Cameo: William Vanzela

We interview the Baltimore Blast goalie about the team's recent championships.

With two consecutive championships, how does it feel to be part of a successful sports team like the Baltimore Blast?
It feels great, I can’t complain. When you’re playing any sport that you love, as a professional, you want to succeed. We’ve been back-to-back champions—I’ve won three of the five since I’ve been here—but the reality is, we put in a lot of work to be where we are. 

Last season makes nine wins for the Blast. How did this championship game compare to others in the past?
At the championship in Mexico, they scored on us with 18 seconds left in the game. They had won the first game, so that meant they would win the championship if they beat us. We scored back with five seconds left. Then we went into overtime, and then second overtime, and we won. We still can’t believe we did that. 

How do you feel about the team moving from the Royal Farms Arena to the Towson SECU Arena this fall?
Wherever the team goes, we are going to play. As a goalie, for my personal game, I prefer a bigger field, but we won the last two championships in really tiny fields, which makes me think this will be a good move. It’s a transition, but it’s definitely going to be for the best. Our fans are going to be closer. It’s going to be really loud. 

What do you think sets the Blast apart from the rest of the league?
We play as a unit. Everybody knows that when you’re playing against the Blast, you’re going to have trouble, because of our teamwork. We are so committed to playing as a team. There’s not a single player that is going to outshine the rest.

How is being a goalie different from other positions?
Goalkeepers are always the most pressured player. You can’t really make mistakes. But I love playing under pressure. I like playing away games because all of the fans are against you and I love that atmosphere. The goalkeeper also works really hard during the week but we don’t do much when we perform in the game. You make a couple saves here and there, but you have to be more mentally prepared than physically. 

The Blast has a very loyal fan base.
This is another huge thing that makes us different—and makes people love us. They will likely only meet a Ravens player once in a lifetime, or take a selfie with them and never see them again, but they can be in touch with us easily. They can chat with us and see us after the games. It’s also a family environment. It’s a safe place to let your kids roam and enjoy themselves. 

You’ve been a Fan Favorite for the Blast for five years in a row. Why do you think that is?
When people come to the games and watch me play, they can see how much I care. I really, really love what I do. This was my dream as a kid, and I think I show that side of myself when I play. 

Tell us about your journey with soccer.
I was born in Brazil, and in Brazil, it’s a religion. I started when I was four, and by the time I was seven, I was playing for a travel team and became goalie. I didn’t like to run much, so that worked better for me [laughs]. You had to be a little quicker, smarter, and a little crazy. I moved to a professional team when I was 13 for seven years, and then moved to Italy, where I now have dual citizenship. I was playing for Italy in the 2011 World Cup. The Blast coach saw the game and everything went from there. 

Your team is comprised of men from all different backgrounds and countries.
It’s fun. We have a lot of Brazilian players on this team right now, so we are really close. I played with Elton [de Oliveira] back in Brazil when we were 13. I played with [Jonatas] Melo in Italy when we were 21 or 22. Melo played with Daniel [Peruzzi] in Italy. Soccer is a small world. We are all really good friends. Portuguese is the second language of the Baltimore Blast [laughs]

You also coach at Johns Hopkins, McDonogh School, and the Baltimore Celtic Club.
Coaching is very special. It gives you the chance to teach somebody based on the knowledge you have. You watch the improvements and you’re just really proud—I’m like a proud papa. You also get so nervous coaching. It’s worse than playing. You can’t do anything about the outcome. You’re just on the sideline watching. It drives me nuts sometimes, but I love it.

What do you tell kids to motivate them to play?
Play what you love. You have to be happy when you’re a kid. I sometimes think parents forget that and put too much pressure on the kids. I really want them to have fun. The teamwork in soccer is very special. 

What motivates you every day?
I dreamed of being a soccer player and I am a soccer player. How blessed am I? I wake up every morning and go for my dream. Money is important, but for me, happiness is the most important thing. I really, really love this sport, which starts to worry me, because at some point, I’ll have to stop. 

What will you do then?
A friend of mine became a huge soccer player. He stopped playing two years ago and now he does skydiving. He said it’s the same pre-game feeling—the adrenaline. So now I think I’m going to be a skydiver, too!