Baltimore Blast Begin SECU Arena Era with a Win

Editor’s Note: Baltimore Watchdog staff writers attended the Baltimore Blast’s first-ever home game at SECU Arena. Here’s a recap of the action and the atmosphere. 

By Baltimore Watchdog Staff

Playing in a new barn on a smaller field didn’t seem to matter for the Baltimore Blast. The two-time league champions won their first home game at SECU Arena 8-7 over the Cedar Rapids Rampage Friday night in front of a boisterous crowd. Here are the major takeaways:  

SECU can do soccer: The state-of-the-art venue on the campus of Towson University was previously untested as a soccer arena. Last night, in front of a near-capacity crowd of 3,733, it not only passed its first test, it left no doubt that the Blast’s trademark energy and atmosphere wasn’t going to be diminished by SECU’s more intimate seating (Billy Owens).

The arena was rocking like never before: Having covered games at this arena since I was a freshman, it was awesome to see SECU packed with loud and informed fans on Friday night. The arena was nearly full and the noise level was louder than I have ever heard before. Hopefully this excitement will not only be reserved for Blast games in the future (Desmond Boyle).

Blast fans will be part of the winning formula: The Blast should thrive in their new home at SECU arena. The fans will be sitting right up against the sidelines all season and will play a huge role in the noise heard by the players in the game. Although the stadium was not at full capacity, the crowd was loud all night and was a definite factor in the Blast’s season-opening win (Nick Ferrara).

The Blast have a very loyal fan base: After building a fan base in downtown Baltimore for 37 years, those fans flocked to SECU Arena in the Baltimore suburbs. The new home field was packed for the season opener. Although there are fewer seats at their new home, they were filled, and it was loud, which is all that really matters (Chris Katz).

Small field = more goals. As Blast defender Pat Healey correctly predicted leading up to last night’s game, the smaller playing surface at SECU Arena did translate to higher scoring by both teams. The 15 combined goals scored by both teams was the most at a Blast home game since the league adopted standard soccer scoring for the 2015-16 season (Billy Owens).

Playing on a smaller field will take time to adjust: The Blast struggled mightily in the first half to maintain possession and find a rhythm with their passing. The field at SECU is significantly smaller than the field at Royal Farms Arena, meaning there is less room to pass and play in space. The Blast will need to emphasize better control and constant movement off the ball to take full advantage of their new home field (Desmond Boyle).

The Blast should utilize high pressure more often: After coming out slow in the first half, the Blast pushed high up the pitch in the second half and disrupted the Rapids rhythm on the ball. This pressure resulted in immediate success as the Blast forced one Rapids defender into a poor back pass early in the second half that the goalie was not ready for which lead to an own goal. The Blast should increase their conditioning and press high up the field at their home games (Desmond Boyle).

A physical game: The smaller playing field meant players fighting for the ball in tight spaces. With the quick play both the Blast and Rampage were trying to gain an edge by playing physically and things started to get testy midway through the game. Both teams had a few altercations and got into each other’s face. It seems teams will continue to play physical on the smaller field to offset the increase in offensive opportunities (Greg Paris).

A boon for Blast forwards: Known previously for their defense, the Blast will have a chance to show off their forwards with the smaller playing field. Game 1 was played at a frenetic pace, and there’s no reason to think that style will change. More shots, more saves, and more goals are all going to be part of the game (Greg Paris).

More netting, please: Sitting in the front row is a risk. Fans are literally sitting up against the wall of the field that is about three-feet tall. Professional soccer players can kick the ball pretty hard, and without a net, fans may want to bring a helmet. On multiple occasions players on both sides attempted to clear the ball out of their zone, but booted the kick directly in to the seats. For their own safety, everyone better keep their eyes on the game and not their phones (Chris Katz).

Wide open spaces: If you wanted a cold one at Royal Farms Arena, you either had to wait for the vendor to come around or walk outside to the concession stand where you could not view the game. At SECU, there is an open concourse, so you can grab your food and drinks and not have to worry about missing a second of the action (Jordan Cope).

Better parking: Anyone who has ever been to Royal Farms Arena knows the nightmare finding a parking spot. I don’t know who designed that garage, but when you have thousands of people trying to exit onto a busy city street, it spells traffic jam. At SECU Arena, there are plenty of exits with plenty of police helping to direct traffic. Oh, and did I mention parking is free? (Jordan Cope).

It’s for the kids: There were cheers all around the arena all night long. To be more specific, there were high-pitched cheers around the arena all night long. That’s because the kids were out and about having a…blast. At one point, the SpongeBob SquarePants theme song came on and the young ones all sang together in unison (Chris Katz).

A cozy venue means chances for fans and players to interact: After scoring an early goal, the Blast’s Juan Pereira tossed a team collectible t-shirt into the stands. The crowd was already going wild, and this gave them a little extra to cheer about. Those fans can now proudly wear their new memorabilia t-shirts to the next home game on Nov. 17 (Kacie Haines).

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