March 18, 2011

Ochocinco Trying to Get His Kicks in KC: Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson-Ochocinco-whatever he's calling himself these days might be playing futbol instead of football this season due to the NFL lockout. MLS team Sporting Kansas City has invited Johns, er, Ocho, er, Chad, who began playing soccer at age four, and played competitively until high school, to a four-day tryout. If he makes the team, Chad will wear jersey number 85.

posted by The_Black_Hand to soccer at 11:08 AM - 13 comments

Interesting. It's been said for years that the only reason the US does not compete internationally in soccer is that our best athletes are driven to other sports for financial reasons. If Ochocinco can make it in MLS after not playing the game for years it might lend credibility to that theory. Also, "Ochocinco" would make a great mononym, like Pele and Kaka.

posted by Rock Steady at 11:47 AM on March 18

I still like the turn he took at PK in pre-season. That was fun. It would be interesting to see what he could do in motion with the round ball on his foot.

With continuous play, there would be fewer opportunities for grandstanding and clowning around.

He had said he wanted to go overseas to play the game. According to the Oil Can Boyd interpretive world atlas, crossing the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to play in KC would be the equivalent of going overseas.

posted by beaverboard at 11:58 AM on March 18

Hope he blows out a knee.

posted by Debo270 at 12:20 PM on March 18

Good to see you have his best interests at heart Debo.

posted by Ying Yang Mafia at 02:41 PM on March 18

That remark about it being his childhood dream to play in the MLS just cracks me up.

posted by feloniousmonk at 02:43 PM on March 18

I'll say this-you don't see a lot of football players (who aren't kickers/punters) who played soccer in high school.

posted by Bonkers at 04:07 PM on March 18

Hope he blows out a knee.

Yeah, fuck that guy for doing something. And fuck him again for trying to have fun doing it.

posted by tahoemoj at 07:24 PM on March 18

Y'know, why not? The coaching staff, I hope, would assess him as they would any other potential player, even if MLS and the front desk are rubbing their hands at the prospect of a celebrity ringer.

("Sporting Kansas City" remains a piss-take of a name, though.)

posted by etagloh at 12:40 AM on March 19

With all the recent code switching down in Australia (Rugby Union, Rugby League and AFL), some sports scientists did an analysis of where the potential was for recruiting outside the normal junior ranks.

I wish I could find the paper, however the conclusion was that football/soccer is virtually exempt from these scenarios, as the combination of skills required (ball related, fitness/stamina and spatial awareness) seemed to be unique, and had to be learned from an early age. It seems that you can't necessarily take a great athlete and make them a football player. And of course some of the greatest football players wouldn't be looked at twice if you were trying to find an athlete. Maradona, Rivaldo and Messi come immediately to mind.

posted by owlhouse at 03:36 AM on March 19

"Interesting. It's been said for years that the only reason the US does not compete internationally in soccer is that our best athletes are driven to other sports for financial reasons. If Ochocinco can make it in MLS after not playing the game for years it might lend credibility to that theory. Also, "Ochocinco" would make a great mononym, like Pele and Kaka."

He "began playing soccer at age four, and played competitively until high school" so from age 4 to 14 or so he would have gotten more than just the basics down, assuming "playing competitively" means something like a youth club team or traveling team, and not just ten years of AYSO "everybody plays" youth soccer as a mere "activity".

Dropping out at age 14 or 15 to switch to gridiron would have hurt his soccer development a lot, so I don't think anyone expects him to turn out to be an MLS starter, much less an outstanding soccer player, but he might be good enough to play a season (or half season or however long the lock out lasts) as a sub and occasional starter.

This has greater potential as a publicity stunt than a real experiment in cross code football. But who knows it might be fun to watch.

The problem with developing soccer players in the USA has been lack of youth role models and potential to earn big bucks (MLS and "Yanks Abroad" are starting to change that), so that kids don't even think about pro soccer as a career and don't grow up as soccer fans (even if they play the game) and don't grow up in a soccer culture (even if they play the game).

Soccer as a mere youth activity is also a problem. Youth soccer clubs as a way to get money out of parents ("pay to play") instead of as a way to develop young pro talent (the academy system) is another problem. The sudden drop off of youth soccer participation levels at about age 14-15 due to high school sports is another part of the problem.

That last one is a real issue: at about age 14-15 is when young soccer players start thinking about turning pro in a few years time, if they are really good, but in American sports that is just when high school sports kicks in, followed by college. Neither high school soccer nor college/university soccer has been, or ever will be, very good at developing youth players into pro soccer talents, especially when it comes to the most talented players.

The academy system is the only way to go for soccer, and fortunately MLS knows that and MLS teams have been setting up academy systems for the past four years or so. And they've already been having some results, though it will take a long time to develop properly.

posted by dave2007 at 05:37 AM on March 19

I'll say this-you don't see a lot of football players (who aren't kickers/punters) who played soccer in high school.

Andre Davis is another...is he still around?

posted by lil_brown_bat at 09:36 AM on March 20

I still admire how quickly and well Olajuwon transitioned from being a reportedly excellent keeper to an elite level basketball player. Different transition than if he had been a field player rather than a keeper, but still noteworthy.

posted by beaverboard at 10:45 AM on March 20

I'll say this-you don't see a lot of football players (who aren't kickers/punters) who played soccer in high school.

I'm not sure he played in high school, but New England's Wes Welker credits his soccer playing experience for helping develop his footwork as a wide receiver.

posted by Howard_T at 02:51 PM on March 20

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