Pete Caringi is worried.
The Maryland Bays coach doesn't know how his team is going to react to all the pomp and circumstance surrounding tonight's 8:05 game with the San Francisco Bay Blackhawks for the American Professional Soccer League championship at Boston University's Nickerson Field.
"We're not used to getting into a town two days ahead of the game and then having a press conference before a packed room," said Caringi yesterday. "We usually fly into a city the day of the game and leave right afterwards. We were ready to play Thursday, but we still had two days to wait. The wait and all the hype is what concerns me more than the four weeks' layoff we've had."
It has been four weeks since the Bays captured their first American Soccer League championship with a 2-0 victory over the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. Caringi and the Bays believe that earned them much respect in the professional outdoor soccer world.
But not with the media.
The Bays have more impressive credentials than San Francisco Bay, the Western Soccer League champion.
Maryland had a 19-5 overall record compared with the Blackhawks' 16-8 mark, the Bays outscored San Francisco in 20 regular-season games (42-39), the Bays allowed fewer goals in 20 games (29-30), and Maryland's top three scorers (Phillip Gyau, Jean Harbor and Rob Ryerson) had a total of 27 goals and 16 assists compared with 17 goals and 12 assists for San Francisco's top three of Steve Corpening, Townsend Qin and Marcelo Balboa.
However, it was San Francisco's two World Cup players, forward Eric Wynalda and defender Balboa, who stole the show.
"All the hype in the pre-game press conference was about the two San Francisco national team players," said Caringi. "That's all anybody wanted to talk about. But that's fine with us. Our league is considered stronger [Fort Lauderdale won the APSL title last season], and that says a lot."
Caringi said he would put defender Joey Barger on Wynalda and that Balboa would have to worry about stopping Gyau and Harbor.
"I'm confident that Joey can handle Wynalda," said Caringi. "Joey did a good job on David Byrne [Tampa Bay Rowdies forward and former Baltimore Blast standout] and has proven himself against the best players in our league."
Gyau (11 goals, six assists) and Harbor (nine goals, eight assists) are speedy forwards with explosive scoring ability.
"Jean Harbor's the best forward in the country," said Caringi. "He's big [6 feet 2, 185 pounds], strong, fast and has a rocket shot. He's also very good in the air. Very few teams have been able to stop him and Phillip. We're going to turn them loose against San Francisco."
NOTES: If the Bays win, they would face the Vancouver 86ers for the North American pro soccer championship Wednesday at 10:30 p.m. at Swangard Stadium in Burnaby, British Columbia. . . . The 23 APSL owners are meeting in Boston this weekend to chart the future of the league. ASL commissioner David Prouty said yesterday that he will resign next month because he doubts there will be sufficient funds to maintain his salary next season if the league loses three of its 11 teams. He predicts the ASL will have eight teams that will play 14 games each and that the league office, based in Jessup, will have its budget cut from $430,000 to $300,000.
Opponent: San Francisco Bay Blackhawks
Site: Nickerson Field, Boston, 8:05 p.m.
Radio: WCBM (680 AM)
Outlook: Key matchups in the American Professional Soccer League title game are: forward Jean Harbor against San Francisco defender Marcelo Balboa, forward Phillip Gyau against San Francisco defender Troy Dayak, San Francisco forward Eric Wynalda against defender Joey Barger and San Francisco forward Steve Corpening against defender Chris Reif.