With every closed door there lies opportunity for another to be opened. Dynasty had some off season changes that many thought we wouldn’t recover from. Oliver Lang retired and Dalton decided he wanted to play for Impact, the team that was certainly our biggest rival of the year, beating us in both of the finals appearances we had in 2016. These were two major losses on paper, as Oliver brings an identity to the team along with a talent unmatched in the league. Dalton is phenomenal on the field and had won many games for Dynasty throughout his career. On the surface this looked unsurvivable to some. What people don’t realize though is that in a league where the game is only 20 minutes long and the split deck format is utilized, less is more. Such a commonly stated phrase yet so rarely practiced. Losing Oliver meant there was opportunity for us to refocus our identity and recreate a style of paintball we wanted to play. It also meant there was opportunity for someone else to step up and be the voice before games, the voice during the match, and be the overall “vibe manager” if you will. Oliver’s energy is so outgoing and powerful that it demands everyone to follow suit. I can say personally that his pure passion and energy have lifted his team, teams I’ve played on, to become champions year after year. But something wasn’t working, I am not saying it was Oliver, I am not saying it was Dalton. But we needed a shake up.
So much talent yet it wasn’t coming together. We were stuck in a rut with no real answer. It was the first timeDynasty hadn’t won at least one tournament during the season. We couldn’t cut anybody, nobody deserved to be cut. We had 11 great players and great teammates. We knew the size of our roster was becoming a problem but nobody had a true answer. I actually think this was a big reason Oliver decided to retire. He wanted to create space for the young guys on the team to grow. One of our last conversations before he let out the big news was him telling me that it was time for the young guys on the team to step up and take control of the team. I think in a way he saw that as the only way for Dynasty to succeed.
With the news that Dalton and Oliver would no longer be in a blue jersey we were down to 9. Leaner, meaner, and tighter. With new opportunities and a great challenge ahead. The team had lost two players that played a high percentage of our points. I knew this would give me and other players on the team an opportunity to play more. Rhythm is important in any sport and you need spins to get that. We now had our opportunity. We were in an entire rebirth – changing the dynamic of the team, refocusing our identity and style of paintball we wanted to play, and making a major switch from Eclipse to the newly owned Field One guns (previously Bob Long). Another thing everyone was skeptical about. I think the league and fans had written us off, which was and still is nothing but fuel. This also gave Ryan the opportunity to truly lead on the field, something he has quietly done throughout all of Dynasty’s success but has somehow gone unappreciated. I say unappreciated because thats how good he is. Ryan gets a lot of recognition, but not nearly the recognition he deserves as a player or teammate. After being his teammate for a few years and being inside the Dynasty camp I truly think he is the best player in the world. He could be the MVP every single tournament. My opinion might be different than yours but my version of an MVP is someone that can do it all, consistently, day in day out, game in game out. He constantly performs at such a high level in any position I don’t know who else in the league offers that type of quality and versatility… So theres that.. I don’t think any of us were panicking. We still had a team full of superstars. But most importantly, we had a team that was hungrier than ever and willing to do whatever it took to get Dynasty back on top, together.
Heading into our first practice of the year you could feel that everyone felt we had something to prove, even the older guys. We were focused and excited for the new journey ahead. The new guns were shooting amazing and the team quickly started to form a new identity. Last year we tried to play into what some of the other teams were doing, we tried to play a style of paintball that wasn’t quite right for us. Going into the new season we decided we wanted to make sure we dictated the pace of the game. We wanted to be the ones in charge, like we have been in the past. Everyone was on the same page with the style we wanted to play and we practiced that way day in and day out. Discipline was something we preached, composure was something we practiced. Too many times last year we threw away games that we were up bodies or up points – or both. That wasn’t going to happen again. As a team we were playing a lot of paintball together before the Vegas layout was released. Everyone was just excited to put in work. We wanted it for each other, enough was enough. We all wanted to take down Impact and any other team that stepped in our way. Once the layout was released it was time to methodically decode the field and figure out how we were going to win. What was the best strategy and how could we dictate the pace to fit Dynasty paintball was our number one focus. Once we figured out how we wanted to play, we started to execute game plans. Scrutinizing over every little detail and putting a major emphasis on skill drills. What I mean by that is our technical ability on the field. We worked on off the break shooting and audible calls for our shooters more than we have at any other event. We knew a huge part of our identity was going to be shooting people off the break. That is how you dictate the pace of a game, you don’t let the other team make it to the spots they want. After weeks of diligent work and great preparation it was time to head to Las Vegas.
The event started with an out of bracket game against AC Dallas. It was time to put everything to the test – our guns, our new identity, our practice, but most of all our heart and will to win. We shot players off the break and didn’t take many risks which allowed us to stack up points pretty easily. We went on to win 5-1 or 5-2 I don’t quite remember. I just know that it was the start we were looking for. Our next game would be against Seattle Thunder which we took down in a 3-1 victory. Our points were long, controlled, and exactly the pace we wanted. Day 1 of the NXL Las Vegas Open was in the books and we were sitting 2-0. Saturday morning we hit a speed bump against boom, losing by 1 point. Something was just a bit off. We weren’t clicking as well as the previous games but the team was still confident in our plan. In previous seasons if we lost a game we would sometimes rethink our entire strategy rather than accept that maybe our strategy was right, we just didn’t execute properly. We stayed disciplined in our approach and committed to the game plan we all agreed on heading into the next and final match against Russian Legion. This was a huge game for us, we either win and go into Sunday first seed or lose and miss Sunday all together because of our loss earlier that morning. Challenge accepted. It was a back and forth battle as it always is with the Russians, they are a tough team to dig out with impeccable gun skills and unique discipline. With the game tied 4-4 we went into overtime, where we would win in the last minute. Our first goal was complete – make it to Sunday, but the real tournament was just getting started.
We would face Damage first thing in the morning. The last time we played them they beat us at World Cup so we were excited to get some revenge. I knew the day was going to be tough but I honestly just felt like we were going to win the tournament from the moment I woke up. You could just feel it in the air, there was this confidence in everyones demeanor that makes a good team tough to beat. Winning at the highest level takes talent, skill, discipline and execution. To execute at a high level you have to be confident. You have to have some swag, we definitely were feeling that swag Sunday morning. We beat Damage 5-2 in another long slow fought game. We were still dictating the pace we wanted to play and were one step closer to the finals. Next on the list would be a rematch with AC Dallas who just came back from a 5-0 deficit to beat Infamous so they were also feelin’ it and playing some great paintball. We may have taken them down early on but they were hungry and just came off a huge win in overtime. They had progressively gotten better throughout the event and we couldn’t take them lightly. AC was playing the field very similar to us, each of their matches were long and they didn’t take many risks off the break but pushed down the dorito side pretty aggressively when the opportunity presented itself. We stayed true to our plan and focused on getting tighter and tighter making each shot better than the one before. We placed a little more emphasis on their dorito side than we did against any other team but we didn’t allow it to change our pace. They gave us a great match with long grueling points but we went on to win 3-1. Next up was Impact.
It was finally here. The moment we have been hungry for. The moment I had been hungry for all off season. I didn’t want to beat any other team in the finals. I wanted it to be Impact for many reasons but mainly because they had put a beating on us last year in Vegas, in the finals. Also because their organization set the bar last year. They had all the wins, all the all stars, and players that continuously set the stage. You could go down the list from Nick Leivall to Brandon Cornell to literally every name on the squad does nothing but re[present excellence. They are filled with talent. It was a rematch, only this time we were leaner, meaner, and tighter with a new focus and new identity that was about to be put to its biggest test. There just was no way we were going to lose. No way were we going to let them beat us in the finals 3 times in a row. Enough was enough, we refused to lose that match before it even started. We had watched all of their games and knew exactly what they were going to do. I am sure they felt the same about us. The team that would come out victorious would be the team that executed and had the greater will to win. Dynasty was ready. We had gotten tighter and better all weekend and felt confident in our game plan. After the always emotional National Anthem my heart was racing to get the game started. We put the first point on the board leading 1-0 in a long methodical battle just like we wanted. From that point forward we were in complete control of the game never losing the lead and always dictating the pace. Like a boxing match, we traded points back and forth until the very end but they were at a disadvantage trying to play catch up, a position they aren’t used to. We were leading 3-2 late in the game until a questionable swing point penalty in impacts favor was thrown. The game was now tied 3-3 with just under a minute to go, oh and we had to start with 4 players. Dynasty has always been a go for the win type of team. We did just that as Arod made the move of the tournament pretty much off the break, shooting 4 guys and running to hit the buzzer in under 20 seconds. The crowd went wild, the pits were on fire and we couldn’t believe our eyes. Arod just pulled the perfect move at the perfect time to give us a 1 point lead with about 30 seconds left in the game. Everyone was assuming we would go to overtime, that our strategy would be to burn the clock and go into overtime with 5 players. Honestly, as much as we wanted to go out and win that point we also knew how crucial it was to stay alive and try to take the game into overtime where we would start with 5 players. It was an unplanned move by a teammate that seized a major opportunity. You can’t draw that play up. There is no strategy to plan for that kind of move. You have to go out there and be smart, taking it if its given but making sure you don’t lose the point in the process. It is one of those moments that you just have to feel and Arod felt it. We were now up 1 point with 30 seconds to go, the game in our hands, and the victory just a few moments away.
As I walked onto the field for that last point I could taste the win, it already felt so good, in my mind the trophy was already ours. I knew that myself and the other 4 players on the field were absolutely, 100% not going to let them take this away from us. We held them off shooting two on the break staying true to our form from the entire event and as the game buzzer sound, we had officially taken down Impact in the finals. All of our hard work had paid off. Our new identity proved to be a success. Losing Dalton to Impact and Oliver to retirement proved to be a blessing in disguise and our commitment to each other, for each other proved to be the difference. The new guns proved to be excellent and we proved to be the best team in Vegas that weekend. Thats it, we are currently the best team in the world. You know what though? This victory was one of the weirdest ones I have felt. You hear a lot of top level athletes say wins are more relieving than anything but thats truly how this felt. After my initial celebration and excitement had set in I was already kind of over it. The win was a huge relief but to me was just the first step in a long process and a bigger goal. I was already thinking about Dallas and how much I needed to work on to be better. I think the entire team felt that way. I’m telling you, Dynasty is hungry right now and we have all the pieces to go on another run.
See you guys in Dallas
–Marcello Margott MM33