A monumental team effort was needed for the Blast to will their way to a successful defense of their Major Arena Soccer League championship in a rematch against Soles de Sonora in Hermosillo, Mexico, on Sunday.
It also took plenty of heroes. Forward Vini Dantas was the last and arguably biggest.
After a two-goal, three-assist effort in Game 2’s 9-8 overtime win, Dantas scored the lone goal in the deciding 15-minute mini game as the Blast claimed a 1-0 win over the Soles to capture the Newman Cup before 8,000-plus fans at El Centro de Usos Multiples.
The Blast captured Baltimore’s ninth professional indoor soccer championship, and did so in epic fashion.
Goalie William Vanzela was brilliant in both games, sealing the mini game win with a reaction save on a heavy shot from Gustavo Rosales with 1:08 left.
“What we did tonight and the entire season is something that me – being in five finals and a professional since I was 16 – has never experienced before. We are an unbelievable team that never ever gave up, and nobody deserved it more than us. It’s a magical night that will be forever on our minds."
Dantas was named the championship series Most Valuable Player, finishing with a league-high 19 points in the postseason with nine goals and 10 assists.
Vanzela was the playoff leader with a 4.53 goals against average, including the shutout in the title deciding mini game on Sunday.
After falling behind 8-7 with 18 seconds to play in Game 2, Adriano Dos Santos crashed the goal and kneed home a tying goal with 11 seconds left. That allowed Juan Pereira to slip behind the Soles defense in overtime, collect a feed from Dantas and score the game winner to send the championship series into the deciding mini game.
The Blast put themselves in a tough spot with a poor Game 1 performance in Baltimore on Friday – falling 4-2 – and were faced with the task of taking two on the road against a Sonora team that hadn’t lost at home all season.
As they’ve done time and time over, they proved up to the task.
The Blast never led in the series until Pereira’s winning goal in Game 2. They fell behind by three goals in the third quarter before rallying to tie the game at 7 on a left-footed strike from Dantas down the left side with 11:51 to play in the fourth quarter.
Overtime looked likely as the fourth quarter wound down, and then, suddenly, a Blast loss looked inevitable when Sonora star Franck Tayou scored his third goal of the game with 18 seconds to play.
Dos Santos getting the game tied seven seconds later epitomized the Blast’s whatever-it-takes effort. Tumbling at the goal line behind Sonora goalie Diego Reynoso, he located the ball and was able to get a knee on it to put it in the back of the net.
Pereira’s overtime winner came with 7:59 left.
Midfielder Tony Donatelli finished with two goals in the second game; defender Pat Healey added a goal and an assist while playing strong in back.
In winning last year’s championship, the Blast went 6-0 in the playoffs with two-game sweeps against the Syracuse Silver Knights (Eastern Division final), Missouri Comets (Eastern Conference final) and then Sonora in the league final.
It wasn’t easy, however.
Four of the wins came in overtime – one in double overtime and a second in triple overtime – with the Blast getting an overtime goal from Tony Donatelli to seal the league crown with a 14-13 overtime win against Sonora in Mexico.
The Blast’s path to this year’s championship showed even more resolve.
After opening with an upset home loss against the Harrsiburg Heat in the Eastern Division final, they went to Harrisburg and rallied from a 3-0 deficit in Game 2 before winning the deciding mini game.
In the Eastern Conference final, the Blast were again pushed to the limit against the Milwaukee Wave before claiming a 2-1 road win in the mini game.
MASL Ron Newman Cup
(in Hermosillio, Mexico)
Blast 1 2 3 2 1 – 9
Sonora 1 3 3 1 0 -- 8
Scoring: 1. Sonora, Rosas, 11:44; 2. Blast, Caltabiano, (Dantas), 12:11.
Scoring: 3. Sonora, own, :41; 4. Blast, Donatelli, (Healey), pp., 4:35; 5. Sonora, Tayou, (Garcia), 5:05; 6. Blast, Melo, (Hoxie), 5:30; 7. Sonora, Salles, pp., 11:54
Penalties: Sonora, Contreras, (tripping) 3:15; Blast, Dos Santos (obstruction), 10:54
Scoring: 8. Sonora, Garcia, (Ruiz), pp., 1:07; 9. Sonora, Ruiz, 3:09; 10. Blast, Dantas, (Santana), 7:54; 11. Blast, Donatelli, (Dantas), pp., 9:41; 12. Sonora, Tayou, 9:52; 13. Blast, Hoxie, (Melo), 12:51
Penalties: Blast, Dantas, (tripping), :37; Sonora, Baez (boarding), 8:57; Sonora, Rosales, (boarding) 14:38
Scoring: 14. Blast, Dantas, 3:09; 15. Sonora, Tayou, 14:42; 16. Blast, Dos Santos, 14:49
Scoring: 17. Blast, Pereira, (Dantas), 2:01
(15-minute mini game)
Blast 1, Sonora 0
Scoring: Blast, Dantas, (Healey), 9:57.