ORLANDO, Fla. (May 10, 2012) - Former Rollins forward Dennis Chin is in the midst of a breakout second season with the Orlando City of the United Soccer Leagues (USL). The 2010 Rollins graduate was recently featured on the USL website for his quick start to the season.
Chin and Justin Clark, 2011 Tars captain and the Sunshine State Conference Defensive Player of the Year, represent Rollins on the Orlando City pro roster. Nick Sowers and Keniel Baker play for the Orlando City U23s.
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Smiling As He Scores Orlando's Dennis Chin is just getting started
ORLANDO, Fla. - At the best of times, it's hard to keep the smile off Orlando City forward Dennis Chin's face.
"It's what you see on the field, he's always got a smile on his face, he's the life and soul of the party," Lions coach Adrian Heath said. "He doesn't mind self-deprecating humor, doesn't mind being the butt of the jokes, anything that will get a laugh going, he'll be in the middle of it."
But that smile has been a little bit wider on the field so far this USL PRO season as the second-year striker has opened the season in sparkling form. Having scored three goals in five appearances, already equaling his output from last season, Chin is on course for a breakout season for the Lions as he continues his progression from Orlando's youth soccer scene, through the PDL and into the professional ranks.
For Chin, though, the impact he's already made this season is a testament to how much he has been able to learn from Heath, Orlando assistant coach Ian Fuller and the club's more experienced players. After a rookie season that saw him score once in nine appearances in the regular season before adding another two goals in the Lions' postseason run, Chin's main focus was on reaching the same level as teammates such as Max Griffin and Kevin Molino.
"In the offseason after my first season, I figured out a lot of my weaknesses, a lot of the things I had to work on because those guys were so far ahead on, like, speed of play," Chin said. "I had to make sure I was thinking ahead because, you know, I'm not the biggest, so that's what I spent a lot of time working on in the offseason, against the wall to make sure my touch is good and where I need to be and get ready for next season."
The other major thing Chin and the team worked on was his movement off the ball, and already that appears to be paying dividends. Chin's second goal of the season in the Lions' home opener against Wilmington was indicative of this, as he made a well-timed run in behind the Hammerheads' defense to latch onto a pass from Molino before slipping a first-time finish into the left corner of the net.
Chin's desire to work, and the progress he has shown, has been enjoyable for Heath.
"He's got a lot to learn, but he is learning," Heath said. "We spend time and work with players who want to get better, and he wants to get better, he wants to learn, and the pleasing aspect of the goal he scored [against Wilmington] was that it was something we've been working on for six, eight months and now he's starting to do it regularly, making well-timed runs in between people, in behind people."
Chin's development began before he joined the Lions. As a 17-year-old he became part of the PDL's Central Florida Kraze, now Orlando City U23, as he aimed to improve his game as he prepared to go to Rollins College, his father having to sign his paperwork in addition to Chin because he was still under 18. Chin had been aware of the club when it won the PDL Championship in 2004, and he learned a lot from Joe Avallone, who remains as the club's head coach to this day, as he drew from the experience of his teammates.
"In college, it's going to be a freshman, sophomore," Chin said."In the PDL, it could be anyone, it could be a 30-year-old guy or a 16-year-old guy because eight players can be over 23, so it was a good experience, giving me a chance to develop and learn from guys who were older and more experienced in the game."
Even now, though, Chin believes his education on the soccer field is far from complete. As someone whose early upbringing in Jamaica taught him to value education and learning, there's still knowledge to be gained and improvement to be made. Heath said that while Chin is twice the player now in comparison to when he joined the club last year, there's still another 50 or 60 percent to go before Chin becomes close to a finished product.
With the support the Lions have seen since their arrival in the city, though, Chin remains motivated to continue his upward ascent in the professional ranks.
"It's crazy, because I remember with the Kraze and stuff we were bringing in a good crowd," Chin said. "We thought it was a big deal, but when you're coming out here now and seeing how the city has embraced our team, and just to look around and see the coach you played for back in the day and guys you went to school with, in every section there's probably someone I know, it's great, and I don't want to let them down."
And if Chin does reach the potential Heath believes he possesses, getting the smile off his face, and the faces of Orlando City's fans, is going to be even harder to do.