KANSAS CITY, Mo. – When Sporting Kansas City defender Aurélien Collin talks about his team “keeping the cold blood,” he’s not talking about icy, calculating fury.
In Collin’s native French, “sangfroid,” translates literally as “cold blood” – but might be better rendered, perhaps, as “cool” or “poise.”
So far this season, Sporting are living up to that characterization in any language. After 11 cautions and two ejections in the first four games of 2011, Sporting have seen yellow just six times in their 4-0-0 start and haven’t had anyone sent off yet.
“We go into every game trying to be as safe and as smart and as compact as possible,” right back Chance Myers told MLSsoccer.com on Thursday. “And we’re learning after every game.”
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Sporting’s young core is learning during games, too – from defensive midfielder Júlio César and goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen, the veterans charged with keeping things organized and focused on the pitch, especially in the defensive third.
“They’re calming heads,” Myers said. “They can bring us in after something is going wrong and explain to us just to get back to what we do best.”
Nielsen, the team’s captain, is the more vocal leader of the two – but always with an ear to how he communicates to the back line.
“It’s the kind of communication that you give during the game and the way you give the information,” Nielsen said. “If you give the information with panic in your voice, it’s going to communicate to the defenders as panic. If you’re calm in the way you give your information, and give it at the right time, hopefully it helps a lot.”
Júlio César, on the other hand, is so even-keeled on the pitch that manager Peter Vermes has urged him to take a more energetic stance so that the rest of the team doesn’t mistake his calmness for a lack of urgency.
“Júlio at times is a little nonchalant,” Vermes said. "I’ve had to talk to him a couple times: 'Hey, you gotta pick it up a little bit.’ When he wants to turn it on, he can. I think he’s an amazing presence out there.”
That said, Vermes added, “There are times when his calmness really helps our team when he has the ball because he’s really able to settle the game a little bit and let the rest of the guys know that, ‘Hey, we don’t have to go a hundred miles an hour here.’”
At 33, Júlio César – whose long career includes time with Spanish heavyweights Real Madrid – isn’t likely to change his style too much.
“I don’t think, ‘I have to talk, I have to shout,’” he said. “That’s not my personality. I have to show how to do it, the right job, the right position. I have to keep them calm.
“They don’t have the middle,” he added with a smile. “They have ‘power’ and ‘relax. I have to give them the middle, and show that. I give them ... ‘tranquilo.’”
Sounds a bit like Portuguese for “the cold blood,” doesn’t it?
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.