No longer are the Baltimore Bays in a position to gain the playoffs without outside assistance.
"We've got to concentrate on winning our last four and see how the cards fall," said player-assistant coach Billy Ronson. "Win, and hope some other teams lose."
As they begin a regular-season-ending stretch of four straight home games at UMBC Stadium tonight against the Connecticut Wolves, the Bays are 3-9, in seventh place in the U.S. Interregional Soccer League's nine-team Atlantic Division.
Five teams can make the playoffs.
The clubs ahead of the Bays are, in order, the Greensboro Dynamo, Delaware Wizards, Raleigh Flyers, Charleston Battery, Connecticut and Richmond Kickers.
The Bays must overtake Richmond (4-7) and Connecticut (5-6) to reach the playoffs.
"There's not a team among our last four we can't beat," said Bays general manager Ben Neil. "We haven't been blown out. All our games have been tight. We could turn it around in these last four games."
The Bays have lost three straight, including two last weekend in North Carolina.
"Our problem is defense," coach Kevin Healey said. "We're scoring enough goals."
Noting that the Bays have been shut out only once, by Charleston, Neil said: "The players need to work a little harder to get over the top. For most of them, this league is the next level of play, and to make it takes hard work. Our problem seems to be that we have mental lapses, five- to 10-minute lulls. The result is we dig holes that are hard to get out of."
Last week, for instance, the Bays trailed Charlotte 3-1 at halftime. Despite dominating the second half, the Bays got only one more goal, by Rob Ryerson, and lost, 3-2. Of the Bays' nine defeats, six have been by one goal, the others by two.
Connecticut may be more difficult to combat than it was when it edged the Bays in a shootout in April. In their past two games, the Wolves beat Columbia, 6-0, and Richmond, 4-2.
"They're putting it together the last few games," Healey said. "They'll come in fired up."