KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Aurelien Collin didn’t spend even 15 minutes as a masked man.
Early in the first half of Sporting Kansas City’s 2-1 victory over D.C. United on Saturday night, the French center back decided he’d had enough of his protective face gear.
Off it came, and Collin went the rest of the full 90 without it in his first action since sustaining facial fractures in the MLS All-Star Game on July 25.
One reason for the switch: Collin couldn’t head straight with the clear plastic mask on.
HIGHLIGHTS: SKC 2, DC 1
“One big part of my game is the header,” said Collin, who missed two league matches with the injury and had to sit out Wednesday’s US Open Cup final due to yellow card accumulation. “I was making a header, and I wanted it to come off the front, but it was going off to the side.”
Besides that, he said, the mask was simply uncomfortable.
“A basketball player can play with it,” he said. “A soccer player, we can’t -- especially a defender, like I am. We head the ball so much, and it hurts when you head the ball.”
And Collin showed no reluctance to use his head in Saturday night’s win – or his feet.
He made two solid defensive plays against striker Long Tan in the second half, blocking Tan’s shot with a slide in the penalty area in the 56th minute and then tackling the ball away to break up a United counterattack in the 58th.
“He was a little out of rhythm to start out with, but then he started to get into it more,” manager Peter Vermes said in the postgame news conference. “One area where he was really good was set pieces. Very good for us. We’ve missed that. He’s very good on attacking set pieces, and it’s a lot for guys to handle. I thought in the end, he and (Matt) Besler were very good in the back.”
If Sporting have missed Collin, it’s more than mutual.
“I missed it so much,” he said. “I missed the fans. I missed my team. I came back tonight, and all the team did a good job, and we won. What more can you ask?”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.