Tonight's showdown for the North American professional outdoor soccer championship between the Maryland Bays and the Vancouver 86ers almost never came off.
Bays coach Pete Caringi said last night that he nearly pulled his team out of the game late Monday afternoon at Baltimore-Washington International Airport when the game's organizers left only five tickets instead of the necessary 16 for the Bays for the flight to Vancouver, British Columbia.
Caringi and four Bays players waited more than four hours for a flight and then raced to get on that flight just as the doors were closing.
"I told the woman [at the counter] that if we didn't get on the 5:15 flight, we weren't going at all and the game would be canceled," said Caringi who was asked for a birth certificate and an ID card at the last minute, even though he is an American citizen. "The Canadian Soccer League prepaid for only five tickets, and we sent a message to them that we needed the other tickets right away for a 5:15 flight. But they faxed back and told me to come tomorrow [yesterday]. That's when I said the game was off unless we got on the flight."
Bays owner John Liparini saved the game when he used the team credit card to pay for tickets for Caringi and four players. Liparini came through with the purchase just in time for Caringi to get on the flight with his players (Jeff Nattans, Phillip Gyau, Kurt Dasbach and Sam Mangione).
Five Bays players (Joey Barger, Rob Ryerson, Steve Powers, Eric Hawkes and Kevin Sloan), whose tickets were paid for by the CSL, had boarded a 1 p.m. flight and they took the team's equipment with them.
Midfielder John Abe, who gave the Bays the American Professional Soccer League championship last Saturday night with a deciding penalty kick in a 2-1 victory over the San Francisco Bay Blackhawks, joined the team yesterday morning in time for an afternoon practice.
Five other Bays players (Jean Harbor, Chris Thomas, Chris Reif, Darryl Gee and Omid Namazi) flew to Vancouver last night after getting off their 9-to-5 jobs.