KANSAS CITY, Mo. – It may be a token title at best, but Chad Ochocinco is officially an honorary member of Sporting Kansas City.
What exactly that means remains a little abstract, but the gist is that Ochocinco will have the opportunity to train and work out with the club while the NFL attempts to resolve its labor unrest.
“It’s awesome,” Ochocinco told the Kansas City Star before training on Tuesday. “Basically I can stay here and train as I please, which is really cool. Words can’t describe how thankful I am to be able to be here.”
Ochocinco will depart Kansas City for home on Wednesday. He will, however, have the opportunity to return and join Sporting for training and fitness work throughout the remainder of the Major League Soccer season if he so chooses.
The 33-year-old told the Star that he planned on getting his affairs in place in order to facilitate returning to Kansas City to train and continue living the “dream” that began last Wednesday.
According to league rules, trialists — a label that Ochocinco would technically fall under — can train and play in scrimmages and non-MLS games at the club’s discretion but are limited to two MLS Reserve League matches per year.
All things considered, it's clear Kansas City would love to have him back in the fold, even in a limited capacity.
[inline_node:332371]“We told him we would not be offering him a contract with the team,” manager Peter Vermes told the Star. “But we feel his stay here has been so good in so many ways, we would offer him an opportunity to train with our reserves when they train in the afternoon on certain days of the week and continue to work on his fitness while he’s waiting for the lockout to finish.”
Though he's often portrayed as an outlandish, attention-hungry product of the current media climate, Ochocinco has displayed humility and appreciation for the game during his week in Kansas City.
He played 40 minutes against the Kansas City Brass, a local PDL side, to wrap up his six-day trial with Sporting, but he was clearly off the pace of the game and admitted as much.
He didn’t bristle at being paired with a eclectic group of reserves, trialists and juniors against the Brass and has been genuinely impressed and self-effacing when referring to the talent that surrounds him.
“Playing with these guys on this type of level … people don’t understand," Ochocinco said.
"I understand because I understand the game, but I’ve been away from it so long, how good these guys really are. To be able to stay out here and practice with them until the lockout gets resolved … I’ll be in ridiculous shape.”
And, honorary member or not, Ochocinco has endeared himself to the club, leaving the wide receiver-turned-footballer with plenty of time to continue living the fantasy he gave up so many years ago.