Duo Gives Sounders Dunn Deal -- At First Glance, It's Hard To Tell Jason And James Dunn Apart. But With A Closer Look, Both Are Getting Their Share Of Notice, Working Together As They Try To Earn The First- Year Seattle Sounders An Apsl Title.
James and Jason Dunn are "mirror" identical twins, meaning that when they face each other they are even more similar than how they came out of the womb. James is right-handed, while Jason uses his left. James' hair parts naturally on the opposite side of his brother's. Their first front teeth even came in on different sides.
Fortunately for the Seattle Sounders, somewhere along the way the Dunn brothers' mother pointed the boys in the same direction.
The twins' ultra-competitive energies now work for the benefit of the Sounders, who have used the James-to-Jason hookup to vault into second place in the American Professional Soccer League going into tonight's game against the Montreal Impact at the Tacoma Dome.
James is a right back on the league's second-leading defense, Jason the top scorer and current APSL player of the week after getting two goals Saturday in a 5-0 victory against Vancouver. Of course, one score came on clairvoyant pass from James.
"You know how they say twins are on the same wavelength?" James said. "Well, I don't know if I can explain it but I usually know where he is on the field."
James clears balls that end up 30 yards downfield at Jason's feet. Jason throws in balls that he knows only James can get. It's a connection that Jason describes as "magic" and one that Seattle Pacific University rode to the NCAA Division II national championship last year, when James played at attacking sweeper.
Both have designs on playing for the U.S. national team in the 1998 World Cup, and they would love to play together for a professional club in another country. Neither really knows, however, if this is his final summer playing on the same team for more than 15 memorable years.
As a result of the U.S. performance in the recent World Cup, American players in general are hot. Playing for the Sounders, James and Jason both have drawn attention from clubs in Mexico, and Jason has heard from a club in the English Premier Division. For the first time, though, neither can automatically assume the other will come along.
Still, Jason dreams of a Dunn deal with one team. "One of the problems for teams is trying to find players that other players play well with," he said. "We found our chemistry long ago."
As mother Cindy puts it, "They're the kind of twins who, if one starts a sentence, the other finishes it."
Born seven minutes ahead of James, Jason grew up playing the same sports, and in soccer even the same positions, as his brother. With their father as coach of their youth team, each played one half at goalie and one half at forward.
At North Thurston High School in Lacey, they won the Class AAA state title in 1990 and both players were four-time all-Americans. Jason gave up using his hands for a full-time place at forward. James drifted to his place on defense and rarely returned to goalie.
Position and style of play - Jason is more aggressive, James more tactical - is still the best way to tell the twins apart, although they have tried to make it easier on strangers with different haircuts. Jason has earrings in both ears, James in none.
Jason also has gotten married and last year had a daughter, which may also cut out some of the confusion. For a while, the brothers dated the same women at different times.
To keep them from tearing each other down, Cindy Dunn said, she insisted that the brothers compete in different weight categories when they wrestled. So Jason had to lose enough pounds to drop into the lower category.
The major physical difference now between the fast, well-muscled, well-freckled brothers is in upper-body strength.
Jason has one of the most powerful throw-ins in the country, a cannon blast that his mother believes derives from a high-school hand injury that forced Jason into the gym as part of rehabilitation.
"Plus, he has long arms," she said.
Partly because of the unusual throw-in, which has even created assists because of his ability to get the ball into the goalmouth, Jason has received more public acclaim than his brother. His APSL-leading four goals and ability to attack with both feet and his head have also drawn attention, enough that the U.S. national "B" team asked him to join the team last week for a game.
Jason declined, preferring to play with the Sounders before a home crowd.
James plays at a less-glamorous position and one that the U.S., which needs goal-scorers, currently has a glut of. But Cliff McCrath, the brothers' former coach at Seattle Pacific, said that from watching a couple of Sounders games it appears James is playing as well as his brother.
The Seattle defense has allowed only five goals in seven games; Montreal has given up a league-best of three.
"From a talent perspective, I can't see why either of them wouldn't be on the '98 World Cup team," McCrath said. "I know the World Cup pool of players as well as anybody, and I can't see why each of them wouldn't be an individual story in themselves by then. But the politics are a different thing and you never know what's going to happen there. Look what happened to Kasey Keller."
Keller, who also went to North Thurston High School, plays for an English first-division club and is considered the top American goalie in the world. But he was not picked for the '94 World Cup team because the U.S. coach, Bora Milutinovic, favored Tony Meola.
Hitting the right spot again
At this point, the Dunns are not worried about politics. They are just happy to be playing well for one of the top teams in the APSL, which until Major League Soccer gets started next year is the premier level for professional soccer in the country.
It's what they envisioned a decade ago when, in the waning days of the old North American Soccer League, they attended Sounders games with their father and decided to give up all other sports to pursue careers in pro soccer.
"There was a big boom in soccer when we were growing up and we hit it at the right time," James said. "Now we're hitting the right spot again. We're 22 and that's an ideal age for making the '98 World Cup team."
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