The Blast pride themselves on having a balanced attack and playing strong team defense.
But sometimes it’s OK and necessary to lean on the star players.
So, there was goalkeeper William Vanzela making seven saves in the third quarter alone to keep the Blast close Saturday against visiting Utica City FC.
And then there was midfielder and captain Tony Donatelli giving the home team its first lead in the fourth quarter and another one a little later. Finally it was veteran forward Andrew Hoxie’s turn. He scored what went on to be the game-winning goal with 4:53 to play en route to a 7-6 win over Utica City before an announced crowd of 3,706 at Towson University’s SECU Arena.
The three-time defending Major Arena Soccer League champions avenged a 5-2 loss to the New York-based expansion team last Sunday and improved to 2-1 on the season. In their two seasons at SECU Arena, they remain perfect with a 15-0 home mark. After Utica’s Joey Tavernese scored with 11 seconds left, cutting the Blast’s lead to 7-6, Vanzela had one last save — a relatively easy one — as the buzzer sounded for Baltimore’s first one-goal win this season after 13 last year.
“We know defending our title is a huge challenge and this is what we’ve come to expect,” Blast coach Danny Kelly said. “That’s what we look for those guys to do — to come up big when the game is on the line and they did tonight.”
Utica City (2-1) is not a typical expansion team that can be pushed around with the majority of its players coming from a longtime Blast rival, the Syracuse Silver Knights, which folded after last season.
Coming off a win over the Blast last Sunday in New York, Utica immediately made itself feel right at home with a restart goal from Mauricio Salles six seconds into play. The visitors never trailed until Donatelli scored with 8:32 to play, but they responded with a tying goal from Liam Callahan 31 seconds later.
Donatelli, who came into the game without a goal this season, found the mark a third time when he finished a restart with 5:47 left. Hoxie scored on a heavy shot from the right side less than a minute later for the eventual winner.
“For me personally, I wasn’t finding the back of the net the first couple games, so I just wanted to stick with it, get shots on goal and fortunately they went in tonight,” Donatelli said. “We wanted to repay them for Sunday and the guys were really motivated for the game tonight. We fought all the way to the end and were able to come away with the win.”