When Blast veteran midfielder Denison Cabral came to the United States from his native Brazil in 1994, he was a wide-eyed 20-year-old who barely spoke English but showed a great passion for indoor soccer.
Over the past 13 years, he emerged as the face of the Blast franchise, becoming its all-time leading scorer, making five All-Star Game appearances and playing a major role in the team's five league championships.
Now, at 36, Cabral's days with the Blast appear to be over.
On Sept. 22, Cabral met with Blast officials and was told he would not be offered a new contract when his current one expired Thursday at midnight. Instead, Cabral said, he was asked to show up without one when the team begins preparations for the Major Indoor Soccer League season Oct. 25.
With no guarantee of making the team, Cabral is choosing to explore other options.
"I am 110 percent committed to moving on," he said. "To me, there's no way back -- I'm just going to move on."
After finishing third on the team in scoring last season with 35 points -- bringing his career total to 941 with the Blast -- Cabral believes he still has plenty left to contribute to a team. He has received a two-year offer to play for a professional futsal team in Brazil and also expects a number of other MISL teams to inquire now that his Blast contract has expired.
Blast president and general manager Kevin Healey said he would like to see Cabral in the Blast's camp but would respect his decision to play elsewhere.
"We want Denison to play for the Blast this year. However, we're at a point where we want to see where he's at in training camp before we determine the contract level," Healey said. "What I want to emphasize -- and Denison knows this -- is I have the utmost respect for him personally for what he's done on and off the field and so does our organization. But when you're running a business, you have to figure out at different stages of a player's career, what you want to pay him at that point."
Although disappointed with the way his time apparently has ended with the Blast -- Cabral said, "I decided to move on because of the way it was presented to me" -- he has relished his time playing for the team in the town that became his second home. His dynamic goals and back-flip celebrations became a trademark at 1st Mariner Arena.
"In 13 years, I have nothing but a lot of thanks to the organization and all the fans," he said. "To me, there was a payoff every time I went to work. My plan was to win games and feel great about what we did as a team and what I did as an individual. But it all came down to making the fans go home and talk about how happy they felt after a game."
Before joining the Blast, Cabral spent four seasons with the Washington Warthogs in the now-defunct Continental Indoor Soccer League and also helped the Baltimore Bays of the now-defunct U.S. Interregional Soccer League capture indoor titles in 1995 and 1996.