Jason Dieter is a clone of Baltimore Spirit teammate Barry Stitz. Or is it the other way around?
They first played soccer together on a pee-wee team at Little Flower Elementary School in Northeast Baltimore. Dieter was 5, Stitz 6.
They lived three blocks from each other. They progressed through the soccer ranks, to 8-10, 10-12, 12-14 and then Archbishop Curley High School.
"I'm a year younger, so we really only had a year together in each of the recreation league age groups," Dieter said.
"At Curley, I played my sophomore and junior years with him. We're like clones. I can read him. I know what he's going to do whenever he touches the ball."
Stitz recalls when they were members of the same Little Flower line, he on the right inside, Dieter the left inside. That year, when they were 6 and 7, the team won big.
"We learned to read each other," Stitz said. "We were more advanced than the others, and we set each other up."
Now, Dieter, 22, and Stitz, 23, are together again as Spirit rookies after college careers apart. The Spirit, veterans as well as rookies, will tune up for the Nov. 6 opener by playing in the National Professional Soccer League's 13-team preseason tournament tomorrow through Sunday in Dayton, Ohio.
Stitz, a midfielder, came to the Spirit from Towson State. Dieter, a defender, went to Essex Community College, where he was a first-team national junior college All-American as a sophomore, and then to UMBC on a scholarship.
Spirit coach Kenny Cooper watched the two young players with interest when the three of them watched the Towson State-UMBC game last week.
"They couldn't have been more fired up if they were playing for the Spirit," Cooper said after UMBC scored in the last minute to win, 1-0. "They were busting each other's chops. You want that -- a passion for the game."
Dieter made an indelible impression last February in the USAir College All-Star Showcase at the Baltimore Arena. The East team was coached by Mike Stankovic, now the Spirit's assistant coach.
"You could see he had the strength for the indoor game, the long stride, endurance and refusal to give up," Stankovic said of Dieter. "Outdoor soccer is more casual, played at a slower pace. Jason has the aggressiveness to lift up the players around him in the indoor game."
The next day, on Stankovic's recommendation, Cooper picked Dieter for the Blast on the first round of the Major Soccer League draft. In a May exhibition, Dieter scored a goal in the Blast's 4-2 win over Aston Villa in Birmingham, England. Later, after the MSL folded, Dieter was the Spirit's first pick in the NPSL territorial draft.
"I saw enough of Jason against Aston Villa to know he can compete against anybody," Cooper said. "In practice, Jason and Barry push each other. Both have good habits, so it's just a matter of adjusting to the pro game."