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Blast forward Andrew Hoxie has a good handle on mustache, winning

Baltimore Blast forward Andrew Hoxie is announced during the 2017 home opener at their new home, Towson University's SECU Arena.
Baltimore Blast forward Andrew Hoxie is announced during the 2017 home opener at their new home, Towson University's SECU Arena. (Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun)

Just about everywhere Blast forward Andrew Hoxie goes in Baltimore — one day last week it was a quick stop to Chipotle — he is recognized.

His quality work on the field warrants it. He has consistently scored goals in big moments for the Blast as he enters his fifth season, bringing home Major Arena Soccer League championships in the first three.

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When he is out and about, kids approach him with smiles and curiosity, while grownups simply admire.

For the 33-year-old Hoxie, it all starts with his handlebar mustache — one perfectly suited for a barbershop quartet — and he’s just fine with that. It will be on display when the Blast open their 2019-20 season Friday at 7:35 p.m., taking on Utica City FC at Towson University’s SECU Arena.

“It’s pretty cool because the mustache is locally recognized,” said Hoxie, who first grew it and gained notoriety when he played for the Rochester Lancers.

“It’s more so the kids — they remember the guy with the giant mustache and then they make their own nicknames for you. Mustache Man, Mr. Mustachio, Mr. Mario – it goes on and on. So it’s crazy and a lot of fun.”

Hoxie, who also stands out in the indoor game with his 6-foot-5 frame, understands putting yourself out there comes with responsibility and that means backing up his trademark ’stache with the fine play.

Towson, MD -- 11/10/2017 -- Baltimore Blast forward Andrew Hoxie scores past Cedar Rapids Rampage goalkeeper Brett Petricek during the 2017 home opener at their new home, at Towson University's arena. ((Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun Staff) [ SOC RAMPAGE BLAST ] SECU Arena (DSC_7762.JPG)
Towson, MD -- 11/10/2017 -- Baltimore Blast forward Andrew Hoxie scores past Cedar Rapids Rampage goalkeeper Brett Petricek during the 2017 home opener at their new home, at Towson University's arena. ((Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun Staff) [ SOC RAMPAGE BLAST ] SECU Arena (DSC_7762.JPG) (Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun)

In his four seasons with the Blast, he has 60 goals and 27 assists in 79 regular-season games and 16 goals and seven assists in 23 playoff games. He brings more than those solid numbers to the Blast, though, starting with a team-first approach and confidence when it is needed most.

“He’s a great teammate to have around,” Blast captain Tony Donatelli said. “He’s someone that everyone respects on and off the field and he has scored so many big goals for us over the years. Right when you need him, he pops up and scores the goal that can change the course of a game. We’ve come to rely on that over the years.”

In the 2016-17 season, the defending champions got smoked in the second game of the Eastern Conference finals at Milwaukee, 8-4, setting up a 15-minute mini-game that would decide which team advanced to the league championship.

Hoxie recalls the trying circumstances: The Wave fans at their noisy best, the opponent filled with confidence and trying to pick himself up and his teammates when doubt could have taken over.

He scored the opening goal, coming 2:47 into play, to help right the ship before Donatelli produced the game-winner.

With plenty to choose from — among them the previous series at Harrisburg in which he scored the winning goal in the second game and another in the deciding mini-game to win the Eastern Division finals — Hoxie ranks the order-restoring goal in Milwaukee at the top of the list.

Pressure?

“I welcome that,” he said. “It’s important to not shy away from wanting to score the big goals or be a big-time player. We have a lot of players that aren’t afraid to step up. You see that when you get to the playoffs, some guys are a little scared and timid. That’s something that I try not to be. I try to give my all and crave the chance of scoring a game-winning goal.”

Last year brought a lot of change for Hoxie, the absolute best and also rare bad. He and his wife, Cate, had their first child, daughter Lily, who turned 1 earlier this month.

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“Every day, I wake up in the morning and she’s changing a little and it brings a different brightness to my life. It’s pretty awesome,” he said.

On the downside, the Blast failed to win a championship for the first time in his tenure with the team when Milwaukee got them best of them in the conference finals.

“We don’t lose big games, so when we finally did, it was like ‘Wait, we didn’t score a buzzer beater? What the heck happened?’ ” he said.

“So that was a weird feeling and it wasn’t a good feeling because losing is clearly not the norm in this organization.”

Moving forward, last year’s playoff exit served notice: “We needed to learn that the Blast can bleed,” he said.

He has seen more energy in preseason training with most of the veterans returning and a couple newcomers providing a worthy push. Collectively, players are spending more time together during their off time and lingering around the locker room a little longer after training.

Noting Hoxie’s fit in the system and the accountability he shows, Blast coach Danny Kelly will rely on his clutch goals and ability to hold up play with possession and lay balls off to teammates. It’s a welcome constant.

“He doesn’t back down, he’s always up for the fight, up for every challenge,” Kelly said.

Hoxie can’t wait to take on the next one, beginning on Friday night.

“We’re doing the things that we know are going to lead us to a successful season,” he said. “I can’t promise a championship, but we’ll be in the mix.”

Blast roster

0 William Vanzela GK

4 Andrew Hoxie F

9 Sylla Salifou MF/F

11 Tony Donatelli MF

12 Adriano Dos Santos D

13 Jereme Raley D

14 Ibrahima Keita D

15 Victor France F

16 Sam Guernsey D

17 Jamie Thomas F

18 Mohamed Ndiaye MF/D

19 Marco Nascimento D

20 Mike Deasel D

22 Juan Pereira F

23 Jonatas Melo MF

24 Mike Zierhoffer GK

25 Daniel Peruzzi F

28 Vini Dantas F

30 Daniel Oliveira MF/F

90 Juan Galvis F

Head coach: Danny Kelly

Asst. coach David Bascome

Season Opener

UTICA CITY@BLAST

SECU Arena, Towson

Friday, 7:30 p.m.

Streaming: maslsoccer.com/masltv

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