Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Goals hard to come by for reeling Real Maryland

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With roughly one month remaining in the United Soccer League-Second Division regular season, reality is starting to set in for Real Maryland.

As one the league’s two new franchises, the Monarchs (3-10) have looked promising in their debut season, but the results have not been going their way lately. This past weekend, they hosted two projected playoff teams, the Richmond (Va.) Kickers and the Harrisburg City (Pa.) Islanders at Maryland SoccerPlex in Boyds, to similar results — on Independence Day, they fell, 3-0, to the Kickers, and lost, 2-0, to the Islanders 48 hours later.

The growing pains weren’t unexpected for Real Maryland, not even by their own coach. Months ago, his team had even been formed, head coach Silvino Gonzalo stated his expectations — his team would play hard, they would struggle, and they would get better for the future.

Several months later, with seven games remaining, that’s still his expectation.

‘‘The team is doing OK, but the results have not been good,” said Gonzalo. ‘‘We don’t have as much experience and we are paying for that right now. I think whenever you play, you’re trying to win. That’s the way I want to be, but of course I knew it would be a tough [first season].”

The early part of the season actually brought the most promise, as the Monarchs won three of their first six games, qualifying for the prestigious Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, a national competition between teams ranking from amateur status through Major League Soccer. In the first round of the U.S. Open, they ousted the New York Pancyprian Freedoms of the Cosmopolitan Soccer League, 3-2. In the second, they fell to the Carolina Railhawks of the USL-First Division, 1-0, on a penalty kick in the 90th minute.

The struggles have been most evident of late, however. Since their dramatic, overtime victory against the Freedoms, Real Maryland has lost seven in a row, including five league games. In those seven games, it’s mustered just one tally, scored by striker Nilson Perez in a 2-1 heartbreaker to Crystal Palace on June 29.

This weekend, the Monarchs face the Bermuda Hogges, the first of three road matches. Gonzalo is still holding out hope of a playoff spot, which goes to the league’s four best regular-season teams. In fact, they are only two wins behind the Islanders, who hold the fourth spot.

‘‘We’ve had games we’ve completely dominated — we completely dominated the game in Raleigh [against the RailHawks],” said Gonzalo. ‘‘We just can’t make mental mistakes.”