It was a situation the Baltimore Bays didn't experience much during the regular season, and it cost them last night.
After outscoring opponents by an average of 11 goals, the Bays were even at 3 against the Chattanooga Express entering the fourth quarter. The Express scored the first three goals of the fourth and held off a late Bays rally to earn an 8-6 win in the opening round of the U.S. Interregional Soccer League National Championships at Du Burns Arena.
The Bays (12-1) will try to regroup this afternoon at 3 when they take on the Tulsa Roughnecks in the second round.
An inability to finish their opportunities cost the Bays. Chattanooga goalie Richard Northcutt had a lot to do with it, making 22 saves, including six in a scoreless third quarter.
"We just didn't play too well. Soccer is a funny game, and it was just one of those days, and we picked a bad day for it to happen," Bays coach Kevin Healey said. "For some reason we had trouble finishing our chances, and you have to give [Northcutt] credit -- he played very well."
Al Reinhart scored the goal that gave the Express the lead for good 1:57 into the final quarter. He streaked along the right side and fired a shot from 20 yards out past Bays goalie Jason Wright, who finished with 18 saves.
James Van Steenburg and Dennis Dergelev added goals to give the Express a 6-3 lead before the Bays rallied after pulling Wright for an extra attacker.
The Bays got to within 7-6 with 14 seconds left when Joe Layfield scored his second goal of the quarter, but Eddie Armand scored an empty-net goal in the last second to ice the win.
"They were looking to get in a low scoring game and did just that," Healey said. "They stayed back and then took advantage of their chances and hit some good shots."
The teams went into halftime tied at 3 after the Bays got caught upfield in the final minute of the second quarter. Chattanooga's Solomon Kidane finished off a 4-on-1 break on a pass Armand with 51 seconds left.
Earlier in the quarter, the Express took a 2-1 lead when Roger LaGuerre scored in front off an assist from Lee Irving. The goal came with 10:39 left, and it was the latest the Bays have trailed in a game this season.
The Express lead didn't last long when Eric Spalt finished on a rebound in front 45 seconds later. Northcutt came up with a save, but was still down when Spalt chipped a ball past him. The Bays regained the lead at 3-2 when Derrick Marcano finished strong with a hard, left-foot shot from 20 feet.
With 1:50 left in the half, the Bays lost Mettrick with a knee injury. The Bays were already missing defender Joe Barger, who was serving a one-game suspension after receiving a red card in the Bays' regular-season finale last Friday.
The originally scheduled first game between the Tulsa Roughnecks and the defending league champion Atlanta Magic was pushed back to 10:30 last night after the Roughnecks got caught in snow during a layover stop in Chicago.
The Roughnecks arrived in Baltimore at around 7:30, and later were defeated by the Magic, 6-2.
Opponent: Tulsa Roughnecks
Site: Du Burns Arena
Time: 3 (at 5:30, the Atlanta Magic will play the Chattanooga Express)
Tickets: Some available at $10 each (two games today and final game tomorrow afternoon)
Outlook: Both teams will try to rebound from losses in last night's playoff openers. The Roughnecks are led by the league's leading scorer Virgil Stevens. D Joe Barger returns after a one-game suspension he received after getting a red card in the Bays' regular-season finale last Friday. Coach Kevin Healey will look to veteran G Scott Manning after going with rookie Jason Wright in last night's loss.