As an expansion club getting primed and ready for its premiere MLS season, Orlando City SC is surrounded by an aura of excitement and wonder. Since everything is new and unseen, there are undoubtedly questions about exactly what to expect.
For a moment I would like to shine the spotlight on Aurelien Collin and illuminate just what type of player and person the Lions can expect to see in the form of the Frenchman.
Collin stands 6-foot-2, and is a monster at the center back position. Before coming to MLS with Sporting Kansas City in 2011, Collin played in several European leagues including stints in Scotland, Greece, and Portugal.
Known for his aerial abilities, Collin makes it incredibly difficult for opponents to successfully target a striker on a cross. Not unlike the LA Galaxy's Omar Gonzalez, Collin's presence alone alters the approach of any corner kicks being taken.
Aggressive on the ground as well, Collin is certainly going to draw his share of bookings, but his play is well suited for the MLS game. He is no lumbering oaf on the back line either, but rather possess good reflexes and agility, along with solid footwork, enabling him to clear the ball well and execute effective passes up field.
Offensively, Collin is not going to light up the stat sheet -- with only 11 regular season goals in his career -- but when he does score, it tends to be important. In 2012, Sporting KC was undefeated when Collin netted a goal. Two of his three goals in 2013 were game winners. In Sporting KC's run to the MLS Cup that year, Collin scored three times in five games. It was no surprise that it was Collin who scored the deciding goal on penalty kicks in the final against Real Salt Lake.
Collin also has made the last three MLS All-Star rosters. That's remarkable on its own, but he only joined MLS four years ago. In addition to the All-Star games, Collin was also named 2013 Sporting KC Humanitarian of the Year and 2013 MLS Cup MVP.
Off the field, Collin was committed to the community in and around Kansas City. He regularly volunteered his time to various charities and even opened up his own clothing store downtown. Collin has also proven to be a man of class and character and for all the positives I have written about those two traits may be the most important.
Collin was traded to Orlando City from Sporting Kansas City and while his departure seemed imminent for most of the year that does not mean it was an easy pill to swallow for fans in Kansas City and a few derogatory comments were whispered in the months before he was traded.
Once Matt Besler signed his Designated Player contract with Sporting Kansas City, Collin's days were numbered. That did not, however, stop Sporting KC from offering an extension to Collin -- just not at his asking price.
Collin was the MLS Cup MVP. If he felt insulted by getting passed over for a DP contract or his feelings were hurt because it was offered to another player at his position, it certainly would have been understandable. However, there is no way to know what his feelings were because Collin never spoke about it. Instead, he deflected questions on the contract situation and remained focused on what was happening on the pitch.
Unfortunately, when Sporting KC began to struggle, it was Collin that took the brunt of the blame, even to the point of getting benched for a match against New England after consecutive losses. Sporting KC lost that game to the Revolution, 3-1.
Although the team as a whole was struggling, Collin never spoke against being singled out. Instead, he remained accountable for his play and vowed to improve, allways remaining positive and supportive of his teammates, the fans, and the organization.
The business side of sports threatened to sully his reputation, mark him as selfish or egotistical, but Collin's positive nature and solid character continued to shine through.
Departures are rarely easy and pleasant, and while some whispers from fans and commentators may have tried to muddy up the waters, I think it remains pretty clear the kind of player and person Orlando City is getting in Collin.
Skilled on the pitch. Classy in an interview. Hard-working and dedicated to the club. Concerned and committed to the community.
That is a Lion and that is Aurelien Collin.