Every dynasty has an end.
For the Baltimore Blast, it came in the 2019 Major Arena Soccer League (MASL) Eastern Conference final with a 2-1 loss to the Milwaukee Wave April 28.
Both teams got on the board in the first quarter, and the score remained tied for most of the match. Wave attacker Ian Bennett broke the tie, sending Milwaukee to the Ron Newman Cup Final. Milwaukee won, 5-2, against the Monterrey Flash.
Now, Baltimore enters the 2019-20 season with a different mentality after being so close to getting back to the top of the MASL for a fourth straight season. The Blast begins its season against Utica City FC at Towson University’s SECU Arena Nov. 22.
“The thing is when you lose, you learn,” Blast goalkeeper William Vanzela said on Glenn Clark Radio Nov. 20. “The moment that we lost to Milwaukee last year, we looked at each other and we said, ‘We have a year. We have to figure out what we’ve done wrong and we gotta make things right to go to the championship game again.'”
Vanzela, entering his eighth season with the Blast, has played on four MASL championship-winning teams, but last season’s loss gave the club a reality check. With key injuries to veteran players like forwards Daniel Peruzzi and Vini Dantas and defender Ibrahima Keita, Baltimore had to lean on youth in key spots last season.
“It’s not an excuse because it doesn’t matter who’s on the field, we all need to perform better,” Vanzela said. “I think we spent too much time teaching the young guys how to play the game that we forgot to do our jobs ourselves.”
However, getting Peruzzi back from a knee injury will help the Blast in 2019-20, as will a plethora of rookies and new acquisition Victor France. France, a four-year veteran from the Orlando SeaWolves and Cedar Rapids Rampage, was a major signing for the club.
As for Vanzela, he’s become one of the faces of Baltimore soccer, not just for his play with the Blast, but his involvement in the community.
When he’s not guarding the sticks for the Blast, Vanzela is on the sidelines. He’s the goalkeepers coach for Johns Hopkins, McDonogh School and the Baltimore Celtic Soccer Club.
“I’m trying to be involved in the community as much as possible,” Vanzela said. “… I always say this: People will remember the player that you are and the wins you had, but most likely, they’re going to try to remember you as a person and what you have done in your life.”
Outside of the Blast, Vanzela’s main goal since coming to Baltimore has been to grow the sport in the community and to continue to shape the next generation of soccer players from the area.
His involvement in so many programs and clubs has helped reflect that as a new generation of soccer players in the area continues to grow and develop.
“You want to teach the kids to grow as a soccer player, yeah, sure. But my main focus is making them a better person, a better human being,” Vanzela said. “They can help the next person after them. If every professional athlete does a little bit of that, I’m sure we’re going to have a much better community.”
To hear more from Vanzela, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Sabina Moran