Chad Ochocinco may have found his perfect pitch


Chad Ochocinco begins tryout with Sporting Kansas City on March 23, 2011 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Jamie Squire/GETTY IMAGES)

I normally don’t have much use for Chad Ochocinco — that is to say, I normally don’t have any use for Chad Ochocinco. The name change, the end-zone antics, the gum-flapping — he’s just not my kind of player.

At least he’s not my kind of football player.

But I admit I’m intrigued by his trial with MLS’s Sporting Kansas City — formerly the Kansas City Wizards. (See, even soccer teams don’t like “Wizards” as a mascot. Lame.)

Soccer seems to have a calming effect on Ochocinco. There has been no braggadocio, no attempt to be brash and obnoxious. In fact, he seems almost . . . humble. Quelle surprise.

Ochocinco is a long shot at best to remain with Sporting Kansas City while the NFL is in lockout. (Seriously, Sporting Kansas City is a stupid name, but people thought it was better than “Wizards.” Think about it.) But after his first day of practice Wednesday, he admitted to being winded — no surprise there — and admitted, too, that his expectations are low. He would be happy to ride the bench and work out with the team.

“That would be fun,” he told the Associated Press. “When the lockout, when it does happen, or we’re able to go back and play, I’ll be in better shape than everyone else because I might be the only one training at this level.”

Ochocinco claims he always wanted to be a football player of the soccer variety, but that his grandmother pushed him toward the other game of football in the 10th grade. It’s clear from two days of tryouts that he knows the game, respects the game, and has some skills. On Day 2, with the media hordes largely moved on to other stories, Ochocinco had a far better practice.

“He stepped up his game,” forward Teal Bunbury told the Kansas City Star. “His touch was there, and his confidence was up. He’s adjusting well.”

Coach Peter Vermes told the Star that Ochocinco had the two best crosses of Thursday’s practice. The first, which drew an ovation from his teammates, came during an 11-on-11 scrimmage. Ochocinco, playing forward, chased down the ball and sent a decent cross to forward Birahim Diop, whose header sailed over the crossbar. Ochocinco got an ovation from his teammates; Diop got a good amount of grief.

“That was a great ball in; Diop has to finish that,” joked Bunbury to the Star.

So to sum up: In two days, Chad Ochocinco admitted to a weakness. He said he’d be happy as a bench-warmer. His teammates seem to like him. He was pronounced “coachable.” And he also uttered these words: “I’d play for free.”

Soccer, your power is indeed awesome to behold.

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