KANSAS CITY, Mo. — For the first time in a while, Sporting Kansas City defender Aurélien Collin feels good about his career. And, the way Collin tells it, it took a move to MLS after a trying spell in Portugal.
So trying, in fact, that the 25-year-old turned to arbitration to free himself from his contract with Vitória Setúbal in order to complete the move stateside. In Kansas City he has found the facilities to be first class, the coaching and training staffs top notch, his paycheck arrives on time and, most importantly, Collin feels wanted and appreciated.
“If outside of soccer you have a good life, I think you feel it on the field,” Collin said. “Here I am very happy and on the field I’m good. I was less happy back in Europe, and you felt it on the field.”
The only thing that could make Collin happier would be if things on the field, specifically the results, went just as well.
Just two weeks after helping shackle fellow Frenchman Thierry Henry at Red Bull Arena in a loss to New York, Collin is in store for another high-pressure moment as Sporting KC attempt to snap a three-game losing streak that has fans concerned and coaches and players eager for a result on Saturday night against another league power in the Los Angeles Galaxy.
Collin’s reaction to facing the likes of David Beckham and Landon Donovan is typical of his first few weeks in Kansas City, not necessarily arrogant but pointed all the same.
“We respect them,” he said. “But we are not scared.”
That’s exactly what SKC manager Peter Vermes wants to hear from the rugged central defender, a player he had been trying to bring into the fold since last fall. After struggling with depth at center back for the past few seasons, Vermes now has a stable of talent to call upon with Collin quickly becoming the group’s stalwart.
“I can sleep at night knowing that we have central defenders that I can pick from at any given time and feel very comfortable going into any game with them,” Vermes said about the group comprised of Collin, Júlio César, Matt Besler and Shavar Thomas. “It wasn’t like that before.”
It has certainly helped that Collin has adapted to MLS quickly, the result of plying his trade in a handful of leagues in Europe at the ripe age of 25. His attitude and physicality are, as his manager puts it, “tailor-made” to fit the demands of the league.
And even though he feels more relaxed to focus on his game in the US, Collin points out there isn’t actually much of a difference between the game on the Old Continent and the one played in America.
“I played in Scotland and they have the same mentality as here,” Collin said. “It’s a little different in Spain, Portugal and Greece — a little more tactical. But the pressure is [also] here. There are good players. It is the same for me. There is no big difference between Europe and here.”
None except for the most important element — the peace of mind Collin has found smack dab in the heart of the US.