While the Blast prepares for the Major Arena Soccer League championship series this weekend against the Monterrey Flash, the team took time Thursday afternoon to recognize some of its own as the league's finest.
Captain Pat Healey was named the MASL Defender of the Year and William Vanzela was awarded the league's Goalkeeper of the Year during a news conference at Royal Farms Arena. The Blast and Flash — both 21-2 — will open the inaugural Ron Newman Cup finals in Baltimore at 7:35 p.m. Friday at Royal Farms Arena.
Game two will take place in Monterrey, Mexico, at 6 p.m. Sunday and if the series is tied, a 15-minute mini game will follow immediately after to declare the champion.
The Missouri Comets' Leo Gibson, the league's leading scorer, was named the MASL Most Valuable Player, Missouri's Vlatko Andonovski was awarded Coach of the Year and St. Louis Ambush forward Gordy Gurson claimed Rookie of the Year honors.
A seven-year veteran, Healey led a team that had eight first-year players. In addition to his fine two-way play on the field this season — he finished with 29 points (7 goals, 22 assists) and a league-high 53 blocked shots — his leadership was vital to the Blast's success.
"[My role] is just a tradition that has been carried on," Healey said. "I got the same treatment from [past captains] P.J. Wakefield, Robbie Aristodemo and Mike Lookingland and I just tried to do the same things they did. I had three great captains I played under and I tried to mold myself from what I learned from them."
Vanzela has been stellar since joining the Blast as a rookie in the 2012-13 season. This season he went 14-2 with four shutouts and finished with a 2.83 goals against and .815 save percentage — both decidedly tops in the league. Last season, he was named the top goalkeeper in the Major Indoor Soccer League.
"I'm really proud of all this and I'm glad, but I have to share this with every single teammate I have," Vanzela said. "I don't really think of this as an individual trophy — this is really teamwork. This just doesn't belong to me, but the team. If I play for another team, then I may not have the chance to win this award."