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Dublin: 8°C Sunday 18 April 2021

WATCH: NFL star Ochocinco fails to impress in soccer trial

It looks like the end of the road for the gridiron star’s dream of playing professional soccer stateside.

Image: AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

WHEN IT COMES to soccer, Chad Ochocinco looks like a football player.

The six-time Pro Bowl wide receiver seemed willing but unpolished during a practice game yesterday, the fifth day of his tryout with Sporting Kansas City of Major League Soccer.

He will meet with coach Peter Vermes today and neither man sounded optimistic that his hope of playing professionally would go much further than the 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 on the wing and was the tallest man on the pitch. He may also have been the fastest, but had trouble keeping up with players who’ve played soccer all their life.

“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 last 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.”

Vermes seemed to hold out the possibility that Ochocinco could be a practice player.

“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.”

Ochocinco has said he would be happy just being a reserve player.

“This would be good conditioning instead of sitting at home,” he said. “Why sit at home for the lockout? Just keep on working until it gets resolved and when it does get resolved, I’d probably be in the best shape of anybody.

“I think I talk to coach tomorrow and we’ll go from there.”

ESPN’s Irish football expert Tommy Smyth, meanwhile, ran the rule over Ochocinco’s progress from the station’s HQ in Bristol, Connecticut.

And the Louth man – famous for his ‘onion-bag’ catchphrase – saw some potential.

“He’s not giving 85%, he’s giving 100%. Having said that what I see is a man with incredible power in his legs. What he needs to do is just harness that power just a little bit differently. Because the power in his legs is causing his first touch to be just a little bit heavy,” says Smyth.

“Plus he’s letting his head get into it; he’s thinking about it instead of doing it naturally. His shot – well he’s trying ot get the ball in the old onion bag, but he’s trying to guide it in with his foot.

“Just lay it down there, Chad and give it a lash,” he added.

Watch here | Additional reporting AP

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