The six-time Pro Bowl wide receiver seemed willing but unpolished during a practice game Monday, the fifth day of his tryout with Sporting Kansas City of Major League Soccer.
He will meet with coach Peter Vermes on Tuesday and neither man sounded optimistic that his hope of playing professionally would go much further than Monday’s reserve game against the Kansas City Brass, a local development team.
It was his first organized soccer outing since the 10th grade.
“It’s been a dream come true for me to be on the pitch, man, with so many of these guys who are elite athletes at the top of their game,” Ochocinco said. “I enjoyed it.”
With the NFL in a lockout and probably headed for litigation, the Cincinnati Bengals star has said he would not mind just being a practice player for Sporting Kansas City, which would help him stay in shape until football owners and players resolve their differences.
“He and I will finally chat tomorrow and kind of talk about some ideas that we have,” Vermes said. “As I said before, long shot for him to make our roster. It still remains to be the same thing.”
Ochocinco lined up as an outside midfielder and was the tallest man on the pitch. He may also have been the fastest, but had trouble keeping up with men who’ve played soccer all their life. In one instance, there was a misplayed ball at the top of the box and he let a defender get there before him. On another, he kicked the ball out of bounds. His “light touch,” the ability to deaden the ball with the inside of his foot, was obviously not as good as that of the pros.
“I’ve been away from the game since I was a little kid,” he said. “I’m just having fun. The skill set is not there like it should be. All I can do out here on the pitch is probably just run fast. Other than that, I just enjoyed it.”
He said he did not know what would happen next.
“I’m satisfied,” he said. “My dream has been answered, to be able to come onto the pitch and play for an MLS team. It doesn’t have to be against someone professional. Just to be out here was enough for me. I can go home. I can die tomorrow and be satisfied. I can go to heaven and tell God, ‘Man, I played professional soccer and I’m good.’”
After the game, several of the professional players came up and shook hands with the NFL star who landed in their midst Wednesday and increased media attention by a factor of about 10.
“He was a class act with those guys,” Vermes said. “He was excellent in the locker room. I don’t have anything bad to say about him. When you talk to him about something, he goes and tries to do it. It’s no surprise after seeing that that he’s made it to the top of the NFL.”
“It’s something that we’ll talk about,” Vermes said. “I just don’t know yet. We’ll talk about it a little bit. But I don’t think he would be a distraction. I also want to see where his head’s at as well.”