It was during the summer of 1980 that the Baltimore Blast was first introduced in Baltimore. It was at the completion of the 1983-84 season that the team earned its place in Baltimore sports history by capturing the MISL Championship. It was after back-to-back championships in 2003 and 2004 that the Blast cemented its place among Charm City's great sports stories. The team impressed the city of Baltimore yet again with championships in 2006, 2008, 2009, 2013, 2016, 2017, and most recently 2018.
Originally located in Houston and known as the Summit, the team moved to Baltimore prior to the 1980-81 MISL season and played its first home game (at the then-Civic Center) on November 29th, 1980.
Under the direction of Head Coach Kenny Cooper, the club was known for its bright red, orange, and yellow uniforms and for the players' aggressive action on the soccer field. During its first season in Baltimore, the Blast posted a 21-19 record.
In addition to the team's on-field accomplishments, the organization built ties to the community, emphasizing its commitment to the Greater Baltimore area. Players such as Pat Ercoli, Heinz Wirtz, Mike Stankovic, Nick Mangione and Scott Manning emerged as stars, captivating fans with their skills while the legendary Stan "the Magician" Stamenkovic, amazed fans with his dazzling footwork.
The Blast continued to flourish with each new season, on and off the field. During the pregame ceremonies, the Blast gave the Civic Center a mystical atmosphere by emerging from a giant, neon soccer ball that was suspended from the Arena’s ceiling. During games, the players tirelessly worked together towards their common goal of winning games and bringing the championship trophy home to Baltimore. After the games, the Blast players interacted with fans, creating life-long memories and forming deep bonds between the team and the community.
On June 8th, 1984, before a record crowd of 12,007 loyal screaming fans, the Blast won the franchise’s first MISL Title by defeating the St. Louis Steamers, four-games-to-one.
Following the championship season, the team went through its first ownership change, though the focus remained on keeping the core of the team together. The squad advanced to the playoffs each of the next three seasons and in 1986 a new star was born. Billy Ronson, a young English player, joined the team and was an instant fan favorite.
On September 15, 1989, local businessman Ed Hale purchased the Blast, vowing to maintain the team's rich tradition of winning and flawlessly representing Baltimore. Following the team’s 32-20 1989-90 season, the Blast announced its All-Decade team, which included Manning, Stamenkovic, Bruce Savage, Joey Fink, Tim Wittman and Dave MacWilliams.
After the 1991-92 season, the MISL ceased operations and Baltimore bid a fond farewell to its beloved Blast. Hope was not lost, however, and following the demise of the MISL, coach Kenny Cooper joined forces with another local businessman to launch the Baltimore Spirit, Baltimore’s National Professional Soccer League franchise. The new team set out to rekindle the "spirit" of Baltimore soccer - the winning record, the roar of the crowd and the success of the local talent.
In the Spirit's first season, Cooper led the team to a 27-13 record and the American Division Championship. The inaugural Spirit team featured Baltimore natives Jason Dieter and Barry Stitz and several members of the former MISL Blast, including Doug Neely and Joe Koziol. Dieter, the first player signed by the NPSL franchise, retired after the 2003 Championship and went on to serve as the team’s assistant coach for the 2003-04 championship campaign.
After the 1997-98 season, Ed Hale, the owner who saw the team flourish in the late 1980s, regained ownership of the franchise and changed the team’s name back to the Blast. Behind the slogan, "The Blast is Back", Hale rekindled the team's devotion to the community, continued the tradition of highlighting local players and increased game-night attendance at 1st Mariner Arena. Starting in the 2017-18 season, the Blast moved to its new home at SECU Arena at Towson University.
Hale remains dedicated to providing Baltimore’s families with exciting sports entertainment at an affordable price while fielding the best team in all of indoor soccer.
As the Blast continues its resurgence into the community and its quest for another championship, local youth leagues are full of players striving to reach the level of play and sportsmanship demonstrated by the Blast players. With summer camps, school programs, and numerous other community programs, the Blast is determined to continue the growth of soccer in Baltimore and throughout the United States.
BALTIMORE BLAST HALL OF FAME
Class of 2003-04
Head Coach, Kenny Cooper
Known for his positive thinking and motivational speeches, Kenny Cooper coached the original Blast from 1980 to 1992 then coached the Baltimore Spirit from 1992-1994. Cooper led the original Blast to five division titles, five championship appearances and the franchise's first MISL Championship in 1983-84. A native of Blackpool, England, Cooper was a two-time MISL Coach of the Year and currently resides in Dallas.
