​The Houston Outlaws are a unique Overwatch League team because of the culture created among the players and coaches during the league's inaugural season. The coordination of the players on the stage was impeccable, and the off-stage atmosphere was one of friendship forged in the players' mutual struggle over four stages of uneven performances.


The Outlaws were unique in the sense that even on the stage and in the arena, that feeling of camaraderie was easily apparent. Even when they were getting motivated in a tough match, their sense of humor shined.

The Outlaws came from a multitude of teams, with the lion's share coming from FNRGFE, like Christopher "Bani" Benell. Those not from FNRGFE, like Shane "Rawkus" Flaherty, came from teams like FaZe Clan, Luminosity, and Cloud9. 


"For me it was fairly easy," Rawkus said of the transition. "I've played with a couple people from Team USA prior to joining the Houston Outlaws, so Coolmatt (Matt Iorio), JAKE (Jacob Lyon), FCTFCTN (Russell Campbell). I was pretty comfortable joining. Coolmatt was originally apart of FNRGFE, and he was telling me all about the new players. It was kind of fun to get into a good situation and a fresh start. We were all hard-working and got along very early on."

​Bani, who originally was from FNRGFE, offered his own perspective on joining the new team. 


"It was pretty easy for me as well, as the majority of the team was still FNRGFE," he said. "It felt like we were the same team but with extra players who were all really good. We just felt like we improved the team ten fold, and I was really excited to begin working with them."


For Rawkus, the team atmosphere differed from FaZe Clan. He said his former club didn't feel like a team, but that was different once he reached the Outlaws.


These early bonds served the team well at the start of the ​Overwatch League, as the Outlaws had a solid performances. The team won seven of its matches in Stage 1, and none of those matches had to go to round 5. Stages 2 and 3, however, provided a much bigger challenge.


Stages 2 and 3 were centered around the popular dive composition, which featured high mobility heroes at the core. The Houston Outlaws had everything in place for the composition to work, except for one key piece: a dedicated Tracer player. Unfortunately for the Outlaws, they did not have a player who was that experienced with the hero. 


"We fell behind in my opinion," Rawkus said. "We weren't comfortable in that meta. We lacked a comfortable Tracer player in those first few stages."

The team faced many hardships in those two stages, but they used this to motivate themselves, to push themselves to improve. With the beginning of Stage 4, Won-hyeop "ArHaN" Jeong was finally able to play for the team, although that presented its own difficulties. ArHaN did not speak much English, similar to ​Chan-hyung "Fissure" Baek when he had initially joined the Los Angeles Gladiators and ​Song-Jun "Rascal" Kim on the Dallas Fuel. Communicating with him came was challenging, but the Outlaws actually saw an unforeseen improvement after his addition.

"Everyone on the team was fluent in English, so we almost relied too much on extremely complicated strategies ​and in depth plans," Bani said. "When ArHaN actually joined, it felt like it simplified us; it streamlined our communication a bit. ArHaN could only understand a few trigger words."


Alongside ArHaN finally being able tot play for the team, former Dallas Fuel coach Kyle "KyKy" Souder joined with the team late in Stage 3. KyKy had stepped down from the Dallas Fuel following backlash from fans, but his inclusion ended up helping the Houston Outlaws significantly in the lead up to Stage 4.

"I knew him as he was the coach of last year's Team USA, and I've also known him a bit before that when he played for Cloud9, and I knew what he was going to offer," Rawkus said. "I didn't have to build that much trust with him, like I trusted his opinion right off the bat. Even though some of the public opinion was negative against him, I knew his ability and how good he was at what he needed to do. I tried to convince the team just to listen to what he had to say."  


What makes the Houston Outlaws unique among the different Overwatch League teams in that they have taken what was a disadvantage to other teams, and turned it around into an advantage. Where other teams struggled with multiple languages and translation, the Outlaws found a streamlining of their process. Where another team might have struggled with a new coach, the Outlaws found a fresh new perspective.


The Outlaws handled the changes and struggles -- finishing one spot out of the season playoffs -- with grace, and the team seemed to actually enjoy playing with themselves, even as results fluctuated. It's unclear how many members of the team will stay together for Season 2, but the inaugural season of Overwatch League provided an example for the Outlaws to show fans. Win or lose, this team would stay tight and embrace whoever joined.


Cover photo courtesy of Robert Paul/Blizzard Entertainment