Dennis Chin and Justin Fojo have taken similar paths to professional soccer.
Both grew up in the Caribbean before moving to Central Florida. They played for rival Seminole County high schools, and after a brief stint on the same club team and successful college careers, both are rookies with the Orlando City Soccer Club.
Orlando City will host the Richmond Kickers at 7:30 Wednesday night at the Florida Citrus Bowl.
"Being able to play with him now is going to be a great experience, because we're in the same kind of boat, and we're going to help each other through and experience it together," said Fojo, a midfielder.
The two competed against each other in high school, with Fojo playing for Lake Mary while Chin suited up for Oviedo.
"I do remember playing against him, because Oviedo and Lake Mary had a pretty big rivalry, and they were always two of the top teams," Chin said.
Chin, a forward, became a standout at Rollins College and played with the Central Florida Kraze of the USL's Premier Development League.
Fojo briefly joined the Kraze and played for the College of Charleston. He didn't imagine being reunited with Chin on a pro team. Orlando City is in the USL Pro Division.
"I never saw this coming,'' said Fojo, 22. "It just goes to show that you can't really predict the future.''
As the only players from Central Florida on Orlando City's roster, Chin, 23, and Fojo have their former area teams rooting for them.
"When I saw [Fojo's] name on that roster, I was like, 'This is awesome. A Lake Mary soccer star is playing for the local team,' '' Lake Mary coach Skip Gardner said.
Rollins coach Keith Buckley said of Chin: "He's a real popular player and very charismatic. His attitude in practice and his ability to get along with everybody was great for team chemistry."
Fojo and Chin have a natural bond in part because of their heritage. Fojo grew up in Trinidad and Tobago while Chin was born in Jamaica.
"That cultural similarity was there so we clicked right away, and he's a good friend of mine now on the team," Fojo said. "I enjoy spending time with him, and we get along well."
Fojo recently joined the Lions after earning his degree. He has yet to play in a game this season, and Chin has logged limited minutes.
"With the pair of them just out of school, it's just a learning process for them," Orlando City coach Adrian Heath said. "They have an opportunity to come in and train with the team every day and show me what they can do.
"They know their competition level is very tough."
Both players are thrilled to have an opportunity to showcase their talent close to their hometown.
"It's the best place I could be playing at such a young point in my career," Chin said. "I just love it. I love the fans. I love everything about playing so close to home."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun