WASHINGTON -- Few question the potency of the Maryland Bays' attack, one that is on pace to equal its record 42 goals of a year ago. To defend their American Professional Soccer League title, however, the Bays must likely prove they can elevate their defensive effort in support of their free-wheeling front line.
The undefeated Bays (3-0), who three times relinquished leads in their opening two games, did their best to squander a two-goal advantage late in last night's match, but held on for a 2-1 decision over Penn-Jersey (1-2) before 1,277 at RFK Stadium.
"It always seems to happen that way. You get a lead and then you start regressing on defense," said Bays goalkeeper Charles Arndt, who was solid in his season's debut.
Kevin Sloan, who subbed for injured midfielder Michael Brady midway through the first half, put Maryland ahead, 1-0, 13 minutes after intermission, converting a Jean Harbor rebound.
Harbor provided vital insurance, turning a moment's laziness by Spirit defender Kyle Boschan into a 2-0 margin in the game's 77th minute.
Recognizing Boschan's lackadaisical approach to Brian Ainscough's long crossfield bending backpass, Harbor charged, tackled the ball away from Boschan, broke alone and drove a low 15-yard shot under diving goalkeeper Cris Vaccaro.
"I think that's a big mistake," Harbor, who has three goals, said of Boschan's play. "When he fell, I say, no question, I'm going to take this thing in.' "
The Bays' offense could become even more formidable with the return of ASL Conference Most Valuable Player Philip Gyau, who is expected to report by Wednesday. How quickly Gyau, who had a team-leading 12 goals in 1990, is fit to play is unknown for he missed the last five games of the Belgian club season after injuring a hip playing for Gerk.
For the moment, coach Gary Hindley might wish for slightly better organization on defense for the contest's final 10 minutes seemed to be played almost entirely around the Maryland box.
Two minutes after Arndt sprawled left to stop a low blast by Duane Robinson, Robinson set up the Spirit's only score.