Interviews

Chin leaves Ottawa for Israel in hopes of showcasing himself to Europe

Photo Courtesy NASL

Dennis Chin is leaving the NASL for Israel in an attempt to climb the ladder in Europe. Paul Tenorio has the scoop.

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Dennis Chin’s soccer career started with a tryout down the street from where he grew up.

It was supposed to end there, too. Six years later, however, Chin has finalized a move to Israel with Ironi Nesher, a newly-promoted second-division club.

It’s a bit of a surreal moment for Chin, who had been brought in to make up numbers for a private tryout when Orlando City first arrived in Central Florida in 2010. The local kid who was initially an afterthought caught the eye of former Orlando City coach Adrian Heath, who signed him to the USL roster. Now, Chin will try to break through overseas.

“It’s definitely crazy to think about it,” Chin told FourFourTwo USA. “I had a good time in Orlando and sometimes you think things are meant to be. I’m always chasing something and sometimes you look too far ahead when you have something good. I didn’t realize how great it was, my time in Orlando, when I was there. … Now going into this it’s another blessing, so I have to make sure I take this opportunity and run with it.”

Chin, who spent the season with the NASL's Ottawa Fury, represents the latest example of a player from the North American leagues drawing interest from Israeli teams, which are limited in the number of foreign players they can add to the roster. Former Columbus Crew striker Aaron Schoenfeld made a move to the league in 2015, eventually landing with Hapoel Tel Aviv. He is one of just two Americans in the Israeli top division. Former D.C. United homegrown and Jamaican international Michael Seaton also recently moved to Israel, signing with Hapoel Ramat Gan.

Teams in Israel have recently expressed interest in American players with Jewish heritage, like Schoenfeld, because they can receive Israeli citizenship and thus not count against the foreign player limit. Most notably this summer, D.C. United turned down a transfer bid from Maccabi Tel Aviv for U.S. national team defender Steve Birnbaum.

Schoenfeld had failed to break out with Columbus, but, like Chin, found the net with regularity in the USL when on loan with the Dayton Dutch Lions. Chin hopes to replicate Schoenfeld’s strong start to his career in Israeli.

The Jamaican-born striker was connected to the league through his agent, Itamar Keinan, who is from Israel. Chin said he believes he can provide a skillset that is lacking in Israel, most notably the pace for which he has been known in the USL and NASL.

“Ever since Orlando I have been chasing to show people what I can really do and I don’t think I’ve been able to do that,” Chin said. “The argument for Israel, to me, is that there are not a lot of players like me over there. My speed and the way I play. … There, it’s a good place to showcase myself. I can be more dangerous.”

Chin, who scored 33 goals across all competitions for Orlando City, behind only Kevin Molino in the club’s history, has not replicated that production since moving to Arizona United and the Ottawa Fury. He netted just three goals for Arizona in 2015 and one this season for Ottawa.

Chin credited former Orlando City coach Adrian Heath with honing his goal-scoring ability and finding a way to bring the best out of him.

“The details Adrian taught me, I haven’t seen in many places,” Chin said.

The 29-year-old hopes a new challenge will help him turn those details into production once again. That it’s halfway around the world from home doesn’t worry him. Chin said he’s used to different cultures and hopes his personality in the locker room will make the transition easier.

He also hopes that if he produces like Schoenfeld, it will continue to facilitate a pathway to Europe and abroad for players in the U.S. and Canada and also clear a trail for him to continue a career that started on a chance.

“I want to score goals and make assists and be impactful,” Chin said. “If I do that maybe I end up with a bigger club like Aaron and then from there you can keep on moving up. The ultimate goal is to use it as a showcase and prove players here [in the U.S. and Canada] can play.”

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Paul Tenorio is a reporter for FourFourTwo. Follow him on Twitter @PaulTenorio.