Don't look for Towson State's Joe Layfield and UMBC's Jason Dieter to be nervous tomorrow night when they take the floor for the East squad in the USAir College Indoor Soccer Showcase at 5:05 at the Baltimore Arena.
Both talented players have deep indoor and outdoor soccer roots in Baltimore.
Layfield was 9 years old when he scored a goal at the Arena in a preliminary to the first exhibition game the Blast ever played. That was nearly 12 years ago.
"I like to tell people I scored the first goal ever at the Baltimore Arena," said Layfield. "It was the first indoor soccer game played at the Arena. The Blast played the Philadelphia Fever in the exhibition game that followed."
After that auspicious start, Layfield went on to play important roles in the success of Calvert Hall and Towson State soccer.
At Towson State, he was the East Coast Conference Player of the Year in 1990 and led the Tigers to three straight ECC titles. He also scored 18 goals as a senior, breaking Wayne Harmen's single-season record of 17 that stood for 35 years.
Dieter was 10 when he helped the Little Flower Cougars roll up a 40-0-5 record on the way to six outdoor league championships that season. The team was coached by his father, Jerry, who has been proudly watching his son prepare for tomorrow night's game for seniors.
Since then Dieter has gone on to star for Archbishop Curley, Essex Community College and UMBC, earning All-America honors his sophomore year at Essex under coach Pete Caringi.
Dieter and Caringi have spent many nights at the Arena watching the Blast.
So even though they are part of the 32 supposed wide-eyed participants in the Showcase that precedes the annual Major Soccer League draft, Layfield and Dieter have been acting like veterans in the pre-game practices.
The Arena is their turf and they're letting the other players know it.
"A lot of guys out of town don't know the game of indoor soccer and they have to concentrate on the rules," said Layfield. "Jason and I grew up with the game because of the Blast. I was nervous before practice started, but now I know I fit in with all these top-notch players."
That's why both players have high hopes of going early in the MSL draft Friday at Stouffers Hotel.
Injured Blast midfielder Mike Stankovic, who is coaching the East, said Layfield and Dieter have caught his eye in the three practices.
"Joe Layfield is very quick, has tremendous skill, knowledge of the game and ball control," said Stankovic. "Jason is versatile and can play in the middle or the back. I won't use them on the same line because I don't want unbalanced lines."
Dieter said that Friday will be "Doomsday [results of MSL draft], Valentine's Day and my girlfriend's birthday all wrapped up in one. My girlfriend Karen is afraid I might be drafted by San Diego and be going way out there."
Unlike Layfield and Dieter, the two other collegiate players representing the Baltimore area -- Towson State's Ed McCue and Loyola's Tom Donohue -- are approaching tomorrow night's game without any expectations.
McCue, whose home is in Alexandria, Va., said: "If I play well, anything can happen. I really prefer the outdoor game, but I've played a lot of indoor soccer since I've been at Towson.
Donohue, of Middletown, N.J., sprained his ankle in the first practice Monday but will play tomorrow.