On a night the offense mostly sputtered and another star player went down with an injury, the Blast showed their mettle against the rival Harrisburg Heat on Saturday at SECU Arena.
It took a 17-save performance from goalkeeper William Vanzela, 19 more blocked shots and a game-winning overtime goal by Andrew Hoxie that provided a 4-3 win over the Heat.
Veteran forward Lucas Roque, who tied the game in the fourth quarter with his 12th goal of the season, went down later in the quarter with what appeared to be a significant knee injury.
Shortly after, the two-time defending Major Arena Soccer League champions regrouped and leaned on hard work to produce the winning goal. Adriano Dos Santos tracked fiercely on defense to force a Heat turnover in the Blast’s end and Hoxie cashed in just 1:10 into the 10-minute overtime period.
The Blast, who were already without forward Vini Dantas and defender Pat Healey, improved to 9-2 overall and sit atop MASL’s Eastern Division. The Heat fell to 4-8.
It was a character win, but likely a costly one.
“I think we did a pretty good job again defensively — to hold them to three goals, it’s a great team effort,” Vanzela said. “And then to find a way to win a game at the end is what we do. We had a chance and we put it in the back of the net. That was definitely for Lucas. We hope that it’s nothing major. But as soon as it happened, we said, ‘Guys, we need to win for Lucas,’ so this was definitely for him.”
The Blast got some good fortune in the third quarter when Heat midfielder Thiago Freitas played a ball back to goalkeeper Hugo Silva, but it ended going in to tie the game at 2. After Brad Kerstetter gave the Heat a 3-2 lead with 9:59 to play in the fourth quarter, Roque — who had three goals and two assists in the Blast’s two road wins last weekend — scored on the power play after taking a feed from Jonatas Melo with 8:29 to play.
Despite both teams have chances late in regulation, the game went into overtime with Hoxie’s seventh goal of the season proving to be the difference.
“We were just off tonight. Credit to Harrisburg. Whenever Baltimore and Harrisburg play, it’s going to be a battle, it’s going to be emotional and passionate. … Credit to the guys — we found a way to win,” Blast coach Danny Kelly said. “Losing a guy like Lucas, who’s been instrumental in our championships and everything else, it’s very difficult for us as a team and now we play for him.”
The Blast travel to Syracuse on Friday to take on the Silver Knights with game time set for 7:05 p.m. They return to SECU Arena the following weekend for two games — hosting the Kansas City Comets at 7:35 p.m. on Jan. 19 and then the Heat at 6:05 p.m. on Jan. 20.
Goals were scant in a first half that ended with the Blast leading 1-0 on a first-quarter goal from Nelson Santana.
A mix of responsible defense and poor finishing from both teams, along with some fine saves from the goalkeepers kept the scoring down in the first 30 minutes.
Santana proved opportunistic 6:11 into play, parked at the right of the goal to get just enough on a shot to beat Silva.
The Heat outshot the Blast 14-11 in the first half, including 10 in the second quarter, but Vanzela was sharp. He made a reaction save on the ground with a shot coming from Dominic Francis midway through the second quarter and a got a leg out to turn away a heavy shot from Elmo Neto with 2:25 left before the break.
The Blast welcomed the return of hometown defender Mike Deasel (Loyola Blakefield, Loyola Maryland), who returned to the team after retiring at the end of the 2014-15 season.
Harrisburg 0 0 2 1 0 -- 3
Blast 1 0 1 1 1 -- 4
Scoring: 1. Blast, Santana, 6:11.
Scoring: 2. Harrisburg, Neto, (Freitas), 2:49; 3. Harrisburg, , Carvalho, 3:15. 4. Blast, Pereira, 11:17
Scoring: 5. Harrisburg, Kerstetter, (Freitas), 5:01; 6. Blast, Roque, (Melo), 6:31.
Scoring: 7. Blast, Hoxie, 1:10
Shots on goal: Harrisburg 4-10-16-8-0 -- 38; Blast 7-4-2-6-1 20.
Power-play opportunities: Harrisburg 0-for-2; Blast 1-for-2.
Saves: Harrisburg, Silva 5-1-0-3-0 -- 9; Blast, Vanzela 2-8-4-2-0 -- 16.