Finally losing a game at SECU Arena was bound to happen for the Blast, who went into Friday’s game with 18 straight wins in the two years they’ve called it home.
Absolutely shocking, however, was the manner in which it occurred.
With first place on the line in the Major Arena Soccer League’s Eastern Division and front-runner Utica City FC in town, the Blast – three-time defending league champions – barely put up a fight.
Utica City dominated from the start, scoring six unanswered goals through the first three quarters on its way to an easy 9-1 win over the Blast.
The Blast are now 18-1 at home during their time at SECU Arena. More importantly, a chance to make a statement and move into a first-place tie didn’t happen with Utica City improving to 10-4 and the Blast falling to 7-5.
While the Blast were listless and a step slow from the onset, the visitors were determined and precise.
“It’s definitely disappointing, embarrassing to have a performance like that in front of our fans. It’s unacceptable,” Blast captain Tony Donatelli said. “The first half was awful and you can’t start like that against a good team and expect to come back in the second half.”
The 2-0 lead Utica City took after one quarter could have been far bigger if not for the seven saves by Blast goalie William Vanzela. While the Blast’s first quality chance didn’t come until three minutes elapsed in the second quarter, Utica City defender Logan Roberts was on his way to a hat trick in the first half to pace a 5-0 advantage.
The Blast’s first goal didn’t come until the opening minute of the fourth quarter when Elton de Oliveira cut the lead to 6-1, but no momentum was gained with a second goal never coming.
“It’s tough, the most embarrassing game of my life being a part of the Blast,” said Vanzela, who finished with 12 saves. “We know it’s not ideal, but we’re not going to hide. We’re all together – we win together, we lose together – and we’ll go into the locker room and get ourselves together, have a conversation and see what we can do to change things.”
The past eight seasons, the Blast have finished atop the standings in their division, including the last four in the Major Arena Soccer League’s Eastern Division.
Often this time of year — the season hits the midway point this weekend -- they have been comfortably in first place.
Not this season.
They will try to get back on track when they return to SECU on Sunday afternoon to take on the rival Harrisburg Heat. Game time is set for 3 p.m. The Blast have won two of the first three meetings this season, with the Heat claiming the last game – an 8-6 win in Harrisburg on Jan. 21.
“Whenever you lose, especially like this, all you can ask for is another opportunity and it’s coming quick against another division rival who beat us the last time. So motivation shouldn’t be a problem for us on Sunday to right the ship,” Donatelli said.