WHAT IS INDOOR SOCCER?
The Baltimore Blast play in the Major Arena Soccer League (MASL). I like to describe the MASL as the coolest soccer cult you’ve probably never heard of.
Indoor soccer isn't your average soccer game. It is MUCH different from the outfield game.
The games are quicker, a lot more action-packed, and players can continually sub throughout the game.
Baltimore Blast goalie, William Vanzela, talked about the differences between the indoor game to the outdoor game. He said, “The main differences are the boards, the size of the field, the number of players, and the intensity of the game.”
The Blast play on the smallest field in the MASL. As a result, goalies tend to dump the ball all the way down the field to the other goalie and many counter-attacks are seen throughout the game due to the small sized pitch.
Baltimore’s midfield maestro, Tony Donatelli, is one of the best players in the MASL. Donatelli currently stands top 5 in points and he was an integral part of the Blast’s three-peat in MASL Championships from the 15/16-17/18 seasons.
Donatelli loves the indoor game and gave great insight on how it differs from outdoor, “The field is a bit smaller so things happen quicker. There are lots of shots on goal, it’s exciting, and your decision making has to happen quickly because you don’t have a lot of space on the field. It’s a fun game to play and a fun game to watch. It’s always enjoyable for the fans.”
The indoor game is fun, action-packed, and overall just a hair-raising game.
I guarantee you that you will not regret watching arena soccer.
Over the years, the MASL has seen some great players step on its artificial turf. North American soccer legends such as Landon Donovan and Dwayne De Rosario have both played in the MASL. With stars like these, and clubs in three countries, the league has made quite a name for itself.
The inaugural Baltimore Blast squad was founded in 1980 and it ran until 1992. The Blast competed in the Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL), one of the many arena soccer leagues that ran before the MASL. Throughout those twelve years, they played at Baltimore Arena and won a MISL Championship. Seeing out an attendance of 11,189 people in their championship season.
To put that into perspective, the MLS’ lowest recorded attendance in their 2019 season was 6,074. In other words, the Blast was quite popular back in the day.
After a twelve-year run, the original Blast folded alongside the MISL.
As the orignal Blast folded, it deemed the end for arena soccer in Baltimore, but it wasn't. In fact, it was the beginning of a fairytale story about a club the embodied the great city of Baltimore.
Once the original Blast came to an end, on came a new ownership group appeared and thus a new team appeared, the Baltimore Spirit.
After six years as the Spirit, the old club’s owner, Ed Hale, came back into town and purchased the Spirit which he would then rename the Blast. Since the purchase, Hale on the Blast have played in several arena soccer leagues, the most recent being the MASL.
Since joining the MASL, the Blast has enjoyed success. The team club won three consecutive championships from the 15/16-17/18, and the city of Baltimore was arena soccer crazy, again.
In what happened to be one of the final games for the Baltimore Blast’s great season, they put on a show in front of their home crowd at SECU Arena., but they weren't the only ones putting on a show that night.
Beforehand, Blast legends came back to Baltimore to play in the club's annual Hall of Fame game.
Players like Lee Tschantret laced up their boots and came back onto the artifical pitch before the Hall of Fame induction ceremony at half-time.
Star players like Tony Donatelli, William Vanzela, and Juan Pereira were all having a good time around the stadium, talking to fans, watching the game, but they were also taking a minute to mentally prepare for a big game ahead of them against the Rochester Lancers.
“It’s a must-win game. We have three games to go and we have a feeling that we have to win all three games to give ourselves the best chance to make the playoffs. To be here against Rochester, a team that took us to overtime last time we played them, we know that it’s a big game and a game we need to win.” Tony Donatelli said before the game against the Lancers.
Rochester, the worst team in the MASL, had tallied only one point on the season. That point came against the Blast in their previous outing.
The Blast was up 5-2, but then three late goals from Rochester saw them put the game into overtime. From there, Baltimore would put out the fire he ignited in the Rochester players, but it was certainly not the way Baltimore thought that game would play out.
Donatelli talked about the past game. The midfielder quoted, “It was a tough game. I think throughout the season they’ve gotten better and better. We had a 5-2 lead in the fourth quarter but we lost our discipline and composure. We had some blue cards and free-kicks that we gave away. I have to give them credit, they kept fighting until the end and kept scoring goals, taking us to overtime. We were happy to pull away with a win.”
