BALTIMORE — There’s an unusual feel around the Blast as they enter the regular season.
“It’s a different feeling. It’s something that we don’t enjoy,” said co-captain and midfielder Tony Donatelli.
“When you lose you learn. I think we learned a lot from last season,” added co-captain and goalkeeper William Vanzela.
“You can tell there’s a hunger within the team,” remarked Head Coach Danny Kelly.
Baltimore opens its 2019-20 season Friday, at home, against Utica.
For the first time since 2010 the Blast starts a season not as a defending conference champion nor league champion. They lost in the conference final last spring to eventual Major Arena Soccer League champ Milwaukee.
“When you taste success you want to keep tasting it,” said Kelly. “Last year was the first time in a number of years that we didn’t taste success. One thing I’ve noticed about the group is, if there’s a world I could use, is motivated.”
The Blast won the Ron Newman Cup as MASL champions from 2016-18.
“We need to get back on track,” said Vanzela. “Being in the championship for the past eight years and not being in the championship really hurts.”
Part of what hurt the Blast last season in the playoffs is that they were beat up. They had several injuries to a lot of key players.
Donatelli had an ankle injury. But after offseason surgery, he starts this season rejuvenated and injury free.
“[There was a] chipped bone that I had removed. I had two ligaments tightened up and a tendon removed,” he said. “So, it was a pretty complicated surgery. I feel great.”
The core of the team is back with some new faces like Victor France, who played last year in Orlando. His reasoning for signing in Baltimore:
“The biggest thing for me was just being around winners,” he said.
France and his new teammates are pretty fired up to start a fresh season and get in front of those passionate Blast fans.
“We always try to come out, from the get go, really strong and show people in Baltimore and around the league that we’re still the force to be reckoned with,” said forward Vini Dantas.
Kickoff Friday is set for 7:35 p.m. inside Towson’s SECU Arena.