Stan "the Magician" Stamenkovic played four seasons for the original Blast and remains a legend among Baltimore's soccer community. Stamenkovic tallied 329 points in 179 Blast games and is Baltimore's original all-time leading scorer. A six-year veteran of the MISL, Stamenkovic was a four-time All Star, a three-time Blast MVP and the MVP of the 1983-84 season after leading Baltimore to its first MISL Championship. Though retired from professional play, he was named to the Baltimore Blast All Decade Team during the 1990-91 season. Stamenkovic passed away in 1996.
Six-time MISL All Star Mike Stankovic finished his original Blast career with 301 points to rank third on Baltimore's original all-time points list. After nine seasons with the original Blast and a spot on the All-Time MISL Team, he went on to coach and play for the Baltimore Spirit and still ranks 17th in points on Baltimore's current all-time list with 219 points in six seasons with the Spirit. A native of Yugoslavia who still lives in the Baltimore area, Stankovic played for Coach Cooper and was a teammate of Stamenkovic's on the 1983-84 MISL Championship team.
Class of 2004-05
The only person to be part of the first three of the team's MISL Championships, Tim Wittman played nine seasons with the original Blast, three seasons with the Baltimore Spirit and served as the team's head coach (2003-2006). A member of Baltimore's 1983-84 MISL Championship Team, Wittman was the assistant coach when the team won in 2003 and the head coach when the Blast won in 2004. Along with Savage, he was a member of the Baltimore Blast 1980-1990 All-Decade Team and he ranks second on the original Blast's all-time scoring list with 511 points in 441 games played. He was named Second Team All MISL after the 1989-90 and 1988-89 seasons made three MISL All-Star Appearances (1990, 1989, 1986). The Blast's MVP for the 1987-88 season, Wittman also won an MISL Championship with the San Diego Sockers in 1992.
A member of the Baltimore Blast’s 1980-1990 All-Decade Team, Bruce Savage was also named First Team All-MISL after the completion of the 1989-90, 1988-89 and 1986-87 seasons. He played for the original Blast for seven seasons, from 1984 through 1991, recording 127 points as a defender and ranking 13th on the Blast's all-time scoring list. He made seven Consecutive All-Star Appearances (1985-1991) and was named MISL Defender of the Year for the 1986-87 season. Other accolades include Second Team All MISL honors in 1987-88 and 1985-86 and Honorable Mention All-MISL for the 1984-85 season. He was also named MVP of the Baltimore Blast for the 1986-87 season.
A Washington, DC attorney, Earl Foreman was integral in creating the Major Indoor Soccer League when he and Ed Tepper met with the executives of nine major arenas in the United States in 1977. That meeting produced the original six franchises and the MISL was born for the 1978-79 season. Foreman, the first Commissioner of the MISL, served from 1978 to 1985 and returned to the League in 1989 for a second stint as Commissioner. In his second term, Foreman was credited with a television package on ESPN, a three-year expansion plan, various rule changes and a new collective bargaining agreement.
Class of 2005-06
A member of 1983-84 Baltimore Blast MISL Championship Team and the Baltimore Blast 1980-1990 All-Decade Team, Fink is tied to rank seventh on the original Blast's all-time scoring list (with MacWilliams) with 200 points. He made All-Star appearances in 1981 and 1982 and was named Second-Team All-MISL in 1978-79 (while playing for the Philadelphia Fever) and in 1981-82 (Baltimore Blast). Fink was the first player in Blast history to score 50 goals in one season; his 51 goals in the 1981-82 season is a franchise record for most goals in one season. He also holds franchise records for most goals in one game (seven on 1/29/82) and most points in one game (eight, 1/29/82). He ranks third on the original Blast's playoff scoring list with 53 points and holds postseason franchise records for most goals (four) in a single quarter and most points (five) in one quarter (in the Championship Final, 6/8/84 vs. St. Louis).
Like Fink, MacWilliams was a member of 1983-84 Baltimore Blast MISL Championship team and the Baltimore Blast 1980-1990 All-Decade Team. He and Fink are tied to rank seventh on the original Blast's all-time scoring list (200 points) and MacWilliams also ranks first on the original Blast's postseason all-time scoring list (73 points). He was the captain of 1983-84 Baltimore Blast MISL Championship Team and made an All-Star Appearance in 1983. He holds franchise records with 47 postseason games played and for most consecutive postseason games played (41).
