Barons fall just short of postseason

Playoff hopes ended before home loss to Westchester kicked off

After all of the drama leading up to the final day of the season, the Barons' postseason hopes were dashed before they even took the field against the Westchester Flames on Sunday. The Williamsburg Legacy captured the final playoff spot a few hours earlier with a 6-2 win over the Richmond Kickers Future, a team that was only able to dress 11 players for their final home game. The victory by the Legacy eliminated any chance of Ocean City advancing to the playoffs.

With nothing to play for, the Barons dropped a 3-2 decision to the Flames, who rested most of their key players in preparation for next weekend's Eastern Conference playoffs at the Virginia Beach Sportsplex.

Having beaten the Flames on the road with their full squad earlier in the year, the Barons looked on pace for a repeat performance after the 4th minute. Ryan Heins created space on the left wing, and centered the ball to Jeremy Ortiz who raced through the box and redirected it into the back of the net for the opening goal.

Entering the final weekend, the Barons were unbeaten (5-0-2) when scoring the opening goal.

The first half largely belonged to the Ocean City Barons, but it was a different story in the second half as the Flames stole the momentum in the opening minutes. Emilio Xikis, making a rare start for the Flames, took advantage of a poor clearance by Barons goalkeeper Issey Maholo and fired home the equalizer in the 47th minute.

With both teams pushing for an advantage, a crazy sequence resulted in the game's second score. A shot from the Flames deflected off the crossbar and found it's way outside the box, and controlled by Xikis. He took advantage of the space and bent the ball to the far corner of the goal where Maholo made an amazing save, but the ball grazed off of the bottom part of the crossbar, causing the keeper to lose control of the ball which fell beyond the line to give the Flames a 2-1 lead.

Westchester added another with an impressive individual effort from Dan Shapiro. The Flames were on a counter attack and the ball was fed to Shapiro on the left wing, who had a one-on-one matchup with Barons defender Andy Tait. He cut to his right, back to his left, and back to his right again, which bought enough time and earned just enough space to execute a perfect backheel pass to an overlapping Kevin Meyer to his left. Meyer dribbled into the box with no one but the keeper to beat, and he did just that.

With the score 3-1, the Barons were desperate to end the season on a positive note. One of the bright spots for the Barons in the second half was the effort put forth by Ocean City native Rich Baker. Baker left it all out on the field since arriving as a second half sub, including an impressive goal in the 81st minute to put the game within reach. From the right side of the goal he launched a low-driving, left-footed shot just outside the penalty area to the far post and it snuck past Pollack and bulged the side netting.

The match finished at 3-2 despite Ocean City holding the Westchester goal under seige for the last ten minutes of the match.

The Barons finish the 2006 season with a 6-4-6 record (24 points), finishing in second place in the Northeast Division, four points behind the division-winning Flames. Mt. Laurel, NJ native and LaSalle University product, Jeremy Ortiz, finishes as the club's leading goal scorer with nine goals. He will return to LaSalle for his junior year where he already been named to the Atlantic-10 Preseason All-Conference team. Ryan Heins of Medford, NJ will return to Temple University for his senior year having led the Barons with six assists.

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