After crashing out of ESL One Frankfurt early last weekend, Alliance’sJonathan "Loda" Berg is considering rebuilding the team after a brief break.
The team, operated under Alex Garfield’s GoodGame organisation, dominated the Dota pro scene throughout 2013 and early 2014, with a win at Valve’s pretigious tournament The International 3.
However, in the wake of a post-TI4 shuffle wherein the team lost Jerry "EGM" Lundkvist and captain Gustav "S4" Magnusson – who went on to form current powerhouse Team Secret, the winners of the weekend’s ESL One event – Alliance has struggled to find their form.
In the past few months this has manifest itself as the team failing to qualify for The International 5 in August, missing out on their shot at a prize pool that is currently sitting just shy of $15m.
All of this has led Loda to consider the team’s options, settling on the strong chance of switching players when the new season begins, but keeping himself and Joakim "Akke" Akterhall – the "core" of the team – together.
"After this tournament, this is pretty much the end for us this season," Loda told eSports Pro. "If we had qualified [for TI5] then we have the confidence as a team to know that we can compete with the top 16 teams in the world. But if you don’t then it literally tells you that you’re not good enough and then you start thinking about what do we have to change to be good for the next season. And in some cases, to be brutally honest, maybe we will switch some players."
Citing some in the team as being "demotivated as players" and feeling "less secure in their spot", Loda said that the team dynamic had broken down due to quarreling in the aftermath of matches – even those they had won.
"The games you lose, you can sit down and look at what went wrong, point out the mistakes that people have made," Loda explained. "You never point out mistakes to make someone feel like ‘oh, I’m a really bad player,’ you point them out to say we can improve on this and this and this.
"But at this point I feel like people are quite defensive in that way, where they might feel very self concious about their own performance and then when you start pointing out mistakes this late in the season they might not want to take it to heart, or they start quarreling and disagreeing about things. We have had some issues with that and it has affected the whole team morale and synergy between us, for sure."
The team has gone through many changes recently as Alliance attempts to find the right combination of players to reclaim their glory days, going so far as to re-sign Henrik "AdmiralBulldog" Ahnberg who left the competitive scene for a short period last year.
Things were further complicated in their post-TI4 shuffle as Rasmus "Chessie" Blomdin – who was playing as a stand-in after S4 and EGM departed from the team – was forced to stop playing after a back injury. However Loda suggested there may be a return for Chessie on the cards.
"So there is a small chance that he could come back because apparently he’s got some news," Loda said. "It’s not a huge chance, but I still keep that in mind because it’s a guy I really really enjoyed playing with and we clicked well as people and as players, so it was very fun to work together.
"And I think it’s very important you have fun with each other, because as I said earlier, we’ve had some quarreling within the team. Not between everyone, but certain players in the team, and that brings everyone down."
In searching for other players to restore the balance, Loda is keen to look outside of established pros and bring "new blood" to the team.
"When I made Alliance I went out to look for up and coming players," Loda said. "To begin with it wasn’t only Swedish players, we played with EternalEnvy, who plays for Cloud9 right now. But players who didn’t have the…I don’t want to say arrogance, but some pro players take stuff for granted and they start to look at the game a bit too narrow-minded."
But before finding these new players, and with a free Summer without having to compete at The International for the first time in four years, Loda is adamant that the team takes a break.
"We [Loda and Akke] really wanted to go to TI but we also felt, and we told the team this honestly, we did not feel strong enough," he said. "Even the games we won in the qualifier, they didn’t feel like games we won as a team, so that obviously makes us less confident. So in a way it is nice that we don’t have to go all the way out there and be bad.
"It’s going to be nice to take this vacation, not think about dota for a bit, maybe a month, then come back and TI’s round the corner, so we’ll study the game a bit. I think it was kind of a good thing, honestly, because no-one wants to go to TI and then not have a chance. That’s very disappointing."