Pete Caringi's first task as the new head coach of the Maryland Bays soccer club was to solve a baffling puzzle.

How to utilize the stunning talents of two speed demons on a new home field that has narrow boundaries and is in dire need of a visit from a lawn tractor?

Caringi devised a simple plan: Get the ball to Jean Harbor and Phillip Gyau and, as the coach likes to preach, "Let them do their magic."

Mission accomplished. For now.

At the midpoint of the American Soccer League season, the Columbia-based Bays are one of the league's best teams with an 8-2 record. Today, Maryland plays the Washington Diplomats at RFK Stadium.

The Bays moved their home games this year from UMBC Stadium in Catonsville to Cedar Lane Park, a Howard County facility off hilly Route 108. The field is narrow and the high grass and bumps slow rolling passes. Things get ugly on rainy days.

Playing under those conditions seven times in their first nine games, the Bays have thrown out the conventional strategy, which is to generate an attack from the back with short passes, diagonal runs and sporadic forays into open areas.

"At home, our attack is based on five players who attack the goal at all times," said Caringi, who also coaches at Essex Community College near Baltimore. "A lot of teams are more defense oriented and only send two guys at the goal.

"Right now, we're scoring a lot of goals with the direct approach. Get the ball to Jean and Phillip and let them do their magic."

Illusions aside, Gyau, a Gywnn Park High School and Howard University graduate, is second in the league in points (16) with six goals and four assists. Harbor, a Nigerian citizen who was suspended for part of last season when he played for the Diplomats, has four goals and three assists.

Their blinding speed and scoring ability not only make them a dangerous duo, but have created more opportunities for their teammates.

Midfielders Rob Ryerson and Kevin Sloan, both from Oakland Mills High School -- and Nevada-Las Vegas and Catawba College, respectively -- have four goals each. Overall, the Bays are averaging 2.3 goals per game; the average for the rest of the teams is 1.2.

"It's rare a team can shut both of us down because we're much faster than most of the defenders," Gyau said. "A lot of teams are keying on us, but the game is 90 minutes, so they're bound to make a mistake for a minute or two. That's all the time we need."

Caringi said Gyau's output partly is attributable to him not being named to the U.S. national team that recently made its first World Cup appearance since 1950. Gyau was invited to play last summer when the United States was in the final round of Cup qualifying.

In his first game -- an exhibition match against club team Benfica of Portugal -- he scored a goal in a 2-1 victory at Giants Stadium and was invited to play in the qualifiers. Gyau started on the wing against Guatemala and came off the bench in an exhibition against Colombia.

He even turned down a tryout to play for a Yugoslavian club so he could continue to serve the national team. But soon after, he disappeared from the lineup.

U.S. Coach Bob Gansler "kept saying he'd bring me back on the next trip, then the next, then the next, but he never did," Gyau said.

After watching the U.S. team get burned on the wings in Italy, he said: "I thought I could've helped the team. Obviously {Gansler} had some players he wanted so there was nothing I could do."

Harbor is recovering from a different setback. Playing for the Diplomats in Fort Lauderdale last June, he punched Fort Lauderdale's Pedro Magallanes in the face and broke his cheekbone after the Strikers forward spit in his face. Harbor was suspended for the rest of the season, but ASL Commissioner David Prouty later reinstated him.

"I don't think about it anymore," said Harbor, who led the league in scoring until the suspension. "Players on the other teams think I'm a dirty player and I'm going to punch out someone, but it's not going to happen."

Said Caringi: "The Jean Harbor I've heard about, I haven't seen. I haven't had a problem with him at all."

While the five-man attack has resulted in a 7-0 home record, the traditional approach has produced five goals in two road games. On big fields, such as at RFK and Tampa stadiums, Gyau and Harbor are able to utilize the space and create chances with their speed.

"When the season started, Pete told us, 'I know you guys can score so just go out there and do the job,' " Gyau said.