New England Soccer Today

50/50 Friday: Is Ochocinco’s SKC trial good for MLS?

Every Friday, the staff at New England Soccer Today tackle a hot topic circulating through the world of soccer. This week, our writers debate the following: Is Chad Ochocinco’s trial a good thing for MLS?

Answering in the affirmative is Carl Setterlund, who gives his reasons why Ochocinco’s trial is a good thing for MLS. Presenting the counterargument is Brian O’Connell, who believes that the NFL wideout’s tryout actually hurts the league.

Carl: The big question most people seem to be asking themselves is whether Chad Ochocinco is genuine about his interest in MLS, but for me that debate goes wide of the mark. He probably really does fancy himself some footy, given that soccer in the United States can be pretty polarizing and we haven’t seen too many fakers before. More to the point though, this is an arranged marriage and one that couldn’t be a better fit.

On one side, you have Mr. Ochocinco himself, who is quite clearly interested in clinging to the limelight. He’s done Dancing with the Stars, a VH1 reality show or two and even shows up at major NFL events like the Super Bowl under the guise of reporting for his burgeoning “Ochocinco News Network”. At 33, he’s at the tail end of his sports career and there’s no plausible reason he would ditch football for MLS after the NFL lockout is over. However, for now, he’s got a career to work on and some spare time to try to become one of the few modern crossover athletes like Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders.

I don’t see any negative impact this would have on Sporting KC. This is a team that regularly has some of the lowest attendance numbers in MLS and struggles to create the kind of buzz and fan interest to rival the big guns like New York and Los Angeles (just ask New England what that’s like). In the end, the Ochocinco trial is low risk and high exposure, which is a setup I think many MLS teams silently envy. Ochocinco may be supremely self-absorbed, but it’s in the most charming non-divisive way possible, so I say good for both him and the team on the national headlines they’ve garnered and full steam ahead.

Brian: Don’t get me wrong. I like Chad Ochocino – as an American football player. I like that he warms up for Bengals practice with a soccer ball and that he does mop-up duty on kickoffs and field goals during the NFL preseason. He’s entertaining both on and off the field, and it’s hard for me to say anything negative about him given his playful and often amusing antics.

But, on the real: if his name wasn’t Ochocino (which, I know it really isn’t), he’d never have gotten a look by a professional soccer club. Let’s be honest: other than Sporting Kansas City, how many clubs invite 33-year-old trialists who haven’t played competitive soccer since high school? I’ll give you the answer: zero. Why? Because it would be a waste of everyone’s time.

That’s thing I have a problem with: it’s all a show. It’s for the cameras and writers. There are thousands of professional soccer players in this country who bust their tails throughout the week that will never see a tenth of the media attention that a celebrity trialist like Ochocino is getting right now. Forget the Chris Wondolowskis, Fredy Monteros, and David Ferreiras. The star is Ochocinco.

As a result, it makes MLS look like a Mickey Mouse league. It chips away at their integrity. Ochocinco is a walking publicity stunt, and the league embarrassingly bought into it. Do I honestly believe him when he says he loves soccer? Sure. And that’s great. But, by that same token, I suppose Ozzy Osbourne should be a given a trial as well.

SKC is free to make whatever personnel decisions they see fit. It’s their call. And I get why they did it. Some MLS clubs couldn’t buy the publicity that the rebranded (what a coincidence) Midwestern club’s acquired since Ochocinco first tweeted the news of his trial. More power to them. Unfortunately, it makes the league look like just another sideshow in the annual Ochocinco offseason tour.

Join the discussion: Do you think Chad Ochocinco’s trial with SKC hurts or helps the league? Comment below to give your take on the football player’s foray in professional soccer.

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