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Blast find their way in an 8-7 season-opening win over visiting Utica City FC

In the end of an uneven opening act, the Blast found a way to chalk up an exciting 8-7 season-opening win over visiting Utica City FC Friday at SECU Arena in the Major Arena Soccer League.

Five scintillating minutes of offense in the third quarter overshadowed a sluggish first half. Daniel Peruzzi, returning from a torn ACL that cost him most of last season, was the biggest hero a three-goal, one-assist performance. Juan Pereira dished out assists on all three of Peruzzi’s goals and added a fourth, which turned out to be the eventual game-winner from Jonatas Melo with 1:24 left.

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After Melo provided an 8-6 lead, Utica City got a goal from Jake Schindler, leaving the Blast to protect the one goal lead for a little over a minute.

The home team buckled down — Utica City’s only threat coming on a far away shot from Schndler that sailed well over. Blast goalie William Vanzela finished with 13 saves.

“I’m happy with the win,” Blast coach Danny Kelly said. “The first half performance wasn’t great. We were a little sloppy defensively and it cost us. In the second half we were better. We corrected some things — credit to the guys — and we finished some chances. So we can be better for sure but it was good to get the win.”

Trailing 4-2 approaching the midway point of the third quarter, the Blast found their stride with a four-goal splurge to take their first lead.

Ibrahima Keita (two goals) hit a heavy strike from far out and then Peruzzi finished off a nifty feed from Pereira on a set piece from the left corner to tie.

On the power play, Vini Dantas sent a ball across for Andrew Hoxie to guide in at the far post to provide the home team with its first lead at 5-4 before Dantas scored another power play — back-healing a ball sent in by Peruzzi.

After Utica City opened with the first two goals of the fourth quarter, the Blast had work left and it was once again Pereira finding Peruzzi to provide a 7-6 lead with 3:39 to play before Melo added the eventual game winner moments later.

“It was an amazing job today,” Pereira said. “First game and we learned a lot from last year [falling after three straight league championships]. We work hard every single practice. Every single game is going to be a championship for us and that’s why we gave everything on the field tonight.”

Utica City never trailed in the first half, getting the season’s first goal — Christian Segura (three goals) off a feed from Bo Jelovac 10 minutes into play — and the two would combine again with 1:19 to play in the first half to take a 4-2 advantage at the break.

The final goal of the half was the visitor’s highlight and the final of a number of low lights from the Blast defense.

Jelovac was permitted space right in front of Vanzela, collected an entry pass and played a back heal pass for Segura to bury from in close on the left side.

BLAST@UTICA CITY

Sunday, 2 p.m.

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