WASHINGTON -- Moments after the Maryland Bays had defeated the San Francisco Bay Blackhawks, 2-1, last night at RFK Stadium, Jean Harbor said, while waving his arms in exasperation, "What is it they want us to do to prove ourselves?"
Harbor was referring to the general feeling among the Blackhawks players and among American Professional Soccer League coaches that San Francisco still is a better team than the defending league champion Bays.
In a preseason poll of APSL coaches, San Francisco was rated ahead of Maryland in 11 of 12 team and individual categories. The only edge to the Bays was given to Harbor as the "toughest player to mark in the league."
"I get sick and tired of hearing all that crap about San Francisco," said Maryland midfielder Bruce Murray. "It's asinine that people don't give us respect. I guess it's because we're from Columbia, Maryland, and not San Francisco."
Harbor said: "I know what the coaches said but it's not happening that way this season."
Harbor did what he could do on the field last night to dispel those thoughts of San Francisco superiority, scoring two goals to carry Maryland (16-2) to the victory over the Blackhawks (15-3) in a rematch of last season's APSL championship game.
The Bays won that title game, 2-1, on penalty kicks, prompting remarks by a couple of Blackhawks that Maryland was "lucky to win and we could beat them nine out of 10 times."
San Francisco backed up those comments July 6 with a 3-1 victory over the Bays in San Francisco, in a game that was played 16 hours after Maryland had played a night game against the Colorado Foxes.
But last night the Bays evened the season series and silenced the Blackhawks -- at least for now.
"They weren't saying that much when we went ahead 2-1," said Maryland midfielder Kevin Sloan. "They were pretty quiet."
San Francisco Bay owner Dan Van Voorhis denied after the game that his team didn't respect the Maryland Bays.
"I don't know how all this got started," he said as he was chauffeuring Blackhawks coach Laurie Calloway away from RFK Stadium. "We do respect them. I'll send them a memo Monday saying, 'We respect you and we love you but look out for us in the playoffs.' "
Maryland has clinched a playoff berth and is five points away from wrapping up the Western Conference title. The Bays, despite being only one game ahead of San Francisco in the West, hold a 22-point advantage under the APSL point system.
"Maryland has our respect," Calloway said. "They're the second-best team in the league. All our players said after the championship game last season was that they believed Maryland was fortunate to win. If the Bays players have a problem with that, so be it."
Calloway said the difference in last night's game was pretty simple: "Harbor capitalized on his two opportunities and we hit the woodwork three times [crossbar once and post twice]."
Harbor gave the Bays a 1-0 lead at 5 minutes, 36 seconds of the first half when he got behind the San Francisco defense, took a pass from Murray and left-footed a shot into the right corner of the net.
San Francisco tied the game at 40:43 of the first half on a blistering line drive shot by Marcelo Balboa from 25 yards out that sailed over goalkeeper Steve Powers' head.
Harbor came back with 28:16 left in the game to score the deciding goal on a header off a pass from Murray.
For Murray, a member of the U.S. National team along with Maryland defender Desmond Armstrong, the victory will give him a right to brag a little this week when he rejoins the U.S. squad.
"Ever since they beat us in July, I've been hearing about it from San Francisco's National team players when we're in training," Murray said. "Now I'm going to be reminding them every chance I get that we won this one."
Four members of the U.S. National team were on the field for the Blackhawks yesterday -- Balboa, Troy Dayak, Dominic Kinnear and Eric Wynalda.