In April, the Finnish ENCE strengthened the ranks of its Counter-Strike team with 18-year-old super promise Elias “Jamppi” Olkkonen. However, due to Olkkonen's terrible ban, the team has had to vary its line-up between him and Sami “xseveN” Laasa.

Laasanen was on the sidelines for a while in the spring due to a burnout, but at the end of June he played a really important major qualifier tournament with ENCE before the player break. For ENCE, the tournament ended in a somewhat bitter - but by no means catastrophic - tenth place.

The return of 25-year-old Laasanen to the ranks of the team after a short break went surprisingly positively: The game was largely as good as with Olkkonen. But how on earth was ENCE’s game practically on the same level when one of the star players was missing from the ranks?

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Sami “xseveN” Laasanen has said that he suffered from burnout. He has been following some of the tournaments on the site in recent months.

Photo: Tuomo Väkevä / ENCE

In addition to Olkkonen, ENCE should have two star players: Perhaps the best player in the history of Finnish CS, ie Aleksi “allu” Jalli and the young promise Jere “Sergej” Salo. Jall’s game has really been the only thing that has been consistently good at ENCE this year. Salo, on the other hand, has completely disappeared from the server in the last few months.

Last year, “young hits” i.e. Salo was really strong, especially against top teams. According to HLTV statistics, his rating against the top five teams in the world was very good 1.14. Over the past three months, however, it has been a blind 0.90 - the worst for the team.

What has happened to last year's 13th best player, who was supposed to become the flag bearer of Finnish CS? Maybe the wild amount of online games caused by the corona pandemic has affected the performance of Salo, who played excellently on big stages? However, that alone would not be enough to explain how big a drop Salo has had in just those games where he was at his strongest in the past.

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Elias “Jamppi” Olkkonen's playing career is overshadowed by the controversial major game ban.

Photo: Tuomo Väkevä / ENCE

Maybe the drop in Salo’s performance is related to ENCE’s changed role during the spring? In general, the dynamics of a CS team include that the rest of the team arranges situations for the most skilled players, for example, by throwing lights and smoke grenades. Or simply pulling the enemy came to himself, allowing the star player to clean up the situation more easily for the benefit of his team.

In top teams, there are almost always two of these star players, who are given more resources on the server than others. The style is proven to work. ENCE is therefore under no obligation to have all three “stars” play at the same time.

Not especially when Laasanen, a support player who usually organizes situations for Salo and plays places, currently performs better than him. I would even argue that replacing Salo in Laasanen in an active line-up would be a better arrangement for ENCE - although Olkkonen's ban on major play will mess up the situation.

On the other hand, it’s entirely possible that there’s an off-server explanation for Salon’s weak level of play: Burnout, which the ENCE players have been talking about over the spring. For Laasanen, the break for a moment was clearly good, so maybe the summer holiday for the next four weeks will also raise Salo's performance level back to the expected level.

Jere “Sergej” Salo, who turned 19 in the spring, has not played at the expected level this year.

Photo: Tuomo Väkevä / ENCE

In connection with the announcement of Olkkonen's agreement, ENCE said that it had made plans around the line-up until the beginning of July, ie until the start of the summer holidays. It remains to be seen how the six-person team will continue in the fall.