A year ago, soccer insiders said that the Maryland Bays were special, that they were a once-in-a-lifetime team built on mutual respect between longtime coach Pete Caringi and his players.
The Bays brought home the American Professional Soccer League championship last season, set a team scoring record and laid claim to the APSL Most Valuable Player in Phillip Gyau.
It seemed too good to repeat. But the Bays are more than on their way. This season too, is turning into a once-in-a-lifetime achievement.
Today, the league announced its regular-season awards, voted on by the coaches, and the Bays cleaned up.
Maryland forward Jean Harbor, who set a point scoring record (45) and matched another record with 17 goals, has been voted the APSL's MVP.
Bays coach Gary Hindley, who arrived here after two years in Orlando and was greeted with skepticism, is the league's Coach of the Year.
All Hindley's team has done is set records for league victories in a season (19), won/lost record (19-2), points (158), home-field record (11-0) and goals (54).
His team also set a league record for consecutive victories at the start of a season/or during a season with 10 and then wrapped up the season with another seven straight.
"The first thing that comes to mind is that in your wildest dreams you couldn't imagine topping last year, coming in here as a new coach," said Hindley, whose last Coach of the Year honor came with Houston in 1984 in the U.S. Soccer League. "And then, there are very few American coaches in the ranks, maybe a handful. It's not to detract from foreign backgrounds, but being an American and being there are so few of us, it is a special thing to be voted by your peers."
But, Hindley, added, "the Big One is still out there. There are still four more games to win to defend our championship."
The Bays, who take on Albany in the first round of the APSL playoffs Friday, had Harbor and Kevin Sloan named first team All-APSL and five more named second team and honorable mention.
"If there was ever a lock on a choice on the All-Star team and MVP, Jean has to be it," said Hindley. "It never occurred to me at the beginning how good he is. Coaching in Orlando, I only had to face him twice a year. But seeing what he does for your team every day, you have to appreciate him. Not only does he score and take pressure off the defense, he has made a lot of other players on the field better players."
Rookie of the Year honors went to Colorado's 22-year-old forward Ezekiel "Zico" Doe, who finished third in the league's scoring race with 12 goals and two assists.
And the San Francisco defensive unit -- Marcelo Balboa, Troy Dayak, Doug Pena and Derek Van Rheenen, and goalkeeper Mark Dougherty -- were all named first team. The Blackhawks' defense allowed only 17 goals in 21 games, best in the league.
THE ALL-APSL TEAMS
* FIRST TEAM: Goalkeeper: Mark Dougherty. Defenders: Marcelo Balboa, Troy Dayak, Doug Pena and Derek Van Rheenen, all of San Francisco. Midfielders: Kevin Sloan, Maryland; Townsend Quin, San Francisco; Ramiro Borja, Albany. Forwards: Jean Harbor, Maryland; Ezekiel "Zico" Doe, Colorado; Derek Sanderson, Fort Lauderdale.
* SECOND TEAM: Goalkeeper: Scoop Stanisic, Albany. Defenders: Chris Reif, Maryland; Robin Fraser, Colorado; Jimmy McGeough, Albany; Paul Mariner, Albany. Midfielders: Paul Dougherty, Fort Lauderdale; Marvelo Carrera, Tampa Bay; Dominic Kinnear, San Francisco. Forwards: Brian Haynes, Maryland; Chance Fry, San Francisco; Mike Masters, Albany.
* HONORABLE MENTION: Goalkeeper: Arnie Mausser, Fort Lauderdale. Defenders: Steve Pittman, Fort Lauderdale; Jeff Agoos, Maryland; George Gelnovatch, Maryland; Steve Eise, Colorado. Midfielders: John Garvey, Albany; Jeff Baicher, San Francisco; Chad Ashton, Colorado. Forwards: Ken Snow, Miami; Scott Benedetti, Colorado; and Eric Wynalda, San Francisco.