KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Aurélien Collin has never shied away from his image as a physical and sometimes bruising central defender. It wouldn't do him much good, anyway, not after he led or co-led Major League Soccer in cautions in two of his first three seasons in the league.
But dirty? If that were the case, Collin said, the straight red card he picked up Saturday in Sporting Kansas City's 2-0 loss at New England wouldn't have been the first of a senior career that began in 2007.
“Everybody in the league knows that I'm a physical player, but I never play to hurt the guy,” Collin told MLSsoccer.com after Tuesday's training session. “That's why I was very surprised that the referee who was new in the league could give me a straight red card. That's the first red card of my whole career in an official game, anywhere in the world. So I was very surprised and very upset that I could not help the team at the end of the game.
“It's part of the game. Even if I completely disagree with the decision, I just have to live with it and go forward.”
Collin drew the red for a hard tackle on the Revs' Diego Fagundez in the 71st minute of what was a scoreless match. His ejection by referee Alan Kelly, who is the Professional Referee Organization’s head of instruction and began the year as a replacement during the referee lockout, was Collin's first since 2011.
The 2011 dismissal was the result of drawing a second yellow card, though, and Collin, a two-time MLS All-Star and the MVP of MLS Cup 2013, is no stranger to cautions.
He had 10 in 2011 and 13 last year, both league highs, and missed Sporting's US Open Cup title victory in 2012 on card accumulation. With that history, both Collin and manager Peter Vermes said, Collin's reputation likely colors the way officials see his play.
“I think for sure that's the way it goes,” Vermes said. “I also think that the guys who dive around the league get a lot of calls as well the other way. It's unfortunate because if you have that on one side of the ball you should see the guys that are week after week embellishing get fouls as well.”
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Vermes said Sporting are unlikely to appeal the red card, meaning Collin will be suspended for Sunday's home match against the Eastern Conference-leading Columbus Crew. Lawrence Olum is the leading candidate to slot in beside Matt Besler in central defense. And with Ike Opara out for the year following ankle surgery, Sunday's match could see 17-year-old Erik Palmer-Brown in Kansas City's 18 for the first time in his career.
“It's a good possibility. Good possibility,” Vermes said. “I don't know yet. It's kind of early in the week, but definitely a good possibility.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.