BOSTON -- One save by Maryland Bays goalkeeper Steve Powers made three years of hard work worthwhile. Powers was a seldom-used substitute for two years. He earned the starting spot this year and led the Bays to the American Soccer League championship.
On the 10th overtime penalty kick, Powers guessed correctly, diving right to punch away Steve Petuskey's attempt to force another round. Maryland used the 4-3 penalty-kick edge for a 2-1 triumph over the San Francisco Bay Blackhawks and the second American Professional Soccer League championship before 4,881 people who braved torrential rain at Boston University's Nickerson Field on Saturday night.
"I knew I was going to the right, the way he put the ball down and the way he approached it," said Powers. "He can change in midstream, but at least it gives you an idea. He kind of gave it away.
"I've been with the Bays since the inception. I sat the bench. Now, I got my chance. Now, I can think, 'Hey, maybe I belonged in there all along.' "
Maryland (20-5) will travel to Burnaby, British Columbia, for a 10:30 p.m. match Wednesday with the Vancouver 86ers, Canadian Soccer League champions, for the North American Pro Soccer championship. But first-year Bays coach Pete Caringi, whose squad will be an underdog to the winners of the established Canadian league, made it clear that it was the U.S. title that interested him.
"This hasn't really sunk in," said Caringi. "We'll worry about Vancouver when we get there. We're just going to enjoy this for a couple of days."
After two 7 1/2 -minute sudden-death overtime periods, each team made three of four penalty kicks, setting up a fifth round.
John Abe gave Maryland its final edge with a high, hard drive into the top right of the net.
"I always go to the same place," said Abe. "I always make my penalty kicks in practice. I think [Caringi] would have me go up five times out of five if he could."
It appeared that the Bays won in the first sudden-death period, when U.S. national team member Phillip Gyau broke free down the left side. But San Francisco goalkeeper Mark Dougherty slid out, stopping Gyau, as both players watched the ball bounce inches wide right.
"I thought it was in," said Gyau. "I was celebrating. I should have faked him, but you don't think of it at a time like that."
San Francisco had a large first-half advantage in time of possession, but Maryland had the two best opportunities to score.
"In overtime, nobody was holding back. We were both sending eight or nine guys up," said Caringi.
Substitute striker Scott Cook gave the Bays a 1-0 lead with 16 minutes, 24 seconds remaining. Defender Chris Reif took a ball at the top of his penalty area and carried it deep into Blackhawks territory. Thirty yards from the San Francisco box, he slid the ball through two defenders to Cook, whose low, 8-yard shot found the left corner.
Reif was victimized by an artificial-surface bounce when the Blackhawks tied with 7:22 left in regulation. Dougherty's punt took a high bounce that handcuffed Reif and gave Peter Isaacs a left side breakaway. From 12 yards, Isaacs lifted the ball over a charging Powers, and the ball bounced into the right side of the net.
"This feels great," said Gyau. "This is what we've been striving for all year, and it came true."