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Maryland capitalizes, beats Rowdies 1-0

Maryland midfielder Kevin Sloan, who minutes earlier hit the post with a long-range shot, capitalized on a Tampa Bay Rowdies defensive miscue and scored from point-blank range for a 1-0 win Saturday. With about 20 minutes left, forward Jean Harbor, held in check for most of the match, beat two Rowdies defenders on the right wing and tried to cross the ball. Terry Rowe was there to deflect it _ right back to Harbor.

"I went inside and then pulled it out and shot it," Harbor said.

But that ball was also deflected _ right to an open Sloan for an easy tap-in, silencing the crowd of 3,470 fans at the University of South Florida soccer stadium.

"Jean was going to goal, and I just tried to put myself 6 to 8 yards out in case he wanted to come back to me or it was deflected," Sloan said. "I was fortunate to be there."

Maryland (5-0), the defending American Professional Soccer League champion, has won 13 consecutive games, dating back to last year. Four of those, including two playoff games and a 3-0 win last week in Maryland, have come at the expense of Tampa Bay.

The Rowdies (1-4) have lost their past three games and have been shut out three times this season. They had five shots on goal Saturday, and none was particularly dangerous.

"It's tough to win games when you don't score, but we keep giving goals away," Rowdies coach Steve Wegerle said. "It's silly defensive mistakes, three games in a row. You're never going to win games like that."

One problem was that the Rowdies, who prefer to keep the ball on the ground with short passing combinations, were sucked into playing the Bays' game: booming the ball long and deep and fighting in the air to win.

That is a type of game the Rowdies don't win often.

In the first half, the Rowdies did little more than defend against the team that eliminated them from the playoffs last year and walloped them 3-0 a week ago in Maryland.

Tampa Bay's only shot of the half came 15 minutes in, when Marcelo Carrera reversed a ball from the right to Tommy Reasoner alone on the left. Reasoner, the former Tarpon Springs and University of Tampa star, left-footed a shot from about 25 yards that goalkeeper Steve Powers just plucked out of the sky.

"We're obviously not creating a lot of chances," Rowdies star forward David Byrne said. "We're doing okay until about the 22-yard line, but our crosses are going right to the goalie. I'm not getting any opportunities at all. The balls just aren't coming."

But the Bays weren't too proud of their first-half offense, either. Although they mustered six shots in the half, only two were anywhere near the mark and both came in the waning minutes of the half.

Derek Backman did much to keep Maryland off the scoreboard during the first 45 minutes. Backman, the Rowdies' version of Dennis Rodman, neutralized Harbor, the league's all-time scoring leader, who has three goals and two assists in the past three games against Tampa Bay.

But Harbor, who later said he may quit the team because of personal problems, had his moment after Reasoner failed to clear a ball.