Early last season, Blast captain Lance Johnson became the first player in franchise history to play in 300 games. Fellow defender Jason Dieter reached the milestone two months later.
With statistics, the 10 years of service each provided and how they approached the game -playing hard every shift and putting the team first - the two have become linked.
The Blast announced yesterday that Johnson and Dieter, each 32, plan to retire at the end of this season to focus on positions at 1st Mariner Bank under chief executive Edwin F. Hale Sr., who also owns the Blast. They will play their final two regular-season home games this weekend - tonight against the Cleveland Force and tomorrow night against the Harrisburg Heat.
"Jason and Lance represent everything we ask for in a Blast player," said Kevin Healey, general manager and former coach. "They gave their heart and soul on the field and produced at a high level. They show class on and off the field and are role models for the Baltimore community."
Going into tonight's game, Johnson and Dieter are one-two, respectively, in games played (361 for Johnson, 335 for Dieter) and blocked shots (473, 467). Dieter, who turned pro in 1992, has the edge in points scored - 322 for sixth in franchise history to Johnson's 279, which puts him ninth.
"It's really unusual to play 10 years for one team in one city. ... I've always been fortunate enough to stay," said Johnson, who played college ball at Towson before turning pro in 1993. "I've always understood my role and my abilities and tried to play to those strengths the past 10 years to do well."
Dieter is a Baltimore native who had standout careers at Archbishop Curley, then-Essex Community College and UMBC before getting the chance to play professionally in his hometown.
"It's been an honor for me to play in front of my hometown," Dieter said. "You get to know the fans, the people that come out and put down their hard-earned money to watch you and the team play. It makes you want to play for them as well as your teammates."
Individual accolades aside, their focus is on the playoffs with the Blast (13-17) in third place in the Major Indoor Soccer League's Eastern Conference, 1 1/2 games ahead of the Heat (12-19) for the final spot.