After going 4-6 in Stage 1, The Los Angeles Gladiators have charged through Stage 2 and seem poised to compete for $125,000 in the stage playoffs as they head into Week 10. Overwatch League shifted to a new patch, the Gladiators added a player, and the team has gone 6-2 over the last four weeks. One of the biggest keys to their improvement in this return to the Lucio meta? Benjamin “BigGoose” Isohanni. The Finnish support and ex-Gigantti player is known for his hero flexibility, untouchable Torbjorn win-rate, and, most importantly, his Lucio play. When asked about the effects of this stage’s patch on the team’s performance, L.A.’s new main tank Fissure credited BigGoose’s impact immediately: “BigGoose is a really good Lucio player so as a team we have benefited a lot.” Ahead of Week 10, the final week for Los Angeles to solidify its playoff hopes, we had an in-depth chat with the cerebral Lucio and infamously loose goose about everything from his culinary school background and Lucio playstyle to L.A.’s “Mystery Heroes” strats, experimental Mondays, and Shouldergate drama. We start with some questions about the goose himself before moving onto the Gladiators rise and finishing with some questions about the Overwatch League, their biggest and most recent competition, and his message for fans and opponents.
From Gosling to Goose
Tepojama: So, do your teammates call you Benjamin or BigGoose?
BigGoose: “Hm. Usually BigGoose or Goose.”
The “BigGoose” name started with your friends in League of Legends back in the day. Any goose-related artwork or good luck charms since then?
“Nah, I have nothing. It just is what it is.”
Favorite sign or fan-art so far?
“There have been some cool signs. We were playing Dallas and there was this person with a “Seagull vs. BigGoose” which was cool, but unfortunately didn’t get to happen.”
In your Game Informer interview you mentioned having a backup plan if esports didn’t work out, what was that backup plan?
“Well I just would have completed my school. I had a double-degree because I went to culinary school and high school at the same time so I could get them both.”
So you enjoy cooking a lot?
“Not at home. I used to work and it’s ok as a job because everything is there so you don’t have to worry about ingredients.”
Getting Loose on the Ladder
Tepojama: You were in Europe with Alfa Squad and then Team Gigantti, how do you think the NA ladder compares to EU?
BigGoose: “I feel like there was more talent in EU than in NA at the time before Overwatch League. But right now the NA West ladder is just really competitive”
Favorite person to duo with?
“I don’t really have a favorite person, but I sometimes duo with one of the Finns. Probably the last time I duo-ed or tripled was with Taimou and Zappis about a week ago. We were just having fun when we were playing. just us Finns.”
Favorite person to randomly see on your team? Maybe a carry DPS like Carpe or EFFECT?
“I really like playing if like Mano or Meko is on my team. They’re fun to be with.”
Yeah, both have good vibes. And Mano is surprisingly good at support too.
“Yeah it’s surprising. I didn’t know that either before ArK had his slight wrist injury. I never really followed the Korean scene too much. Pretty much not at all before I joined Gigantti.”
Tepojama: The team seems to have flipped a switch in Stage 2 — was it adding Fissure, the patch changing so you could return to Lucio, or some combination of both that helped the Gladiators turn it up?
BigGoose: “I think it’s just a bit of everything, all of the things you mentioned. Fissure coming to the Gladiators was probably a major change, but nothing too huge.”
How far in advance did you guys know that he would be joining the team?
“The coaches and management knew before us, but I think we, the players, found out on the same day as everyone that Fissure was joining.”
One thing that Fissure mentioned wanting to help bring to the Gladiators was leadership and communication, which a lot of teams currently struggle with. Your comms seem pretty clear, is there a main shot-caller or more of a “free-flowing system” where everyone speaks their mind?
“We don’t really have a main shot-caller, but of course we have a certain “1-2-3-4,” things that you go through before you can discuss other things, which helps. I’m pretty sure every team has a structure like that between fights with what they talk about first and what they can talk about after.”
So is that structure what allows you to have clean communication during fights?
“In fights it is kind of hard to have clean communication, but i think what we have is pretty good for now. Especially since with the language barrier, you just have to keep it simple. It helps a lot.”
