Countdown to First Kick: 21 Collin's next challenge

As First Kick, presented by Dick's Sporting Goods approaches, MLSsoccer.com is marking each passing day with a different statistic, observation or talking point, setting the stage for the beginning of the 2012 MLS campaign.

21 – Starts by Aurélien Collin for Sporting Kansas City in 2011

From the moment Sporting Kansas City signed Aurélien Collin, a specific phrase began popping up when manager Peter Vermes spoke about his newest addition.

"Tailor-made"

In a league full of Conor Caseys, Steven Lenharts, Brian Chings and Eric Hasslis – big, physical forwards prepared to mix it up all over the field – Vermes felt the rough-and-tumble Collin was the ideal partner for Matt Besler in the center of Kansas City’s defense.

Perhaps even Vermes, though, couldn’t have predicted just how well or how quickly Collin would adapt to his new surroundings. Kansas City lost their first four games with the Frenchman in the starting lineup. They tied their next three. Then they won their next two and never looked back, clawing their way to the top of the Eastern Conference with the 25-year-old fan favorite leading the way.

Collin scored three goals in 21 league starts and added another in the MLS Cup Playoffs against the Colorado Rapids as Sporting KC reached the brink of MLS Cup. And apart from a few scattered hiccups early in the season, he defended admirably, selflessly throwing himself into challenges, getting under the skin of opposing teams and giving Chance Myers freedom to push forward.

Of course, it wasn’t all rosy. Collin’s 10 yellow cards – a total only matched by David Beckham – meant he was forced to miss two games through suspension, and a back injury suffered in a collision kept him out the lineup for five games late in the summer.

Entering a 2012 season in which both Collin and Sporting KC appear poised to breakout on a league-wide stage, he’ll need to find more of a middle ground between the aggressive nature that makes him so effective and the consequences that arise from time to time because of that approach.

Simply put, Sporting need Collin to play more than 21 games alongside Besler to improve on what was a special 2011 season. If he can accomplish that without straying too far from what makes him “tailor-made” for MLS, according to Vermes, it could be a frustrating year for opposing forwards in Kansas City.

Sporting Kansas City will open their 2011 home slate on March 17 against the New England Revolution at Livestrong Sporting Park.  GET TICKETS!

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