The Blast won its fifth pro indoor soccer championship in seven years Saturday night, fending off the Rockford Rampage, 13-10, before a vociferous announced crowd of 9,857 at 1st Mariner Arena.
Red and white confetti flooded the arena after goalkeeper Sagu clutched the ball as time expired in the first National Indoor Soccer League title game.
Baltimore's league-leading defense turned away the six-attacker formation used by the Rampage over the final two minutes to conclude its home season with a 9-1 record and lift the big trophy for the second straight season. The Blast last year won the Major Indoor Soccer League title before that league dissolved and the team joined the NISL.
Rookie Adrian Bumbut emerged from the penalty box to score a breakaway goal that put the finishing touches on the victory that was clearly a team effort. Rockford was a challenge after joining the league this season and ousting Monterrey La RaZa in the semifinals.
Sagu, who finished with 13 saves, was named the Most Valuable Player after surviving a first-half collision with Gary Brooks and several freakish Rampage goals.
"I had a hard time the first half, but the second half I came back and made my saves," said Sagu, the NISL Goaltender of the Year. "Every single championship is a happy one."
Machel Millwood, one of six Blast scorers, said Rockford "has a lot of big guys who try to impose their presence on us. We had to work for everything. It wasn't easy at all. But we put in a great effort collectively."
Coach Danny Kelly was concerned that nearly two weeks off would have a negative effect, especially because the Rampage "tries to intimidate us. But we weren't going to be intimidated."
The game was a relative slugfest from the beginning, marked by collisions, hand fighting and shouting matches.
After Rockford opened the scoring on a goal by Brooks, the teams traded leads twice more with the Blast gaining a slight edge on P.J. Wakefield's three-point shot from 30 yards away. The Rampage regained the lead when Jorge Valle scored off a corner kick before a stellar individual move and goal by Matt Watson put the home team ahead again, 5-4.
The Blast notched two of the next three goals, with the first coming on a shootout score by Denison Cabral. He lifted the ball over the head of Brooks, who was in goal for Sanaldo because of a tripping penalty. Brooks wore an attacker jersey because Sanaldo is Rockford's only legitimate goaltender.
But Rockford pulled back to within one point when Brooks went crashing over Sagu and Matthew Stewart picked up the resultant loose ball and tapped it into an empty net. Sagu was on the floor for several minutes before returning to the game.
Rockford 4 4 0 2 - 10
Blast 5 4 2 2 - 13
First quarter: 1. Rockford, Brooks (unassisted), 0:48; 2. Blast, Wakefield (Celenza) (3 pt. goal), 1:25; 3. Rockford, Valle (Radoncic), 7:51; 4. Blast, Watson (unassisted), 10:58. Penalties: R, Brooks, 2:40; R. Stewart (5 minute misconduct), 5:51.
Second quarter: 5. Blast, Millwood (unassisted), 5:31; 6. Rockford, Moura (unassisted), 6:30; 7. Blast, Cabral (unassisted), 7:52; 8. Rockford, Stewart (Brooks), 14:30. Penalties: R, Sanaldo, 7:48; B, Aristodemo, 11:35.
Third quarter: 8. Blast, Garcia (unassisted), 8:02. Penalties: B, Buete (5 minute, misconduct), 15:00; B, Lookingland (5 minute misconduct), 8:26; B, Bumbut, 13:28.
Fourth quarter: 9. Blast, Bumbut (unassisted), 0:38; 10 Rockford, Degand (unassisted), 8:47. Penalties: B, Bench (5 minute misconduct), 6:38. Attendance: 9,857