Team Liquid officially released Nicholas "nitr0" Cannella after the former captain had spent over five years with the organization. So what does this mean for Liquid and for nitr0, and where might this veteran player next land?
Liquid officially announced that nitr0 had been removed from the roster in a nearly five-minute video that was heavy on emotion and light on details. The fact that TL released a video at all hints at the possibility that nitr0's benching was a decision made before the start of the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive player break on July 1.
According to TL's own video, nitr0 isn't done with CSGO just yet. At the four-minute mark, nitr0 revealed that he still plans to play CSGO competitively in the near future.
"I want to stay in the [competitive] scene, and we'll see what happens next. Peace out." nitr0 said.
Team Liquid's youngest member, Russel "Twistzz" Van Dulken, would go on to personally tweet at his former in-game leader to express how he felt about nitr0's removal from the team.
"This hurts the soul... Difficult parting ways with a person that really acted like an older brother to me. Thanks for giving me the best beginning to my esports career. I'll miss you." Twistzz said in reply to TL's announcement.
The video also featured a rare appearance by Team Liquid founder Victor Goossens, who thanked nitr0 for his long tenure with the organization. While it's possible that Liquid's announcement video was put together over the course of the past several days, it's much more likely that the team and nitr0 have had this planned for some time.
Prior to his removal, nitr0 had played for Team Liquid since the organization's first entry into CSGO when it signed Denial Esports' former Counter-Strike roster in January 2015. He served as the roster's in-game leader during its record-breaking 63-day IEM Grand Slam win. But after the 2019 player break, Team Liquid got lost in a funk that they couldn't get out of. Only a month after pummelling CSGO's top teams into submission and taking home the Grand Slam's one million dollar prize behind the strength of several big tournament titles, Team Liquid dropped out of the StarLadder Berlin Major in fifth place. The rest of TL's 2019 went about the same as Berlin, with its 0-2 loss to Greyhound Gaming at DreamHack Masters Malmö perhaps the worst performance Liquid had put up in some time.
Between nitr0's comments and his teammates' seeming feelings about having to move forward without him, it's ultimately unclear whether nitr0 was the root cause of TL's poor results. In fact, all of Liquid's players have seen a steady decline in their performances over the past year. As great as Liquid's success was at the peak of its power, its drop in performance has been dramatic. The top-ranked team has been upstaged both abroad and in its own region.
It can be tough to remain at the top once you get there. Just ask current Team Liquid member Jake "Stewie2k" Yip about what happened to Cloud9 after the team's Major win. Or look at the current chaos at Astralis, a team once considered immune to such chaos.
Read more about Stewie2k's increasing role at Team Liquid by clicking on the image below.
But the real question here isn't what Team Liquid has planned for the rest of the year. It's which North American team will be smart enough to take the first shot at getting nitr0 to put his veteran status to good use.
If Joshua "steel" Nissan's homemade CSGO roster under the Chaos banner has a problem, its that steel himself can't participate in CSGO's Majors. His ban stemming from a match-fixing incident early on in CSGO's history still stands to this day, preventing one of the sport's tactical masterminds from playing in any of Valve's sponsored tournaments. Valve has held steel to that ban even as both the CSGO community and its third-party tournament organizers collectively decided to give him another shot.
Despite Valve's stubbornness, steel has toiled away in tier-two tournaments, slowly teaching his younger players the ways of CSGO's top pros. Paired with nitr0, Chaos could easily nab the points it so desperately needs to get back into contention for one of North America's five Major slots.
The good news for Chaos is that all of the roster's hard work has paid off thus far. Chaos is currently on a 12-match win streak and has played impressively throughout it, with only a single map loss in its twelve wins. With MIBR's decision to compete in the European region for CSGO's upcoming tournaments, Chaos is one step closer to the top-five finish it needs to qualify for the ESL One Rio Major. It should now be considered a serious threat to the other North American team, even when steel isn't allowed in the server.
That said, Chaos has a tendency to lose focus without steel at the helm. Right now, what Chaos really needs is an established veteran to fill in for steel during CSGO's Fall Regional Ranking tournament. And it looks like Team Liquid just gave up the perfect candidate.
nitr0 isn't just qualified. He's might just be the perfect person to lead a team in pressure situations, and its the best of both worlds for nitr0 as well.
All fans can do is take nitr0 at his word that he still has the drive to compete in CSGO, but its entirely possible that nitr0 has outgrown the game. With a stint leading Chaos on a Major run, nitr0 could once again get a taste of that competition without the pressure that came along with his position as TL's default leader.
In return, Chaos gets an established veteran with CSGO Major experience to lead a talented team, but one that looks rudderless when not under the watchful eye of steel.
Valve has yet to announce the organizer for the Fall RMR, but the sooner Chaos makes the call, the better off they'll be. Fans who want to see what a team looks like when it's forced to play with a brand new player should take a long, hard look at Liquid in their opening matches at DreamHack Open Summer.