KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Aurélien Collin's message to Sporting Kansas City fans was the same one his manager gave almost two weeks ago: The All-Star center back is in good health, he's not in trouble (and never was) and Lawrence Olum has been doing a fine job.
“The coach just wants me to rest and get prepared for the playoffs,” Collin told MLSsoccer.com after Thursday's training session. “So I've been resting, and I'm perfect now. [Olum] has been doing a good job, he's done everything they asked him to do. I'm aware of my position, I respect everything, I'm working out and I'm ready for whatever.”
Olum has started Sporting's past three matches in place of Collin, although the Frenchman came on as a late sub in this past Sunday's 1-1 draw at Columbus.
After Olum's second straight start, a 2-0 home win over Chicago on Sept. 28, manager Peter Vermes said Olum had earned another berth in the starting XI with his play in the previous weekend's scoreless draw at Montreal.
That didn't stop the online rumors, which surfaced after the Chicago match and again after Sunday's draw, that Collin was being punished for leaving the team without permission to attend a wedding.
Not true, both Collin and Vermes said Thursday.
“That's not the case at all,” Vermes said. “He had permission to go.”
Sporting have gone 1-0-2 with two shutouts in Olum's last three starts, and lead the Eastern Conference by three points over Chicago with two matches to go. While Collin is better in the air and more of a threat to contribute to the attack, Olum has been steady with his backline play and earned solid marks from Vermes during his latest starting stint.
Vermes wouldn't say whether Collin would be back in the XI when Sporting travel to New York on Oct. 20, but said he would be available for the match.
And if Collin is frustrated by his recent stretch on the bench, he wasn't showing it on Thursday.
“I'm healthy, thank God,” he said. “I'm fit. I'm ready to get back out there and smash people.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.