The team was under a lot of pressure to win this night against the Lancers as they were in a dog fight with the Harrisburg Heat for the 4th and final playoff spot.
“We need to win every game, period. That’s the mindset, we cannot make mistakes and we have to be focused and win the game,” Brazilian goalkeeper William Vanzela said.
Vanzela's teammate, Juan Pereira possessed a similar mindset heading into the game against the Lancers, "Last game was a very difficult one for us, but today is another game and another story. We have to be prepared to win today.” Pereira said before the game.
After the hall of fame game came to a close, it was game-time for the Blast and the Lancers, two teams both trying to make a statement.
After the Hall of Fame festivities before the game, the main match of the night kicked-off.
To start the game, the Blast controlled a tight and compact Rochester defense. After several good chances, it was Vini Dantas who put Baltimore up only minutes into the game.
Once Dantas put the Blast up early, the goals kept coming for the team fighting for a playoff spot.
After a high attack from Rochester, the Lancers were left vulnerable in the back-line and it proved to be costly as the Blast scored off of the counter-attack with a goal from no other than Lucas Roque.
Goals by Juan Perreira and Marco Nascimento then quickly followed.
The Blast tended to move the ball to the outside and then cross it into the middle from there, attacking the front of the net.
The team also made also made sure to use their acrobatic goalkeeper in William Vanzela.
Vanzela doesn’t just make high-flying, gravity-defying saves, he makes sharp, crisp passes that a center midfielder would make. Vanzela’s passing is a huge component of Baltimore’s game, and Rochester couldn’t find a way to stop him.
It was 5-0 nearing the end of the first, but then Rochester found some life again and squeezed in two goals scored by ex Clemson Tiger, August Finn and Andriy Denmydiv.
Momentum wouldn’t last too long for Rochester. Baltimore’s Jereme Raly found the net and the crowd at SECU Arena was pumped, with everybody's fingers crossed, all hoping for the Blast to see the game out and maintain their MASL Playoff spot.
This wasn't as easy as some may have expected however.
Baltimore was in a commanding 6-2 lead to start the second quarter, but their momentum seemed to die down when Rochester found out a way to stop the Baltimore attack.
Rochester hunted in packs, staying calm, tight, and compact on defense and it proved to be worthy as Andriy Demydiv found his second goal of the game for the Lancers and they cut the Blast’s lead in half.
Despite the early woes for Baltimore, they made sure that the Lancers won’t come back again after what happened in the previous outing between the two sides.
Blast’s captain Tony Donatelli struck gold for Baltimore, and the crowd at SECU Arena went crazy.
Baltimore escaped into halftime with a 7-3 lead.
Deja vu hit Baltimore in the second half as they scored five straight goals, again. And who started it off? Vini Dantas.
After Dantas got the vital momentum shifter to start the second half, Tony Donatelli got another one, followed by the man with the nicest mustache in America and a fan favorite over in Baltimore, Andrew Hoxie. Then, Johnathan Melo grabbed a goal that proved to be the icing on the cake in the Blast’s 12-3 win over the Lancers.
Led by Juan Perreria’s two goals and two assists, the Blast controlled the game and defended their home turf, keeping their playoff hopes alive.
In my first MASL game ever attended, I had a great time. It was truly an eye-opening and awesome game. I encourage you all to go to an MASL game and watch some arena soccer! You will not regret it. Such an exciting, fast-paced, high tempo game. Just awesome!
Although the MASL playoffs, unfortunately, weren’t able to happen to the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus, the Blast did finish in the 4th spot in the eastern conference which would have been good enough to qualify for the MASL playofffs.
In what was one of the coolest and most unique experiences of my life, Baltimore showed to me why it’s a soccer city.
A special thanks to Daniel Gill for making this happen! A truly incredible experience. I truly cannot thank you enough!
Founder, The Sports Court
Special thanks to Daniel Gill for making this all happen! This article wouldn't be up without you.
Also a special thanks to William Vanzela, Juan Pereira, and Tony Donatelli for the time on the interviews. Best of luck in all of your respective careers.
To my dad, thanks for driving me to the game. Usually don't give credit to the driver, but I was feeling extra generous this time ;)
Lastly, thanks to my Uncle and Aunt for coming to the game. Always great to see family.
Photo of old Blast squad via https://ussoccerplayers.com/2018/11/soccer-history-baltimore-blast.html/amp