Sporting Kansas City manager Peter Vermes confirmed that NFL Pro Bowl receiver Chad Ochocinco will be trying out with the club as a forward, although he reiterated that he felt it was “a long shot” that Ochocinco could make the team.
The American football star’s four-day trial began Wednesday with a training session at Swope Park Training Center and Vermes promised to make a decision pretty quickly.
“He’s more for a forward, which doesn’t surprise me – trying to get behind defenses,” Vermes told ExtraTime Radio. “But the big thing will be that once he gets behind the defense, can he actually finish the ball off and make the final pass. That’s going to be the big thing.”
With the NFL currently in the midst of a player lockout, Ochocinco pursued the opportunity to try out for Sporting via Twitter. However, Vermes only extended the invite after speaking to the player over the phone.
“He assured me that he wasn’t after this just for a media sake,” Vermes said. “He said soccer has been his No. 1 sport and his passion, and if he could do it all over again, he said that he would love to play soccer. He just was talked into going into football by his grandparents, who raised him.”
Ochocinco has been working out with a soccer trainer in South Florida for several days to get into “soccer shape,” according to Vermes. On Tuesday, the Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver tweeted that he was “extremely nervous about tomorrow's trial but anxious to meet the players and compete against some of the world's best.”
Sporting said they’re going to treat Ochocinco like any other trialist.
Vermes did not believe that the attempt to make it in professional soccer was so outrageous. He pointed to the story of the science teacher-turned-MLB player Jim Morris, who won a spot on the Tampa Bay Devil Rays back in 1999 at the age of 35. He also cited track star Vince Papale, who would go on to become an NFL player.
“I’ve had many players come in here on trial and a 99 percent of them had lesser physical tools than he does,” Vermes said of Ochocinco. “For that reason – and that reason only – it’s going to be a very curious way to look at a player."
Regardless of how big the media circus gets around Ochocinco’s arrival on Wednesday, Kansas City are still focused on making it two wins in a row to start their 2011 MLS season. They face the Chicago Fire on Saturday at Toyota Park.
“Our players understand that we have to get ready for our next opponent this week,” Vermes said. “We won’t change training or our preparation for this opponent in any way, shape or form with him coming in. I told him he’s going to have to be respectful and understand we have a job at hand, and he realizes that.”