The English Lion chats to Orlando City hero Dennis Chin
Updated: Jun 9
Orlando City have been blessed with a few homegrown heroes in their relatively short history. There's an innate and almost intimate sense of satisfaction with seeing someone with such an affinity for the city do well in purple. And one who certainly fits that bill is Dennis Chin. Hero of both the 2011 and 2013 USL Championship triumphs, Chin will always be fondly remembered by the Orlando City faithful.
Last week I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to catch up with Dennis, as he reminisced about his time with the Lions and his career as a whole...
You were a key player in a hugely successful team for Orlando City who had a great affinity with the fans. What was your favourite thing about playing for the club?
I took pride in the fact that I was playing for my hometown club. I went to High School in Orlando, played youth, and went to university in the area so I was representing more than just myself and the badge. I was showing that the area had talent that could translate at the next level and I was happy to represent them.
How old were you when you first started playing soccer, and when did you realise you could make a career out of it?
I was around 7 years old when I started to kick around on the streets of Jamaica for fun. I was inspired by the 1998 Jamaican World Cup qualifying team to commit to improving my game. It wasn't until my college days that I really considered the option of playing (professionally) though. There wasn't a clear pathway for players in those days so there were phenomenal players that didn't and others that did (play professionally) through random means. Orlando City coming to town was really a blessing for me.
What was your favourite goal for Orlando City, and what makes it so special to you?
That's a tough one. First I would say my goal against Charleston in the 2011 USL quarter finals because it was the game winning goal, in the 100th minute (extra time) to send us through, but it was also my first really important goal of my career and for the club. Second would have to be 2012 against Harrisburg (away) when I received a long pass from John Rooney flicked it over a defender, controlled it off my shoulder, and lobbed the keeper. I believe that one encapsulated how I liked to play the game.
Who was your favourite team growing up?
I grew up an Arsenal fan and tried to model my game after Thierry Henry.
Who was the best player you played with during your time at Orlando City?
This is a tough question because I played on some incredibly talented teams with players at different points in their careers. Guys like Lewis Neal and James O'Connor who played at high levels outside the states. Their example was integral to my growth as a professional. Then you had Lawrence Olum, Yordany Alvarez, etc that were underrated and oozed class and intelligence when they played the game. But I would have to say Kevin Molino is the player who not only had perhaps the highest peak, but also was a joy to play with and watch.
You had a spell playing in Israel, how was that? And how did you find the soccer culture in Israel differs to that in the US?
I really enjoyed my time in Israel and being the third ever non Jewish American or Jamaican to play there was an honor. I found that the fans were as passionate as you would expect from a culture where football is the most popular sport. There was also promotion and relegation with Euopa and Champions League qualifying spots up for grabs in the top league, so that makes things a bit more intense.
Yourself and Dom Dwyer in particular were on fire in the 2013 USL Pro Championship game. How special was that game?
That game was very special for me and I believe was the final statement that showed that Orlando was ready for a MLS franchise. The game itself was a rollercoaster and even after 5 goals scored I wasn't convinced yet that the win was guaranteed! I don't think I will ever see or play a final like it where 11 goals were scored and it wasn't until the end when victory was truly secured.
And which did you enjoy the most, 2011 or 2013?
Tough but 2013 because of what it meant to the growth of the club. And before the play-offs that season people thought we would choke because for the first time we got edged out for the regular season trophy, whereas in 2011 we were always favorites.
Do you still follow the Lions now? And how far do you think Oscar Pareja can take them once soccer gets back to normality?
Yes I do, I have played against Oscar Pareja's teams on a few occasions when he was at FC Dallas. It was evident that he was a good manager and well respected by his players and staff so if he gets the necessary support and time there is no reason why he can't help us reach the play-offs. I'm also excited to see if any of the young, local guys can take the opportunity and take their career to the next level.
This interview was conducted solely by The English Lion on the 8th June 2020.