Coming into Friday night’s game against Utica City FC, the Baltimore Blast had played 18 regular season and playoff games at SECU Arena, and had won all 18. But on Friday it was Utica who owned the turf at SECU Arena, going wire-to-wire to extinguish the Blast 9-1 before an announced crowd of 3,005.
City goalkeeper Andrew Coughlin was credited with 11 saves, but most memorably scored two goals on long throws in the fourth quarter as the Blast desperately tried to generate any kind of offensive momentum.
Logan Roberts scored his first career hat trick and Bo Jelovac had a goal and three assists.
“For me it was the first time this year that Utica has put all four quarters together,” said Utica Head Coach Ryan Hall. “In previous games we’ve always lapsed here or there and let teams crawl back into it.”
Both teams came fast out of the gates in an up tempo first half, but it was Utica who struck first on Roberts’s first goal of the night at 5:33. Roberts struck again when William Vanzela gave up a big rebound on a shot from Jelovac and the 24-year old calmly slid the ball under the Blast goalie to give Utica a 2-0 lead through the first quarter.
In the second quarter Liam Callahan scored on a tap-in and Roberts completed the hat trick three minutes later to make it a 4-0 game.
“I put myself in a couple good spots,” said Roberts, “and Bo and the other guys did a good job of putting the ball on frame and luckily I got a couple rebounds and was able to be in the right spot to put them in.”
Less than two minutes later Nate Bourdeau pressured Jon Orlando in the corner and that led to a Joey Tavernese header goal that kissed the post and beat an obviously distraught Vanzela.
The Blast came out of the locker room in the third quarter and maintained possession for most of the quarter, but could not find the net. To exacerbate their struggle, Jake Schindler headed in a Jelovac pass off the boards with less than two minutes left in the quarter to make it 6-0.
The Blast finally got on the board 26 seconds into the fourth quarter, on a goal by Elton De Oliveira, spoiling Coughlin’s shutout bid.
Coughlin called it “a little bit” bittersweet to not get the shutout. “We could have,” he said. “It was a miscommunication in the back to just let a runner go through and he was wide open so obviously we want to keep the ‘0’ on the board, but I think in indoor it’s hard, especially when you’re playing against the Blast. On this field to hold them to one goal I think that’s a victory in and of itself.”
With just under six minutes left the Blast went to the sixth attacker and Coughlin made them pay. The third year goalkeeper caught an Adriano Dos Santos shot and fluidly launched it downfield on one hop into the Blast’s goal.
After Jelovac scored another empty net goal against the Blast’s Tony Donatelli, Vanzela returned to the game, but ventured too far upfield giving Coughlin a second scoring chance. At first Coughlin hesitated, but then he tossed in his second of the night.
“I didn’t want to do it because time was winding down and it was actually Jake Schindler who said, ‘Just throw it! Throw it!’ he’s screaming so I was like alright,” Coughlin recalled. “Listen, William’s a great goalkeeper and I know I never want to get scored on by another goalkeeper and I’m sure he feels the same, so I have a lot of respect for that guy and at the end of the day the reason it happened is for goal differential. If we’re tied with Baltimore this game could set us apart.”
The win puts Utica at 10-4, while the Blast’s third straight loss overall drops them to 7-5.
“It’s a great feeling,” said Roberts. “We came down here planning to win. We know that they haven’t lost a game here yet so it feels really good to come down here and give them their first loss at home and go two games up in the Eastern Division.”
It was Utica’s third win in four meetings with the Blast this year, but Hall knows better than to count out the three-time defending Newman Cup champions.
“Baltimore is still the best team,” Hall said. “They’re the defending champions. They had an off night and it happens. This is a great win for us to be the first team to beat them here but until we can beat them in the playoffs we haven’t accomplished anything yet.”
Utica can still savor the win for one night before they return to action on Sunday, hosting the Mississauga MetroStars. “I couldn’t be prouder of the guys,” said Hall. “From start to finish all 15 guys busted their tail offensively, defensively and I couldn’t ask for more out of them.”