For the last six years no player has been a bigger face of the Baltimore Blast than William Vanzela. The intense Brazilian has racked up an 81-22 record with the Blast and has twice been named league Goalkeeper of the Year. The Blast defeated the Kansas City Comets 15-8 at SECU Arena on Friday night, but lost Vanzela indefinitely to a groin injury.
Vanzela was making his 52nd consecutive regular season start when he went down in the box while shifting to his right to set up for a save in the second quarter. After a several minute delay he got back on his feet and remained in the game, but the first time the ball came into the Blast’s end Vanzela collapsed in pain again and had to be carried off the field.
“It’s a groin injury. We don’t know the severity of it just yet,” said Blast Head Coach Danny Kelly. “He’ll see the doc tomorrow (Saturday) and we’ll know more tomorrow. Best guess I’d say he’d be out at least a week to two weeks. That’s a minimum. He’s not a guy that comes out of games easily so we’re concerned about it.”
Defender Pat Healey replaced Vanzela for the game’s final 41:08, making 10 saves. The Blast had a 4-1 lead when Healey slipped on the gloves, and he was tested early, making a series of saves that fired up the home crowd. At halftime, the Blast’s lead had grown to 5-1.
“I thought maybe 5-1 down with Pat in goal, you not only put him in goal but you take him off the field,” said Comets Head Coach Kim Roentved. “That should be an advantage for any team, but Pat did well in there.”
It was a game of two wildly divergent halves, with six goals in the first 30 minutes and a 17-goal deluge in the second half.
“I thought we played a great first half,” said Roentved. “I thought we played a spectacular first quarter, unfortunately we didn’t have anything to show for it. We only scored one goal and I think I can probably count 12-13 chances. If you can’t score three or four goals out of 12-13 chances then there’s something wrong. The problem with that is then we gave up a couple of cheap goals and then Baltimore got the momentum. They’re just way too good of a team to be down four, five, six goals to.”
The Blast’s lead grew in the third quarter. After Nacho Flores cut the deficit to 5-2 the Blast went on a run starting with Jereme Raley’s goal 26 seconds later. Six minutes and three goals later the Blast had a 9-2 lead. With nothing to lose the Comets pulled goalie Casey Gasson in favor of Lucas Rodriquez as a sixth attacker.
With the rare sight of both teams fielding sixth attackers, even though Healey was doing his game best to emulate a conventional goalkeeper, the game began to come off the rails.
Down 10-3 at the end of the third quarter, the Comets scored five straight times to get back into the game, to the dismay of the crowd which grew increasingly restless.
“Obviously they have an extra man and you have a bit of an advantage when you do that and we didn’t play smart,” said Kelly. “We kind of played into their hands a bit. We were turning the ball over, not keeping the ball, not possessing the ball, and not finishing chances when we had them so consequently we allowed them to get back in the game.”
The Comets could get no closer and when Vini Dantas scored with 3:56 left the momentum shifted squarely back to Baltimore. The Blast tacked four more goals onto that one, netting the five goals in a 3:03 span.
“Take the sixth attacker with a grain of salt,” said Roentved. “Anytime you’re down four or five goals now you have to start forcing it and that creates fast breaks for the other team, but we had to. We were trying to get back into the game. On a 150-foot field on fast breaks that’s like four touches and a pass and then it’s in the goal and that’s what they do best. My hat’s off to Danny and the team. We’ve got some work to do but I’m proud of the way we played in the first half.”
The Comets (4-9), who fell two games behind the Cedar Rapids Rampage for the final Central Division playoff spot, play Saturday night at the Florida Tropics. “We’ll see if we can regroup and get a little bit out of this trip,” said Roentved.
Baltimore, meanwhile, announced on Saturday morning that they had signed veteran goalkeeper Joey Kapinos, who will start tonight’s game against the Harrisburg Heat on short notice. While the Blast (11-2) don’t want to lose Vanzela for any extended period of time they can be heartened by the fact that their backup starters have gone 14-0 the last six years whenever Vanzela needed a rest.