In his six years in Baltimore, Blast forward Vini Dantas was a three-time Major Arena Soccer League champion, one of the team’s top scorers and a fan favorite.
Over the weekend, the Blast announced that they traded his rights to the Tacoma Stars for cash considerations. Dantas cited his departure was for family reasons with his wife, Alicia, a Seattle native, accepting a job offer in the area to be closer to family. In February, the couple had their first son, Mateo.
Saturday night, Dantas wrote a heartfelt post on his Facebook page thanking the Blast organization and the fans.
“Baltimore Blast ... I wanted to thank you for believing in me, for providing a platform that allowed me to do what I love,” he wrote. “Thank you for an amazing 6 seasons, I hold this organization in a special place in my heart.”
On Monday morning, the 30-year-old native of Brazil reiterated the great experience he had in Baltimore.
“It was a fantastic time from the first moment to right now – just all really good memories,” Dantas said. “The learning that I had was constant, the challenge was constant, too. The thing that impressed me the most was the teammates I had. They’re such fierce competitors and they make it easy for you to push yourself.”
Dantas made an immediate impact for the Blast, selected to the MASL All-Rookie Team following the 2014-15 season. He was instrumental in the team’s string of three straight league titles that started the following season. In the 2016-17 championship run, he was named the championship series Most Valuable Player, scoring the title-clinching goal against Sonora to finish the postseason with nine goals and nine assists.
In announcing the trade on the team’s website, Blast general manager Gianni Tumminello praised Dantas’ contribution to the franchise.
“We were so fortunate and appreciative to have him in a Blast uniform for the years we did and we can not thank him enough,” he said. “Vini was a fan favorite, a great guy on and off the field and in the office with us. Coach [David] Bascome and myself have nothing but respect for him.”
Blast star goalie William Vanzela, also Brazilian, called Dantas irreplaceable with all the assets he portrayed on and off the field.
Powerfully built at 6 feet 1 with fine ball skills and a heavy shot, Dantas consistently delivered goals in big moments.
“Vini was a player that would make plays when we needed to make a play,” Vanzela said.
“That’s the Vini we knew for six years. But most important for me is all the memories we shared together, all the championship that we fought for together and the way we fought for them. He was a huge part of that and he’s a very important part of Blast history.”
This is the second key departure for the Blast this offseason. At the end of May, coach Danny Kelly parted ways with the franchise after 15 years at the position.
Blast owner Ed Hale said the team was previously aware that Dantas might be moving on.
“He’s been a prolific scorer for us, a force that’s going to be missed. So now we have to get the next man up for our team,” he said.