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Blast’s season canceled due to COVID restrictions, leaving Baltimore without pro indoor soccer for first time in 40 years

The Major Arena Soccer League posted the February portion of its makeshift 2021 schedule Friday morning and there was one glaring omission that will disappoint Baltimore fans: the Blast.

After 39 consecutive seasons of professional indoor soccer in Baltimore, the 40th has been canceled due to the area’s COVID-19 restrictions, Blast owner Ed Hale Sr. confirmed. The team is looking ahead to the 2021-22 season, hoping to start at its traditional time in November.

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Competing under six different league names — starting with the original Major Indoor Soccer League in 1980 — and claiming 10 championships, the Blast finally met their match with the pandemic that halted the end of the 2019-20 season and extended to the cancellation of this season.

Hale said he exhausted all resources in a bid to get his team on the field this season — including an idea to play outdoors — but it’s simply not meant to be.

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“After trying to do whatever we could to play — right now we don’t even have a place to practice let alone play [games] at SECU — we just couldn’t [make it happen],” Hale said. “It’s no other reason than COVID being in the position that it is today. It’s a terrible thing. Everybody tried to cooperate and work with us, but everybody is understandably nervous about this.”

In December, the MASL voted on an abbreviated season with 11 of its 16 teams committed to play, including the Blast. Three teams opened the season this month and four more are set to being play in February. Because of the pandemic’s recent surge, the Blast, who had hoped to begin in February, are not one of them.

On Wednesday, Hale informed his team on a Zoom meeting.

“When I told them, they were so disappointed — I saw it on their faces on the zoom call,” Hale said. “I said if you have any questions please go ahead, you can ask me anything. Not one player spoke, but I could see how distressed they were.”

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While playing for the Blast is the primary income for most players, many also help run the team’s summer youth camps, coach youth, high school and college programs and also conduct personal training sessions.

Captain Tony Donatelli, who began playing with the now-defunct Philadelphia KiXX in 2006 before joining the Blast in 2012, started a new career as a loan originator for Developer’s Mortgage Company in December with plans to continue his playing career next season.

He and his teammates were hoping to take the field sooner.

“It was tough to hear,” he said. “Obviously, we always knew in the back of our minds that it was a possibility of not having a season with all the restrictions in place and all the things that are kind of out of our control. But seeing some other teams start up, we had hoped it would work out. It’s devastating.

“We play because we love it, it’s a passion of ours and to not have that available to us this year is going to be difficult to deal with.”

Hale plans to reach out to the Blast season-ticket holders and sponsors early next week to provide further information.

The team plans to conduct its annual summer youth camps, likely to begin in mid-June. Last summer, the Blast conducted 26 camps that went without incident employing safety measures.

Hale already is optimistically thinking ahead to next season.

“Our theme is going to be ‘We cannot wait to play!’ in all caps and that’s an understatement. We just can’t wait to get back on the field and do it,” he said.

Until then, Donatelli said the team will keep up with its fans via social media, running into them in the streets and over the summer with the camps.

“The support we have here is second to none,” he said. “They’re going to be there for us next year — we know that and we look forward to playing in front of them again.”

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