playing those guys.”
The apparent turning point for the Thieves season looks like it is the introduction of Shane “ShAnE” McKerral as a a coach.
Previously, Jordan “JKap” Kaplan was the only member of the coaching staff at Thieves. ShAnE’s introduction has change the way the team operates.
Octane told us: “Shane just wanted to make everyone leave really sad. He told us to get angry and make everyone leave sad.
“It’s a culture shock. He brings the European confidence. His approach to the game is much needed.
“He just loves Call of Duty and has given us even more motivation. In the last month or so, we’ve really ramped up our practice. It’s just been night and day.”
The change that ShAnE brought to the Thieves roster was instant. The mentality changed on his first day with the team.
“I literally could sit up here and talk about Shane for about an hour. Day one he had us for four hours after scrims saying about examples of things we were doing wrong.
“They were such micro things that make you a Championship team. He comes up with a lot of specific situations that we can work on.
“His approach to getting better is different and he has the expertise from the rest of his career. He played for like a million years.”
Drazah added: “Him and Kap work well together and we’re back on our bullshit.”
Octane’s personal responsibility
At points this season, Sam has struggled for form. He’s been a bit up and down, along with the team.
His ability to re-focus and shift mentality is a big part of the reason that he’s been able to bounce back and once again be frying.
Octane said: “It is a confidence thing for sure. We were really over-analysing our game. There was a lot of nitpicking and stuff.
“My personal performance too, I was too worried about the overall team performance rather than just myself.
“I stopped really worrying about our results and started to focus on my own game. I knew that if I could get better then we would get better.
“The last like two months or so, I’ve been really focused on my own personal gameplay.”
LA Thieves play their first game of Championship Sunday against hosts Toronto Ultra at 15:00 EST.
Follow along with the Rotation’s journey: