William “Will” Cheng, a former 100T duelist, is now on the bench for MAD Lions after the team’s 0-2 start to the first split of the 2023 NA VALORANT Challengers League, letting him “to freely explore his choices.”
According to a statement from Till Werdermann, the director of franchise operations at OverActive Media whom Dot Esports spoke to at the end of January, the “[difficult] decision came down to fit and what the team needed at this time.” MAD Lions officially made the decision only hours before their scheduled week three match against first-place M80 Esports.
The decision is a surprising one, even considering Will’s less-than-stellar numbers in MAD Lions’ losses to TSM and Disguised, given the high praise Werdermann gave Will just a month ago. OverActive Media said it “worked with” the Dark Ratio roster to bring in Will prior to the team’s qualifier run, and Werdermann said the duelist “really pushed the team forward and gave them [an] edge.”
Despite how prolific he was during the qualifiers, Will has had a tough run over the first two weeks of NA VALORANT Challengers. Over the first five maps of league play, he’s averaging a 0.91 K/D ratio, he’s only won one-third of his opening duels, and he’s one-for-13 on clutch opportunities, according to stats from VLR and THE SPIKE.
For the MAD Lions roster, they will need to win their upcoming match against M80 to avoid a losing record during this first Challengers split. A top-four finish in their group of six is good enough for a spot in the Mid-Season Invitational, which is all but a necessity for making the playoffs.
At time of writing, a replacement starter has not yet been announced.