It's no secret the Blast will need its offense cranked up on high to win games in the Major Indoor Soccer League this season, at least early on as the team breaks in two rookie goalkeepers who are brand new to the indoor game.
If Saturday night's home opener against the Chicago Soul is any indication, the Blast will be just fine.
Overcoming a jittery start, the Blast showed off a surplus of offensive firepower to easily shake the Soul, earning an entertaining 23-13 win in front of an announced crowd of 6,311 at 1st Mariner Arena.
"It wasn't rocket science. It was just us doing what we talk about all the time. Better spacing, moving the ball, better decision. We were making the game hard for ourselves," Blast coach Danny Kelly said. "I guess unforced errors is the words for the first half. In the second half and that third quarter -- we played like we're capable of."
Eight players scored for the Blast — newcomer Tony Donatelli led the way with three goals and an assist — and rookie goalkeeper Troy Hernandez settled in nicely with nine saves after surrendering three goals to Soul standout Chile Farias on three shots in the game's first four minutes.
"The first part of the game, it was my first time, so I just tried to forget about the goals and just play the game and let the game happen and eventually we'll settle down and get the win we wanted," Hernandez said. "Goals happen in indoor, so I just thought to keep moving on."
Leading 10-9 at the half, the Blast took control with a relentless third quarter mostly spent at the visitors' end. Max Ferdinand scored 20 seconds into the period and Stephen DeRoux added a three-point goal less than a minute later with Mike Lookingland, Adriano Dos Santos and Pat Healey adding goals in the pivotal 11-point third quarter. It gave the Blast a 21-13 advantage that was never threatened in the fourth quarter.
As explosive as the offense was, the Blast's defense grew stingier as the game wore on with tight marking and smart decisions when the ball entered its end.
The opening moments for Hernandez as a professional indoor goalkeeper were understandably challenging as Farias, a two-time league Most Valuable Player, welcomed him with a barrage of corner-finding shots.
Farias buried a three-point goal after a Blast giveaway just 18 seconds into the game and his third goal on his third shot — coming on a shootout penalty with 10:56 still left in the first quarter — gave the Soul a fast 7-2 advantage.
But the Blast stayed poised and attacked with persistence. Donatelli dominated the front of the Chicago goal, finishing off three scoring chances — matching Farias' first quarter hat trick. After Audeto Neto cranked a shot just over the top crossbar, Donatelli alertly headed home the rebound to make it 7-4 with 7:13 to play. After Machel Millwood (two goals) and Lucio Gonzaga scored 40 seconds apart — Gonzaga's goal giving the Blast its first lead of the game at 8-7 with 2:12 left — Donatelli scored in the final minute to end the goal-happy first quarter with the home team leading, 10-7.
Hernandez and the Blast defense settled down in the second quarter — limiting Farias and the Soul to just one goal — but the home team's offense was quiet as it took a 10-9 lead into the halftime break.
"One thing we talked about is there's going to be mistakes and things aren't going to go your way all the time and you have to just stay mentally strong and deal with it," Kelly said. "Unfortunately, a lot of what went wrong in the first half was up in front of Troy and not necessarily on Troy, so I thought he did a great job of keeping his focus, he made some big saves for us and he's only going to get better."
Chicago 7 2 4 0 -- 13
Blast 10 0 11 2 -- 23
Scoring: 1. Chicago, Farias, 3 pt., :18; 2. Blast, Donatelli, 2 pt., 1:29; 3. Chicago, Farias, 2 pt., 3:41; 4. Chicago, Farias, 2 pt., (pp.), 4:04; 5. Blast, Donatelli, 2 pt., (Neto), 8:47; 6. Blast, Millwood, 2 pt., 12:07; 7. Blast, Gonzaga, 2 pt., (Millwood), 12:48; 8. Blast, Donatelli, 2 pt., 14:03
Penalties: Blast, Henandez, (boarding), 4:00.
Scoring: 9. Chicago, Farias, 2 pt., 3:45.
Scoring: 10. Blast, Ferdinand, 2 pt., :20; 11. Blast, DeRoux, 3 pt., (Neto), 1:08; 12. Chicago, Gallo, 2 pt., 2:24; 13. Blast, Lookingland, 2 pt., (Neto), 9:26; 14. Blast, Dos Santos, 2 pt., (Roque), 9:52; 15. Chicago, Radoncic, 2 pt., 10:11; 16. Blast, Healey, 2 pt., (DeRoux ), 13:46
Penalties: Chicago, Megson, (striking), 7:11; Chicago, Kletzien, (hand ball), 7:35.
Scoring: 17. Blast, Millwood, 2 pt., (Donatelli), 5:48.
Penalties: Blast Dos Santos, (tripping), 12:03.
Shots on goal: Chicago 6-4-9-6 -- 25; Blast 10-3-12-2 -- 27.
Power-play opportunities: Chicago 1-for-2; Blast 1-for-2.
Goalies Saves: Chicago, Richey – 6; Blast, Hernandez --9 .
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