Got it. Not fighting with each other probably also helps. Who do you think if the most PMA Gladiator?
“It’s hard to say. Everyone is kind of PMA in certain ways. For example, I don’t really care about results or ranked so I’m kind of neutral. But if I had to choose someone then maybe Bischu.”
And is anyone toxic?
“I don’t think anyone is toxic, but Hydration is the biggest troll.”
Ah, so that’s why Surefour said he was so down to play Lucio. He was actually pretty good at it.
“Yeah, his mechanics aren’t half bad, but it’s really different to play Lucio with another support rather than playing alone. If you’re playing Lucio alone that’s like a luxury; you can do whatever you want.”
But when youre playing with another support if you have to peel a lot more?
“Yeah you have to peel for them and think a lot more.”
The Boston Uprising’s Kellex was saying one of the most important parts of Lucio is peeling for your other support, do you think that is why you and Shaz work so well together?
“Hm, maybe. It was probably back in Gigantti when I role-swapped and the coach and Tracer player mostly helped me with what they thought were the key points for Lucio, things like peeling Tracer, trying to make sure your other support stays alive, and very rarely actually going for flashy plays.”
So you role-swapped from DPS, no wonder the team is so flexible.
“[Laughs] Yeah I was playing flex DPS: Genji, Soldier, Pharah. The whole team is pretty flexible — Shaz used to be a DPS player too, Hydration plays whatever he wants in ranked.”
That flexibility allowed you guys to mimic “Mystery Heroes” with some pretty crazy, but effective comps on Ilios and King’s Row last week. What is the decision-making process for role-swapping comps like that? Are they strats that are planned in advance or more spontaneous?
“Usually everything is a strat. Like that Ruins was planned. It isn’t a big deal to switch roles on King-of-the-Hill where it matters the least amount and also our comp also allowed us to switch roles too.”
And outside of KOTH, you played Sombra while Shaz was solo-support Zenyatta on King’s Row. How much did you guys practice that?
“I think that was one of our core things that we started building upon at the start of the stage. Now we have around three to four different comps that we can run and we are confident in playing all of them on that map. We just decide on which one we’ll be running during the game.”
Not sure if you saw, but the Gladiators and Excelsior ran a similar strat on 2CP overtime defense last week: NYXL hid in the bushes before diving aggressively for a quick ult-advantage on Hanamura against Seoul while you guys did the same thing with Surefour on Volskaya Industries against the Mayhem. For a semi-cheese, risky strat like that, did you guys plan it in advance or was S4 just feeling bold?
“I think we have only cheesed on Volskaya so far, at least that I can think of. In 2CP it’s really good to get ult advantage starting so if you can do something that can catch your opponent off-guard then why not?
So was it planned in advance?
“Oh yeah. Some are planned in advance and some are thought up on the same day as we have the match. But I don’t think we came up with many, maybe we came up with one, on the day of the match.”
In terms of preparation, there are a lot of issues with coaching around the league and the best teams have good coaching and communication. What is L.A.’s coaching setup and do you think it has helped this stage?
“I think our coaches are very open-minded to player suggestions so everyone is usually okay with strategies and can see why things are the way they are. And for the comms, the players can push suggestions based on comps and the map so we can maybe even switch players for a specific map. I’d say it’s maybe like 70-30 in favor of the coaches, everything strategy-wise. Something along those lines, or 60-40.”
So you guys can comfortably try things out and give feedback?
“Yeah you can give your feedback and say what you think is good and what you think is bad. And we also have these like experimental Mondays where we pretty much try weird stuff and see if it’s actually good on a map. Not something that doesn’t make sense, but maybe something that is not so normal — not cheesing but trying things that we wouldn’t normally try.”
Speaking of coaching, I originally thought that press release about Dpei shoulder-bumping the Outlaws was a joke. Is everything cool there or what’s going on?
“Hah, I don’t know anything about it. All I know is the statement that was released.”
Yeah, you know I just had to make sure you’re all good after hearing xQc’s comments about seeing Gladiators get punished.
“[Laughs] No, no. That’s just bullshit, that’s just fake.”
