Blast goalkeeper William Vanzela returned to the lineup in spectacular fashion, taking charge of a defense under constant pressure and making several acrobatic saves against the Milwaukee Wave in the Major Arena Soccer League Eastern Conference final.
Vanzela had been out since mid-January with a groin injury, but he was sharp and finished with 19 saves, leading the Blast to a 10-6 victory before an announced 3,173 at Towson University’s SECU Arena on Friday night.
Vini Dantas helped set the tone with a hat trick, and he has now scored a team-best seven times this postseason. The Blast advanced to the MASL championship game against the winner of the Monterrey Flash and San Diego Sockers, the Western Conference finalists that play Sunday.
“Physically, I’m about 70 percent, but my mindset was 200 percent,” Vanzela said. “I risked to come back, but I cannot be out. I know my teammates need me. We dominated the game.”
Ian Bennett had a pair of goals and Angel Curiel scored another as Milwaukee pulled to within 7-6 late in the third quarter. The Blast struggled to get out of their defensive end and were outshot 12-3 in the lopsided period.
Dantas finally stopped the rally with an unassisted goal 1:23 into the fourth quarter. Daniel Peruzzi then increased the margin to 9-6 with his second goal of the game just over a minute later. The Blast put the game away when Jonatas Melo was credited with a goal when his crossing pass deflected off a defender into the net.
“I thought it was a great game between two great teams,” Blast coach Danny Kelly said. “Both teams deserved to be here. But we were really happy to have the game here at SECU in front of our fans. We came out playing well, finishing our chances.
“We knew at some point they were going to make a run. They’re too good. We just had to snap ourselves out of it.”
The Wave also had their starting goalkeeper Josh Lemos (10 saves) back in the lineup after he was out with a shoulder injury he suffered late in the regular season.
The Blast took an early 2-0 lead in the first quarter on goals by Juan Pereira and Melo. Milwaukee got on the board when Daniel Mattos redirected Marcio Leite’s free kick into the goal. The Blast responded 12 seconds later when Dantas scored off a pass from Adriano Dos Santos.
After the Wave cut the margin to 3-2 on a power-play goal by Max Ferdinand with 1:46 left in the first quarter, the Blast got some breathing room again when Lemos tripped Dantas, who then scored on the ensuing penalty kick.
The Blast’s Tony Donatelli and Leite traded goals to open the second quarter. However, Peruzzi and Dos Santos scored in the final three minutes to give the Blast a 7-3 lead at the half.
Milwaukee 2 1 3 0 -- 6
Blast 4 3 0 3-- 10
Scoring: 1. Blast, Pereira, (unassisted), 1:23. 2. Blast, Melo (unassisted), 8:52.; 3. Milwaukee, Mattos, (Leite ), 10:06; 4. Blast, Dantas, (Dos Santos), 10:06. 5. Milwaukee, Ferdinand, (Leite ), 13:14. 6. Dantas (penalty kick), 14:15
Penalties: Blast Deasel (tripping), 11:26. Milwaukee Lemon (tripping) 14:15.
Scoring: 7. Blast, Donatelli, (Melo), 1:12; 8. Milwaukee, Leite, Santos), 3:10. 9. Blast Peruzzi (Raley), 11:38. 10. Blast Dos Santos (Raley) 14:50
Scoring: 11. Milwaukee, Bennett (Ferdinand), 1:29. 12. Milwaukee Curiel (Ferdinand), 12:06. 13. Milwaukee, Bennett (Lemos), 13:38
Scoring: 14. Blast Danas, (unassisted) 1:23. 15. Blast, Peruzzi, (Melo), 2:55. 16. Blast Melo, (Dantas), 12:50
Shots: Milwaukee 10 8 12 7 -- 37; Blast 9 7 3 10 -- 29
Power-play opportunities: Milwaukee 1-for-1; Blast 2-for-2.