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"Imagine having football or basketball where the coach is underground in a bunker."

There have been many surprises throughout the first half of VALORANT Champions Tour Americas 2023, but one of the less talked about trends is the performance of NRG Esports. NRG was hailed as the greatest North American team competing in VCT Americas, and even after beating them 2-0 in the opening week, Leviatán IGL Francisco "kiNgg" Aravena told Esports Illustrated he still considered them a top 3 team in the tournament.

But NRG has not managed to right the ship consistently on stage in the weeks since the loss to LEV. Their sole win came in the form of a 2-0 against a struggling Sentinels, but they also lost a heartbreaker to MIBR and were outclassed by countrymen Cloud9 the following week.

VCT Americas 2023 features a different format than previous top VALORANT competitions, but ardiis doesn’t attribute any of NRG’s shortcomings to the way the competition is taking place. That isn’t to say he’s completely happy with it, though.

“It'd be nice to have a coach up on stage, which this setup lacks,” said ardiis. “I just think it's more respectful to the coach. Imagine having football or basketball where the coach is underground in a bunker. It makes no sense to me to not have them on stage because personally, I think the coach should always be with the team because he is, at the end of the day, part of the team.”

100 Thieves has since shown a new gear in recent matches, and Jimmy "Marved" Nguyen has been a revelation for Sentinels. EG is far from elite, but is improving with the addition of Max "Demon1" Mazanov to the starting roster. Cloud9 has undeniably exceeded expectations. NRG , however, hasn’t put it together on a consistent basis.

“We improved a lot since the LOCK//IN,” said ardiis. “We got better at the areas we had to improve in, but while we were focusing on those problems, we kind of fell back in a few areas of the game that we shouldn't.”

Aside from C9, NA has played second fiddle to the South American teams for the majority of VCT Americas 2023, but ardiis expects that to change more and more as the tournament progresses. “I think the Brazilian teams have shown their top form, but all of the NA teams haven't gotten their groove going,” ardiis said confidently. “I don't think we've seen the best 100 Thieves yet; I don't think we've seen the best Sentinels yet; I don't think we've seen the best NRG yet.”