After fighting with each other most of the first half, the Maryland Bays regrouped in the second half and blitzed the Albany Capitals, 4-1, in an American Professional Soccer League game last night at Cedar Lane Park in Columbia.
The Bays, led by Jean Harbor's goal and assist, scored all four of their goals in the second half to overcome a 1-0 deficit and clinch the Western Conference championship with two regular-season games to play.
But for the first half, the Bays (17-2) resembled anything but the hottest team in the APSL.
Bays defender Joe Barger said: "Kevin Sloan and I had a few words in the first half. I was telling him what he should be doing, and he was shouting back at me at what I should do. Everybody on the field had a few words with each other."
The bickering was so bad that Maryland coach Gary Hindley walked into the locker room and said: "I could use 11 substitutes in the second half. I don't know where to start. So much is wrong."
Before taking the field for the second half, Barger said, he and Sloan apologized to each other.
Sloan wasted little time, giving Maryland a 1-1 tie 2 minutes, 43 seconds into the second half, driving a shot into the net after Albany goalkeeper Scoop Stanisic had let the ball get away from him after making a save.
Sloan pounced on the loose ball that came off a shot by Harbor and scored at the far post.
It was a tough break for Stanisic, who hadn't really been challenged in the first half, when Maryland got off two shots.
Sloan said: "I couldn't believe it when the ball came loose right in front of the goal. It was a good place for me to put myself at that time, and all I had to do was hit the ball into the net."
Harbor gave Maryland a 2-1 lead with a spectacular header off a cross from John Abe 12:54 into the second half. Harbor soared high and guided the ball into the net all in one motion to draw loud approval from the crowd of 2,372.
It was Harbor's 17th goal of the season, tying an APSL record set by Chance Fry of the San Francisco Bay Blackhawks last season.
Omid Namazi scored on a strong one-on-one move to make it 3-1 on a shot from 20 yards, and Scott Cook scored off a pass from Sloan in the final minute of play.
Harbor had left the game with 8:42 left to prevent further injury to a groin strain that has bothered him for 10 days.
Harbor said he was only able to play last night after taking medication to ease the pain.
"It would have been hurting too much if I hadn't had the painkillers," said Harbor. "I think I should take off the last two games [next weekend against Fort Lauderdale Strikers and Miami Freedom]."
However, Hindley said he doesn't believe Harbor will want to sit out both games.
"He needs only one goal to break the record," said Hindley. "I see him playing in at least one game."
The Bays will most likely open the playoffs Sept. 6 in Albany, N.Y., and return to Cedar Lane Park on Sept. 14 in the second game of the best-of-three series (if necessary, the third game is a "minigame of 30 minutes.").
Albany outshot the Bays, 20-9, last night, but Stanisic said it was the same old story for his team.
"We have a tendency to lose road games in the second half," said Stanisic.