The Baltimore Bays began their inaugural home game in the United States Interregional Soccer League last night with a roar.
They ended it, however, with a whimper.
Before 1,671 spectators at UMBC Stadium, the Bays looked sharp early, getting off five of the first six shots before being outshot, 19-4, the rest of the way in a 3-1 loss to the Raleigh Flyers.
After controlling play early, the Bays (0-3) lost momentum when they failed to convert on several good scoring opportunities.
"For the first few minutes we were firing on all cylinders," said midfielder Mark Mettrick, who scored the Bays' goal on a penalty kick with eight seconds left. "They withstood the pressure and began to play in control.
"I felt like I was chasing the ball around the field for half the night."
The Bays nearly took the lead on four occasions, with their best shots coming on Derrick Marcano's header just over the crossbar 1:27 into the game and his shot minutes later off the near post.
After that, it was all Flyers. The visitors dominated, out-shooting the Bays, 12-1, for the remainder of the half and beating them to most loose balls.
"They just outplayed us," Bays coach Kevin Healey said. "The game just turned around on us. We were sloppier than normal. I don't know if it was the crowd or what, but we have to work on that."
Raleigh (1-0) took the lead with 12:35 left in the half, as Toni Siikala took a pass from Increase Akuchie, dodged a sliding tackle from John Karpovich and beat goalie Steve Powers to his right.
The Flyers extended their lead to 2-0 when Wade Whitney beat two defenders in front of the goal, and fired a rocket past a diving Powers.
In the second half, after Steve Spalt was ejected for elbowing Raleigh's Gregg Berhalter with 14:30 left, the Bays played a man down the rest of the way, mounting just one serious threat on offense.
"I think our speed was a big factor on some spots on the field," Raleigh coach Robert Dowdy said. "We didn't know what to expect. I think we played well."
Chip Kepner scored for the Flyers with 1:45 left, putting them ahead, 3-0.
Healey says things will only get better for the Bays.
"We didn't even know we were going to be a franchise until December," Healey said. "But this isn't a time to make excuses. It's a time to go to work."