Class of 2006-07
A member of 1983-84 Baltimore Blast MISL Championship Team, Wirtz joined the Blast midway through the 1981-82 season and embraced the fans and the city throughout his career. Wirtz was named First-Team All MISL after the 1982-83 season, played in the All-Star Game in 1983 and was the 1982-83 Baltimore Blast MVP. He ranks 11th on the original Blast’s all-time scoring list with 141 points and ranks seventh on the original Blast’s postseason all-time scoring list with 40 points.
Class of 2007-08
Keith Van Eron
A member of 1983-84 Baltimore Blast MISL Championship Team and the Baltimore Blast 1980-1990 All-Decade Team, Van Eron joined the Blast for the 1981-82 season and made an immediate impact on the team and on the entire league, earning team MVP honors and becoming the first goalkeeper in MISL history to score a goal. Van Eron, the winning goalkeeper in the Blast’s Championship Series-clinching win over St. Louis on June 8, 1984, won 92 games in six seasons with the Blast. He played in the All-Star Game in 1983 and was named Second-Team All-MISL after the 1982-83 season. A prominent member of the Baltimore community, Van Eron was, and still is, very active and well known throughout the area.
Domenic Mobilio played for the Blast from 1988 to 1992 and earned a spot in team history among the franchise’s top goal scorers. A household name in Baltimore, as well as Vancouver, Canada, “Dom” was also a member of the Canadian National Team. He was named MISL Newcomer of the Year in 1989, Honorable Mention All-MISL after the 1989-90 season, made All-Star appearances in 1990 and 1991, ranks fourth on the original Blast’s all-time scoring list with 261 points and ranks eighth on the original Blast’s postseason all-time scoring list with 36 points. Mobilio passed away in 2004.
Class of 2008-09
Billy Ronson, who played for the original Blast from 1985-1992 and for the new Blast during the 1998-99 season, was the League’s leading scorer in the 1989 postseason. A 1991 All-Star and 1990-91 Team MVP, he ranks fifth on the original Blast’s all-time scoring list with 240 points and is tied to rank fifth on the original Blast’s postseason all-time scoring list with 43 points. Ronson returned to the playing field for 17 games during the 1998-99 season and recorded 13 points. He also served as the team’s assistant coach and assistant General Manager from 1998-2002. He has remained in the Baltimore area and continues to be a local fan favorite.
Richard Chinapoo, a defender who played for the Blast from 1983-88 and again for the 1990-91 season, was a member of the team’s 1984 MISL Championship team. A three-time All-Star (1986, 1987 and 1988), he ranks sixth on the original Blast’s all-time scoring list with 206 points and was one of just five Blast players to record 40 goals in one season (1986-87).
Class of 2009-10
Pat Ercoli, a forward, played for the original Blast from 1981 to 1985 and was the second-leading goal scorer (34) and fourth-leading point-scorer (49) during the 1983-84 championship season. He ranks ninth on the original Blast’s all-time scoring list with 176 points and is tied to rank fifth on the postseason all-time scoring list with 43 points. He also led the MISL with 16 goals in the 1985 postseason. Ercoli currently serves as the General Manager of the Rochester Rhinos of the USSF Division 2.
Cris Vaccaro, a goalkeeper who played for the original Blast for the 1980-81 and 1991-92 seasons and for the Baltimore Spirit from 1992 to 1997, was the 1993 NPSL Goalkeeper of the Year. He was a 1993 First-Team All-League selection, a 1994 Second-Team All-League selection and represented Baltimore in the 1993 and 1994 All-Star Games. Vaccaro currently serves as the assistant coach for the Women’s Soccer team and goalkeeper trainer for Stockton State College soccer teams. He is also the Head of Goalkeeping for the New Jersey Olympic Development Program and runs the Cris Vaccaro Team and Individual Soccer Training Programs.
Class of 2010-11
Doug Neely, a defender, played for the original Blast for the 1991-92 season, played for the Spirit from 1992-94 and 1996-97, and returned to Baltimore from 1998-2002. He still ranks in the top 20 on the current Blast’s all-time regular season scoring list (183 points). Neely was a Third-Team All-League selection in 1993 and represented Baltimore in the 1993, 1994 and 1997 All-Star Games. Neely now owns Coastal Printing Solutions, a printing company he created out of Newport Beach, California.
