It was during the summer of 1980 that the Baltimore Blast first made its mark 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 the back-to-back championships in 2003 and 2004 that the Blast cemented its place among the Charm City’s great sports stories. The team impressed the city of Baltimore yet again with championships in 2006, 2008 and 2009.
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 ways 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.
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. 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. It was at that time that 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 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 served 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 re-instilled the team's devotion to the community, continued the tradition of highlighting local players and increased game-night attendance at 1st Mariner Arena.
Entering his 14th year as owner of the Blast, Hale remains dedicated to providing Baltimore’s families with exciting sports entertainment at an affordable price as well as fielding the best team in all of indoor soccer.
Prior to the 2001-02 season, the NPSL folded and the new MISL was created; the MISL dissolved at the end of the 2007-08 season and the Blast joined the National Indoor Soccer League (NISL). This season, the MISL will field six teams. In addition to the Blast, the Omaha Vipers, Missouri Comets, Milwaukee Wave, Philadelphia KiXX and Rockford Rampage will take part in the 2010-11 MISL season.
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 youth soccer in Baltimore.
Visit the Blast Website at http://www.baltimoreblast.com/
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