BOCA RATON, FLA., AUG. 25 -- The Maryland Bays scored twice early in the first half and made the lead stand up as they defeated the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, 2-0, tonight to win the American Soccer League championship before 2,527 at Royal Palm Polo Club.

The Royal Palm field, much bigger than the Bays' home grounds at Cedar Lane Park in Columbia, Md., had been expected to give the visitors trouble, although Maryland Coach Pete Caringi thought otherwise.

"That's so exaggerated," Caringi said. "We have players like Phillip {Gyau} and Jean {Harbor} that utilize their speed at home. We won in Tampa, we won in Washington on big fields. The thing with this team is that they never got the respect that they were due.

"We came down here and you read in the papers that it's only Maryland. . . . This is an American team that deserves everything that it got. I'm just tired of reading about it and everybody not giving us respect. This is the respect that we wanted, that trophy right over there."

The Bays capitalized on a defensive mistake by the Strikers to take a lead they would not relinquish. Miscommunication between Strikers defenders sent a pass back toward the Fort Lauderdale net. Robert Ryerson intercepted the ball, moved it toward the goal and then fed Gyau, who beat goalkeeper Arnie Mausser at 1:32 to make it 1-0.

The Strikers played sluggishly, missing passes and frequently getting beat to the ball. The Bays' defense played man-to-man, picking up the Fort Lauderdale forwards and midfielders and preventing them from turning with the ball.

Mausser made saves on Ryerson, Gyau and Harbor before the Bays scored again.

Scott Cook got the goal at 16:08, intercepting a clearing pass and beating Mausser to the left corner from 23 yards. Mausser again hesitated, tried to recover but failed to make the save.

Referee Angelo Bratsis handed out four yellow cards to the Bays in the first half -- to Ryerson, Omid Namazi, Cook and Harbor. Bratsis continued to issue cards as the play got rougher in the second half, cautioning Strikers Victor Moreland and Ricardo Alonso.

The Strikers pressed late in the first half, but came up empty. Alvin James was frustrated in a one-on-one situation when Bays goalkeeper Steven Powers made the save on a point-blank shot from eight yards at 42:40.

Maryland then made an adjustment, bringing three players up front -- adding Kevin Sloan -- and sliding midfielder John Abe back to play defense. Abe was free to move up and played a big part in helping Maryland control the ball at midfield.

The Bays advanced to the American Professional Soccer League championship game against the Western Soccer League titlist Sept. 22 in Boston.

Maryland ........... 2 ....... 0 -- 2

Fort Lauderdale .... 0 ....... 0 -- 0

GOALS: Gyau from Ryerson, 1:32; Cook unassisted, 16:08.

SAVES: Powers (M) 9; Mausser (FtL) 4.

SHOTS: Maryland 8; Fort Lauderdale 19.