The defending Major Arena Soccer League champion Blast are still getting used to their new digs, Towson University’s SECU Arena, while at the same time getting their opponents’ best effort.
It’s making for some tough sledding in the early season, but they are mostly finding their way.
On Friday against the visiting Ontario Fury, the Blast relied on a couple of goal-scoring spurts in the middle quarters, a power play goal from captain Tony Donatelli in the fourth quarter and 18 saves from goalkeeper William Vanzela for an 8-5 win before an announced sellout crowd of 3,800 at SECU Arena.
After opening the season with three consecutive one-goal games – winning two – the Blast had a little more breathing room in closing out their third win. Lucas Roque capped the scoring on a goal with 1:15 to play.
Donatelli and Vini Dantas each scored three goals and 10 of Vanzela’s saves came in the fourth quarter.
The Blast improved to 3-1 on the season – 3-0 at home – and moved into a first-place tie with the Harrisburg Heat in the league’s Eastern Division. The Blast return to SECU Arena on Saturday to take on the St. Louis Ambush with action set to kick off at 6:05 p.m.
“It wasn’t our best performance, but we’re able to grind out results at home,” Donatelli said. “We started to pull away a little bit in the second half and give them credit — they fought back. But it doesn’t have to be pretty as long as we get the win because that’s what we’re looking for.”
Donatelli’s third goal came with 21 seconds left on a power play, coming with 6:06 to play to give the Blast the two-goal lead back at 7-5 after Ontario had scored twice in a row. He took a feed from Adriano Dos Santos at the top of the circle, beat one defender to get space to his left and then fired a left-footed shot past Fury goalkeeper Jose Miranda.
“We were trying to be patient,” Donatelli said. “We didn’t want to force the issue and it was getting a little later on the power play, So I tried to create something and got a little bit of a deflection, so I was glad it went in.”
Dantas provided two straight goals early in the third quarter, finding the top right corner with a free kick up top and then scoring from a tough angle on the right side a little more than a minute later to give the Blast a 6-3 lead.
But the Fury (2-3) got a goal from Juan Carlos Gonzalez late in the third quarter and then made it 6-5 when former Blast player Jinho Kim scored with 10:56 to play.
Overall, Blast coach Danny Kelly wasn’t satisfied with his team’s level of play, not using SECU Arena’s smaller confines as an excuse for his team’s inconsistent first touches and passing. But he’ll take the win and is glad to have Donatelli (four goals, four assists) and Dantas (team-high eight goals, three assists) on his side.
“They’re obviously a huge part of our team and an integral part of our success,” Kelly said. “We lean on those guys when maybe things aren’t completely going our way, so obviously those guys stepping up was huge for us.”
After the Fury made it 2-1 17 seconds into the second quarter, Donatelli scored his second goal of the game 37 seconds later on a shootout with a Fury defender called for tripping. Less than two minutes later, high pressure in the Fury end turned into a turnover and goal from Jonatas Melo for a 3-2 Blast lead. Dantas, stationed on the left side, took a feed from Melo and buried a chance, to make it 4-2 with 11:17 to play in the half.
The home team’s lead held for much of the remaining minutes in the second quarter, in part thanks to Vanzela making a point-blank save on a chance in front from Douglas Lima, before the Fury got a goal from Gonzalez with 26 seconds remaining before the break to trim the Blast lead to 4-3.