The Undercard By Brandon Weigel

The Undercard: The Blast is the best team in Baltimore

City Paper

The Blast are the best team in Baltimore.

How do I know this? The seven championship banners hanging from the rafters in the glorious Royal Farms Arena. That’s more than the Ravens and Orioles put together—which you were probably able to figure out on your own, but come on, that’s really impressive.

And yet, when I recently told people I attended one of the indoor soccer team’s games, I was met with two reactions: “Oh yeah, I’ve been meaning to go” and “They still exist?”

Come on, Baltimore! The Blast is like the Yankees of indoor soccer. Between 2002 and 2009, it won five championships of seven, and added another as recently as the 2012-2013 campaign. This is its eighth straight year making the playoffs. Outside of two losses on a West Coast road trip in early February, it’s won every single game, boasting an unblemished 10-0 on its home carpet. This is all the more impressive because the Blast is asserting its superiority in the inaugural season of the Major Arena Soccer League, a combination of the Major Indoor Soccer League and Professional Arena Soccer League. New league with a deeper talent pool, same ass-kicking delivered to the competition.

On March 11, the Blast begins its quest for the Ron Newman Cup when it faces off against the winner of a series between the Rochester Lancers and Syracuse Silver Knights, and it’s one of the best teams* in the whole damn tournament. Baltimore! It is time to get on board!

March is typically the time of madness and brackets, and Maryland is particularly blessed to have the men’s and women’s teams at the University of Maryland both ranked in the top 10 (as of this writing). This Maryland alumnus will be watching intently as coaches Mark Turgeon and Brenda Frese try to make deep runs, but I also plan on devoting my rooting interests to coach Danny Kelly and the winningest team in Charm City.

Now, the mere mention of soccer may have caused your eyes to glaze over, because you’re an American and you know better. But let me tell you this, friend: Arena soccer has taken the game loved all over the globe and made it not-boring. Seems impossible, but it’s true.

Instead of using a long, 100-yard-plus field, arena soccer is played on a ringed indoor turf about the size of a hockey rink—in fact, the same plexiglass surrounds the east and west sides of the field where the goals are, meaning the guys can mix it up a bit when they’re pinned against the wall. The shorter field all but eliminates traditional soccer’s incredibly dull midfield game, where the ball is passed around between the teams until one is able to break away and get off a shot that will sail 10 feet wide of the goal and still be considered “close.”

It also means there are way more shots. More shots mean more that go in (despite the smaller goal of indoor soccer), and hey, goals are worth two points, because scoring is more exciting and fun and patriotic. And there’s a three-point arc because, again, scoring points is entertaining. Soccer’s English Premier League does not understand this maxim.

But this doesn’t mean there can’t be great defense. At the game I attended on Feb. 13 against the Lancers, goalie William Vanzela posted a shutout in an 11-0 victory. The Blast maintained control of the ball for a good portion of the game, keeping on the offensive and launching repeated attacks. It was sheer dominance.

And you can watch this exciting brand of sport from your home for free, zip, zero, nada. MASL offers streams of their games on golivesportscast.com. You don’t even need cable! Just the internet.

Of course, it’s more fun to attend and cheer with the crowd and watch the cheerleaders and bounce out of your seat whenever the home team scores. We will say, however, that going to a Blast game is, surprisingly, about as expensive as going to a ballgame at Camden Yards. Tickets typically run $16-$40, and while Groupon deals can be had, the cost of beers and concessions is about the same as at O’s games.

Far be it from me to tell the team’s owner, former banker and CIA operative Edwin F. Hale Sr., how to run his business, but it seems like the Blast would get more butts in the seats—to be clear, Baltimore loves its Blast, the team is second in league attendance, averaging 6,201 fans per game—if the games were a little more affordable than other options.

But that’s a conversation we can save for the offseason. Money should be no object as YOUR Baltimore Blast starts its march for postseason glory. We’re telling you that yes, the Blast still exists and it is awesome, and that if you’ve been meaning to go, now is the time. 

*Correction: This story inaccurately said the Blast is the top seed in the playoffs. City Paper regrets the error.


Email: bweigel@citypaper.com

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