Albert Dikwa and Youmeni Jules both played at a high level in Cameroon, but they later faced more trials and tribulations in United States.
The Orlando City B rookies moved to Florida and quickly worked to learn English so they could listen and learn from their coaches.
They also had to adapt to a more physical style of soccer, with more experienced talent surrounding them.
After 11 OCB (4-4-3, 15 points) matches, the two teens said their transition to competing in the United Soccer League is getting easier.
“My experience has been good,” Dikwa said. “In Orlando, you have coaches who care about you. It’s like a family. It makes me very happy.”
Jules said the support far from home has helped him improve.
“I’m learning in front of more experienced players and in front of the coaches who are very nice,” Jules said. “When something is not good, they’ll tell you the truth to make you better. So I enjoy every day, every training session and everything.”
Dikwa, 19, came to the team as a player known for his ability to play with the ball and score. The Garoua, Cameroon, native has made six appearances with the Cameroon U-20 national team.
Jules, 18, was recruited for his ability to play left or right back at a high level. The Bafoussam, Cameroon, native has five youth international appearances with Cameroon.
Before being signed by Orlando City B, both players got their first experience playing in the U.S. at the Soccer Institute at Montverde Academy.
OCB coach Anthony Pulis said the players’ time at Montverde has helped them make the jump to the USL level.
“[Montverde Academy] has a real togetherness within their group and that was really noticeable when Youmeni and Dikwa came,” Pulis said. “You can tell they’ve had a real good sort of schooling while they’ve been at Montverde and they’ve brought that into our team, which is great.”
Not only did Montverde teach both players intangibles, the academy taught them what to expect at the professional level.
“It’s a good place for a young player to develop,” Jules said. “They work very hard. It’s very similar here; there are not too many differences except for playing with more experienced players.”
The two had great success during their time with Montverde, winning each of the past six Montverde Academy Soccer Tournament titles and helping the Eagles post a 157-match unbeaten streak.
After their experience at Montverde, Dikwa and Jules hoped to become impact players for OCB in their first season.
Dikwa is tied for the team lead with three goals. The forward also recorded one assist this season.
Jules has been a consistent defensive player this season for the Lions. The defender has 10 clearances to go along with nine interceptions.
Coming off a big win against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds on Saturday, Orlando City B will take on the Rochester Rhinos (4-1-3, 15 points) at 7:30 Wednesday night at Orlando City Stadium.
Pulis knows it’s still early in the year and is urging his group to learn from their mistakes.
“I’ve been pleased so far,” Pulis said. “The challenge now for the group is to try and get a level of consistency going.
“I think we’ve shown we can compete at this level and compete with the best teams.”
Jules said the team is united and eager to follow Pulis’ lead.
“Everyone is on the same page,” Jules said. “If we are losing, we are losing together, and if we are winning, we are winning together. We are learning after every loss.
“That makes us better than in the beginning of the season. . . . I think we are getting better, and I think at the end of the season we are going to be in good shape.”