Maryland Bays coach Gary Hindley looked into the darknes enveloping the Cedar Lane Park practice field and contemplated life without Jean Harbor.
"We've never played a game without him," Hindley said. "I can't imagine what that would be like."
Tomorrow night he might find out as the defending American Professional Soccer League champion Bays host Albany in Game 2 of the APSL semifinals, 7:05 at Cedar Lane Park.
A pulled groin muscle has made him questionable for the game, which the Bays need to win -- in addition to a 30-minute mini-game tiebreaker afterward -- to advance to the championship round.
If Harbor can't go, more of the burden will fall on Phillip Gyau, who has regained his MVP form of last season, earning the Bays' Player of the Month award for August.
But as Hindley says, it also will fall on every player on the field.
They've all got to take over the finishing," said Hindley, whose team could not do that last Saturday in its 2-1 overtime loss in Albany.
Sitting, even during practices this week, has not been easy for Harbor.
"This is my first time being injured with the Bays," said the APSL's Most Valuable Player, who tied a league record with 17 goals and set a league mark with 45 points. "It hurts me to sit and watch, especially now when it is a crucial time for the team. Hopefully, by game time, I will be able to play."
The decision will be his to make.
"I can't imagine Jean saying he doesn't want to play," said Hindley. "He was injured before our game in Albany. I had hoped to hold him out, but he came to me at halftime, when we were down 1-0 and said, 'I'm playing.' That's what I expect.
"Just having Jean in there, makes a difference for us. The otheteam doesn't know if he's 50 or 90 percent, and they have to pay attention to him."
A fact that helps the rest of the Bays find seams to slip through.
"A groin injury is different from other injuries," said Hindley. "It's uncomfortable. You can't stretch like you like to. But it isn't like a broken leg. With a broken leg you know your limitations. With a groin, it isn't as clear-cut."
Harbor is aware of that.
"You love to play and you love to be out there," Harbor said. "But with this groin, even if I play, it will not be me. It will not be the way I like to play, sliding into open spaces."
And if he can't go?
"No matter what my situation, I think my team will win," Harbor said. "We did not play badly at Albany. It was just that the ball did not go in the net for us. I think playing at home, with our fans, on our field . . . we will enjoy it and we will win."
* U.S. National and Bays player Desmond Armstrong, who broke his nose in Albany last Saturday, will not play. However, defender Jeff Agoos, who broke his foot a month ago, has been upgraded to possible.