The semifinals of the LEC Summer Split 2019 were rough for Schalke 04. The underdogs of the series, who had so dominantly defeated Rogue 3-1 just one round earlier, were swept away 3-0 by the brute force of FNATIC. But that's not where Schalke's tale ends. To secure their ticket to Worlds after all, this weekend they'll face of against the winner of Origen vs. Splyce.
After the Summer Split semifinals we talked to Schalke 04's coach, Dylan Falcon. He reflected on the Summer Split, what could've been done better, andr told us how he handles situations with strongly opinionated players.
I think the first thing I should probably ask after that game versus FNATIC is: what happened?
I think we played against very early game focused compositions. And I think we played really poorly compared to our standards in all three games. All three games we were playing from behind, and they're obviously a very good team, so they punished that.
It's safe to say that you were the underdogs going into this event. How do you prepare your team for such a stage, both physically and mentally?
Throughout the week we scrimmed and practiced specific champion compositions and ideas that we thought would work well for our team. We outlined what we would draft, how we would play the game and what our overall plan was. We tailored it to our opponents. On the day itself it's actually a lot more free-flowing. We just try to react to what our opponent might be doing in the game et cetera. For mental coaching we have a psychologist, but I do talk to the players as well too. The type of coaching depends on the player, I'd say.
"My players have always had the respect to go along with 'what I decide, that's the plan'."
Which player on your team responds best to coaching?
I'm not sure. No particular player comes to mind; I think everyone is very open to feedback on my team. They all want to improve. We also have a lot of strong voices on the team. They talk to each other a lot about what they think another player could be doing better. It's more of a collaborative process, I'd say.
So you're more of a guide to them, then?
Yeah. I think on most top teams nowadays it's impossible for someone to come in and teach every player how to play their role perfectly. So having a good overall knowledge of the game, breadth of knowledge, and then help them along their way. That's much better, I think.
Is that something you learned over the years, to act more like a guide? For example: when you were still Caps' coach, there was a famous situation where he went against what everyone was advising him to do.
I've worked with a lot of... difficult players, I would say. But I have never really worked with anyone who is straight up disobedient or whatever. My players have always had the respect to go along with "what I decide, that's the plan". That being said, I also have respect for my players. When for example Caps wanted to play something crazy I tried to understand why, and I would usually be ok with it.
"We considered ourselves to be a top 3 team. (...) I even think we could've made the finals"
Moving on, Schalke 04 got very far this season. Throughout the season, did you expect to end up here in the semifinals?
I think we considered ourselves to be a top 3 team. We ended fourth place, but just from practicing against the other teams we felt that we were up there. I think we could've done a little bit better. For sure. I even think we could've made the finals, but it went differently. Our goal has been to go to Worlds. That is the goal still.
Is there a moment to you that jumps out as a key event where you thought you should've done better?
I think that most of the things I regret is Spring Split stuff. I think that's where we should've gone to the playoffs with our roster, we should've picked up at least some circuit points to make Worlds. In the Summer Split I'd say most things were ok, maybe a few drafts where I didn't like the decisions I had made.
The final thing I want to ask you is about the Gauntlet stage. How do you get your players back on track, what is your plan for the final steps towards Worlds?
We're very forward-focused. Directly after the loss against FNATIC we were talking about what we could change for the Gauntlet, what our strategy would be. I think we'll be fine and enter the Gauntlet very strong.