Class of 2011-12
Dan Counce, the first player ever signed to a Blast contract, played four seasons for the original Blast and also served as the assistant coach and worked in the front office. A forward and defender, Counce was a player/coach during the 1983-84 championship season and ranks 18th on the original Blast’s all-time scoring list with 94 points in 117 games over four seasons (1980-84). Upon joining the organization, he became a key member of the club’s early community relations campaign that helped spread the word of indoor soccer throughout the Baltimore area. After retiring as a professional player at the completion of the 1983-84 season, Counce returned to the Blast prior to the 1986-87 season to serve as the team’s Vice President and General Manager. In his first season as GM, the Blast went 33-19 and Counce was part of the Blast front office team that increased corporate advertising and sponsorship, revamped and increased team’s promotional appearance schedule and brought several All-Star-caliber players to Baltimore. The Blast advanced to the postseason every season Counce was in the front office and twice advanced to the Championship Game (1989 and 1990). Counce now resides in the Denver area.
Rusty Troy, who spent four seasons with the original Blast and two seasons with the Baltimore Spirit, was the Blast’s first pick in the 1988 college dispersal draft. He was named MSL Rookie of the Year in 1989 after recording 15 goals in his first professional season. Troy ranks 12th on the original Blast’s all-time scoring list with 128 points in 185 games over four seasons. As a defender and a forward, he recorded 44 points during the 1991-92 season while serving as team captain. In two seasons with the Spirit Troy accumulated 189 points and still ranks 20th on the current team’s all-time points list. Troy currently lives in the Dallas area and is involved in commercial real estate.
Class of 2012-13
Tarik Walker, who played 10 season in Baltimore served as the team's player/assistant coach for a portion of the 2005-06 season and retired after the 2006-07 season. He began his career as the 1994 NPSL Rookie of the Year and went on to represent Baltimore in two All-Star Games and win championships with the Blast in 2003, 2004, and 2006. Walker, who recorded 582 points during his time in Baltimore, ranks second on the teams all-time scoring list. He also ranks second in all-time in goals, two point goals, and game winning goals. Walker is third all-time in games played and in fourth in assists.
Class of 2013-14
Denison Cabral played 13 seasons in Baltimore. Cabral, a five-time League All Star is also ranked first in franchise history in points (941), total goals (445), two point goals (284), one point goals (142), power play goals (85), game winning goals (32), and playoff scoring (81). During his career, Cabral was a 5 time all- league, won 5 championships with the Blast and was the 2003 & 2008 Championship MVP.
Class of 2014-15
Johnson is ranked 14th on the all time scoring list with 285 points. He has recorded 105 goals and 68 assists in 372 games while serving as a team captain from 1996 until his retirement at the end of the 2002-03 season. He was captain of the 2002-03 championship team. Johnson is still the teams all time leader in games played with 372 and is the all time leader in blocked shots.
Class of 2016-17
Kelly started his professional indoor soccer career with the Harrisburg Heat in the 1991-92 season. In 1999 he was acquired by the Blast in a trade and played for them through the 2005-06 season winning three championships. In May of 2006, he was named the eighth Blast head coach. Since then, Danny has gone to win six more championships and was named MISL Coach of the Year both in 2011 and 2013. He was also named the 2009 NISL Coach of the Year.
Class of 2017-18
Sagu was acquired in a trade with the Cleveland Force prior to the 2004-05 season. He would continue to play for the Blast until the 2011-12 season. During his time with the Blast he was a member of three championship teams. He also was named Goalkeeper of the Year four times and MISL Championship MVP in 2009. In his final season with the Blast, he was named team captain. In his Blast career, Sagu boasted a 95-61 record and .733 save percentage, recording 1,988 saves in 9,366 minutes.
Class of 2018-19
A five time champion with the Blast, Giuliano Celenza was selected with a territorial pick in the 2001 MISL Draft. Celenza became a star for the Blast within a few years of being drafted. He was named the 2004 MISL All-Star Game MVP and collected a 2005-2006 First Team All-League Selection as well as a 2004-2005 Second Team All-League Selection. Celenza ranks 11th all-time in games played for the Blast as well as 3rd all-time in goals scored, 5th all-time in goals plus assists. In 206 regular season games played for the Blast, Giuliano accumulated 309 goals plus assists and 426 points.
Wakefield was selected by the Blast in the first round of the 2002 MISL Draft. A former team captain and a five-time champion with the Blast, Wakefield became an immediate impact for the Blast. Wakefield collected the MISL Rookie of the Year honor in the 2002-03 season, as well as Second Team All-League selections in the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons. Wakefield ranks 17th all-time in regular season games played as well as 10th all-time in blocked shots (198). PJ also ranks 6th all-time for the Blast in blocked shots in the postseason with 27.