North County's boys soccer team has the ability to adapt to any playing style, be it physical or finesse.
For tonight's state Class 4A semifinal game against Northwestern, the Knights should be ready to run.
Most of the discussion about the second-seeded Wildcats (13-0-1) centers on their speed. It has been compared with "greased lightning" by Dulaney coach Craig Laferty, whose team lost to Northwestern, 2-0, in the Class 4A, Region II finals last week.
"These guys are finesse, quick players. They like to dribble, and they can turn on a dime. If one guy gets bottled up, there's going to be another guy there. And they can all dent the net," he said.
Knights coach Steve Malone, whose team is the third seed, will be getting his first look at Northwestern in the 5 p.m. game at Arundel High. But Laferty's description matches everything he has heard.
"We have some pretty decent speed in some spots, but not in other spots. Speed is one of those things that, as far as preparation and coaching, you can't do a whole lot about it," Malone said.
What his team may be able to do is control the midfield, where North County (12-2) boasts All-State player Chris Cosentino. Often overshadowed by high-scoring forwards Shawn Moyer (22 goals, four assists) and Mike Hoskins (nine, seven), Cosentino has been sensational all year.
The midfield "is probably where most games are won or lost," Malone said. "And anyone who's seen Chris play knows what kind of a great player that he is."
"The midfield has to step up," said Cosentino, who has seven goals and five assists. "And I have to step up my game if I'm going to be a deciding factor. I want to help out in any way I can."
Moyer has done most of the scoring this year, but his output in the regional playoffs consisted of one goal -- on a penalty kick. Troy Hoskins (six goals, five assists) scored twice in a 2-1 win over Broadneck, and Cosentino and speedster Emmanuel Uche (five goals, five assists) each converted in a 3-2 victory over Old Mill.
They will have to contend with an aggressive Northwestern defense led by brothers Melvin and Manuel Barrera and Jose Chavez. Melvin is the Wildcats' goalie, Manuel is a fullback and Chavez is a sweeper known for his thunderous kicks.
Most of Northwestern's scoring comes from Nyenforh and Kanteah Peters, who join brother Prince on a potent forward line. Nyenforh and Kanteah have combined for 44 goals.
That means North County keeper Ryan Seggerty will have to maintain his recent hot hand. "I really think that right now, Ryan is playing better than anyone," Malone said.
"My concern is that we play as well as we can. If we do that, I'll be happy to take my chances with anybody."