Alright, last GLA question: In Stage 1 Hydration and Surefour seemed to kind of swap in for each other with overlapping hero pools, but this stage they are specializing more. Was that a priority going into Stage 2?
“I think they still specialized in Stage 1, but maybe they are a bit more specialized this stage. I don’t think they have the same hero pool though, it’s more just that Surefour has a bigger hero pool than Hydration.”
Tepojama: The Gladiators obviously look excellent so far, how would you rank yourselves amongst the top 5 teams in the league?
BigGoose: “I think probably in the top 4, top 5, around those marks. Because I think we have some inconsistency issues, probably seen in the Mayhem game, but other than that if we can fix those problems then we could potentially be a top three, top two team.”
So who do you think are the top 3 now?
“Probably New York first, London second, and Seoul third. I’ve always ranked New York highly in my own books. I’ve always thought of them as the best Korean team in the league.”
Shaz is a beastly Zenyatta and you’ve mentioned the hero’s importance before; who would you say are the best besides Shaz?
“Obviously JJoNak and for the second probably Bdosin. I think those are the top two. Bdosin has a very aggressive play-style too. But another good Zen is Sleepy. I think he’s one of the big reasons why the Shock are actually really good right now.”
How about Lucio? You’re one of the best in OWL right now and you’ve mentioned neptuNo and Boink in the past. Is there any Lucio player that you watch to learn tricks from or anything?
“I really haven’t watched too much, but if I would suggest someone to watch as a certain player I would probably recommend someone like Kellex. I think Kellex is at least, back in EU, he was known as the most slippery Lucio because he’s really hard to kill.”
Moving away from supports — who is your MVP favorite for the Overwatch League right now?
“MVP in the Overwatch League? Maybe Saebyeolbe. He’s been very consistent over the two stages.”
Old and New Opponents
Tepojama: You’ve beaten the Valiant and Mayhem in recent weeks before the Mayhem beat the Valiant. Are your Los Angeles rivals struggling or has Florida just improved?
BigGoose: “Maybe it’s a bit of a both. We also struggled a bit against the Mayhem and their different play-style. We weren’t playing the first two maps as well as the last two maps, there’s a pure difference like night and day. But I think the Mayhem have been returning more to their former Contenders selves. It feels like Logix has picked up a lot of his play the last few weeks with everyone on the team. I also think the Valiant have been struggling the last few weeks, but I don’t know with what. Kariv is a pretty okay DPS and I don’t think that role-swapping Kariv to DPS is the reason why they’re struggling. It’s more like a team-based issue rather than a single player.”
You also beat Houston and there is a lot of speculation about their issues right now. Do you think Tracer is their biggest problem right now?
“It probably wouldn’t solve all of the problems they have, but it would definitely up their game if they had like a star Tracer player.”
This week you guys face the Fusion and Uprising who each have really strong Tracer and Genji players. How do you prepare for such dive-centric teams?
“Of course we have our own ways for how to prepare against a team that I can’t get into. We start on Mondays, but there’s usually a really limited amount of things you can prepare for in a game like overwatch.”
And do you have to approach Philadelphia differently if they use Shadowburn or Eqo?
“I don’t think it will make a difference, or too much of a difference if Shadowburn or Eqo is playing, at least to us. We should be more focused on what we are doing rather than what they are doing.”
Last, But Not Least
Tepojama: Is there anybody not in the Overwatch League right now that you want to see picked up?
BigGoose: “My former teammate Davin for sure. Like, number one.”
Have you sent any trash-talk to former teammates?
“Nah I haven’t sent any trash-talk. It’s just a friendly rivalry. It’s nice to play against friends, even against the Mayhem guys.”
Any words for your fans in Los Angeles or back in Finland?
“Thanks for all the fans that turn up and all the fans who cheer from twitch and from home!”
Any words for your upcoming opponents?
“May the better team win.”
Many thanks to BigGoose for taking some time to do this interview and the L.A. Gladiators for allowing us to chat with their boop-maestro for a bit!
If you have any ideas for who Tepojama should interview next then feel free to hit him up on Twitter.
Image Credit: Riley Jamison of the L.A. Gladiators