A confident Maryland Bays team hopes to wrap up the American Soccer League championship today against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers at the Royal Palm Polo Club in Boca Raton, Fla.
The Bays (18-5) lead, 1-0, in the series, with today's game slated for a 5 p.m. start. The Strikers (17-6), the defending league champions, must win Game 2 if they are to force a 30-minute tiebreaker after the game to decide the championship.
The ASL champion will face the Western Soccer League representative in the American Professional Soccer League title game Sept. 22 at Boston University's Nickerson Field.
The Strikers defeated the Bays twice in the regular season, 3-0 and 3-1, and lost once, 3-2, in Game 1 of the finals last Saturday at Cedar Lane Park in Columbia, Md.
Forwards Jean Harbor and Phillip Gyau head the Bays offense, known for its speed and quick-strike ability. The Strikers play a more methodical game and depend on their midfielders to control the ball and execute set plays.
Last week the Bays' philosophy paid off. But on the road, Maryland must challenge the Strikers to change their style and play the game at their tempo. Bays Coach Pete Caringi is counting on his team's youth and stamina to be the difference.
"Even if they win the first one, I think that my team's youthfulness will win out," he said. "They'll be able to go longer and harder because they're younger."
The oldest Bay is 29-year-old point man Johnny Abe and the average age of the team is 24.