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Ochocinco earns reserve spot on MLS team
KANSAS CITY, MO. (AP) - After a five-day tryout proved that he was a good teammate who lacked enough soccer skills, NFL star Chad Ochocinco got what he was hoping for Tuesday _ a spot on the reserve team for Sporting Kansas City.
Now, he’ll work out a couple of times a week with the MLS team’s reserve squad, which is what he was hoping for all along.
As an honorary member of Sporting KC who plays for the reserve team, the six-time Pro Bowl wide receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals will not be given a contract or be paid. But soccer will be a great way to stay in shape until owners and players work out their differences and the NFL lockout is lifted.
“This is a positive outcome for everyone involved,” said Vermes. “It’s been great to have Chad here and we’ll welcome him back when he’s ready to return. He’s been a true professional throughout his tryout, he has fit right in with the other players and he has been a great presence in the locker room. He has definitely earned the right to be an honorary member of the squad.”
“For our sport, it’s great because I think there’s a lot of people out there who question how hard it is to play this game and it’s very, very difficult.”
Ochocinco left for home after getting the good news and said he would return “in a week or two.”
“I had a great six days here … just to be able to grace the pitch with these guys was awesome,” Ochocinco said. “It’s always been a dream of mine to play the game of soccer. Manager Vermes was kind enough to allow me to stay here at will to train with the reserves and continue to get myself in shape.”
Ochocinco had appeared to be realistic about his chances of winning an MLS contract.
“I’ve been away from the game since I was a little kid. I’m just having fun,” he said after Monday’s practice game. “The skill set is not there like it should be. All I can do out here on the pitch is probably just run fast.”
Ochocinco said his grandmother helped persuade him to give up soccer and focus entirely on football after the 10th grade. If he had stuck with soccer, Vermes said, he would have been a star in that sport.
“There’s no doubt in my mind he would be a professional player today,” Vermes said. “No doubt in my mind. We’ve had guys in here with lesser physical tools than he has. He brings something to the field, his attention to detail and he’s very conscientious about the game. When you bring that every day onto the practice field you’re just going to get better.”
By Mangosuthu Buthelezi
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