KANSAS CITY, Mo. – It wasn’t the Bernabéu, and his teammates weren’t Cristiano Ronaldo or Kaká. But it was more than good enough for Chad Ochocinco.
Ochocinco concluded his sixth, and what could be final, day training with Sporting Kansas City on Monday, playing 45 minutes of a reserve game alongside a group of Sporting juniors, reserves and trialists at the club’s Swope Park training facility.
“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.”
WATCH: Ochocinco highlights, reactions
He may yet get the opportunity to continue living that dream, albeit likely without a professional contract.
Manager Peter Vermes said he would meet with Ochocinco on Tuesday to discuss the trial and his future with the team. The mercurial wide receiver readily admitted he was nowhere close to being able to play soccer at a professional level but said he would certainly be open to training with the team given the opportunity until the NFL’s CBA situation came to a conclusion.
“Why sit at home?” Ochocinco said. “It’s a lockout. Let’s just keep on working until it gets resolved.”
For his part, Vermes resisted giving a definitive answer regarding Ochocinco’s future with the club but once again raved about No. 85’s professionalism and commitment to building his own skills while finding a way to fit in seamlessly with his teammates.
“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. He wants to learn. When you talk to him about something, he goes and tries to do it.”
[inline_node:332266]But as hard as Ochocinco tried, there was just too much of a gap to make up in a few days.
During his brief time on the field during a competitive match, Ochocinco’s teenage teammates routinely gave him tactical direction and his touch, passing and on-field awareness were all clearly off the pace of the game.
Vermes said he simply lacked the “repetition of situation” needed to truly take full advantage of his prodigious physical skills.
“Critiques are always going to be good,” Ochocinco said. “I need it. I’ve been away from the game since I was a little kid. I’m just having fun. The skill set is not there like it should be.”
Still, Ochocinco was able to string some passes together with his young teammates, make a few surging runs down the right side and win a header to the delight of the fans who lined the sideline.
But he also shanked a few crosses, groused to the referee about physical play and found the speed of the game too much for his own fitness level.
“Probably the thing that kills him the most is just soccer fitness,” Vermes said. “He’s used to five seconds on and then he gets a rest. Here it’s just continuous play.”
But, without a hint of doubt in his voice, Vermes said he had no doubt Ochocinco would be a professional soccer player had it all happened differently. In the end, that won’t happen, but no matter the conclusion, Ochocinco can still look back on his time in Kansas City fondly.
“I can die tomorrow and be satisfied,” he said. “I can go to heaven and tell God that I played professional soccer.”