The torrid summer run by the Maryland Bays through the American Professional Soccer League has turned cool with the weather.
Former Baltimore Blast goalkeeper Scoop Stanisic and his Albany Capitals teammates sent shivers through the Bays by winning Game 1 of a best-of-two semifinal series, 2-1, in overtime Sept. 6 in Albany, N.Y.
That victory by Albany, in which Stanisic made nine saves, has backed the defending APSL champion Bays into the position of having to beat the Capitals twice tonight at Cedar Lane Park (7:05 p.m.) to stay alive in the playoffs.
Maryland (19-2 in the regular season) must knock off the Capitals in Game 2, then come back 10 minutes later and defeat Albany in a 30-minute mini-game before the Bays can advance to the finals.
That task would not seem so imposing if league scoring champion and Most Valuable Player Jean Harbor's pulled groin muscle had gotten better instead of worse.
The injury, which has nagged Harbor for more than a month, has deteriorated to the point where he has missed all but two practices in four weeks.
Bays coach Gary Hindley said there's a 50 percent chance that Harbor will start tonight.
"He's the kind of player whose mere presence on the field can help us," Hindley said. "But if he can't play in a competitive situation, we'll have to go with Kevin Sloan, Bruce Murray, Kurt Dasbach or Rob Ryerson up front at Jean's position."
Hindley said he would receive input from Harbor, then decide whether the forward will start.
"Jean's a pro. He knows what he has to do out on the field to help us," said Hindley. "I'm sure he'll advise me on what is best for the team. I don't want us to think we can't win without Jean."
There are also two other negative factors for Maryland entering tonight's action -- U.S. national team defender Desmond Armstrong will be out with a broken nose, and the Capitals' physical play seems to have distracted the Bays.
Harbor and Phillip Gyau, Maryland's two big-time forwards, have been the targets of the Albany tactics, Gyau said.
"In the first game, Jimmy McGeough was holding me the whole game," Gyau said. "I told the refs to watch him, and they said they were looking. And Jean and Dave Smyth were fighting throughout the game because Smyth was elbowing Jean. We're going to have to do something to stop that kind of treatment in Game 2."
The Gyau-McGeough and Harbor-Smyth matchups in Game 1 have added fire to the dislike between these teams.
It all began in the regular season when Maryland's Joe Barger had run-ins with Albany's Paul Mariner and Mike Masters, and the Bays' Bruce Murray showed there was no love lost between him and Mariner.
NOTES: Harbor's quest to become a U.S. citizen and join the U.S. national team in preparation for the 1994 World Cup could be completed as soon as Oct. 19, Bays marketing director Emilio Pozzi said yesterday. "Jean has all the necessary papers, and when our season is over, he's going to the Immigration Service and apply for citizenship," said Pozzi. "There are 2 ways to become a U.S. citizen. You need to have a green card for 5 years or be married to an American girl for 3 years. Jean has been married to an American girl for more than 3 years, so we don't see any problems." Pozzi said that U.S. national team coach Bora Milutinovich, who watched Harbor play in Game 1, has assured Harbor that the U.S. Soccer Federation would help him if any problems came up with Immigration officials.
Hindley said that everybody is asking, "What's wrong with the Bays?"
"I think it's more a case of Albany being capable of beating a good team in any 1 game," he said. "I still think we're a better team than Albany, and I'd trade my Coach of the Year honor to play Game 1 over again. Eight out of 10 times, it [loss] would not happen."
Opponent: Albany Capitals
Site: Cedar Lane Park, 7:05
Radio: WCBM (680 AM)
Outlook: Albany (10-11 in the regular season) has applied heavy pressure to the Bays with a 2-1 OT victory in Game 1 of this best-of-2 semifinal APSL series. The Capitals will have to play Game 2 tonight without F Lee Tschantret, who scored the winning goal in Game 1 with 4 minutes left in the second OT period. Tschantret cannot play in Game 2 because he received his fourth yellow card of the season in Game 1 (tripping foul). Tschantret would be eligible for a deciding 30-minute mini-game tonight if Maryland wins Game 2 to even the series. Albany has no injuries. The Bays will play without D Desmond Armstrong (broken nose). F Jean Harbor (groin injury) is questionable, M/D Jeff Agoos (broken foot) is doubtful and D Darryl Gee (broken ribs) is probable.