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Sporting KC's Olum earns praise at unfamiliar position

Lawrence Olum, Sporting Kansas City

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KANSAS CITY, Kan.  Lawrence Olum’s first MLS start began a bit awkwardly, with a shanked clearance attempt that went out of bounds rather than up the pitch.

It didn’t take Olum long to settle in, though. He was solid the rest of the way in Sporting Kansas City’s 2-0 win over Toronto FC on Saturday, earning manager Peter Vermes’ praise for his play both on his own and alongside Aurélien Collin in the heart of the backline.

“He was really good,” Vermes said. “He was good in the air. He was tough, strong and he had good distribution. I thought he and Collin were a good team with the fact that they were tough and they were both very hard. It was difficult for those guys to play against them. I thought they established their dominance pretty early and that continued throughout the game. Good partnership right there.”

Collin agreed with his manager’s assessment of Olum  and could be back in the starting XI on Wednesday at Seattle (10 pm ET, watch LIVE online because Matt Besler is recovering an from emergency appendectomy.

HIGHLIGHTS: KC 2, TOR 0

“He was strong out there,” Collin said. “He came in, did his job and did a good job. I’m proud of him, and it was a pleasure to play alongside of him.”

And that sliced first touch? If the ball didn’t go in the net, Collin said, Olum came out just fine on the player.

“As a defender, your first rule is to be safe, especially if you are the last defender,” he said. “It is better just to clear the ball away and not have it go in the goal.”

Olum, whose only previous start this year came in US Open Cup play, was quick to credit Collin and Sporting’s other defensive regulars.

“The guys around me made it really easy to adjust,” Olum said “Once I had a rhythm going, I felt pretty good. I have been ready to play in the first team, and I am happy to help the team tonight.”

Olum’s previous start, and his relief work in league games this season, has been at defensive midfielder. Although he has played extensively in the backline in Reserve League matches, he said, the change still requires some adjustments.

“I had people talking behind me,” he said. “Now, I’m the one talking to the people in front of me.”

And while his first touch might have indicated some nervousness, Olum said he wasn’t worried about how he’d perform against the Reds.

“I’ve played in a lot of games,” Olum added. “I was anxious to see what it would be like, but once the ball started going it was just like any other game.”

Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.

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