There's no denying that Orlando City SC's defense is a major question mark heading into the 2015 Major League Soccer season.
It's easy to cast blame at the fullbacks, where newly-minted defender Brek Shea will man the left side. On the right, 20-year-old Rafael Ramos will start, in what will be his first ever first-team match in a top league. While some doubt is understandable, both have been relative bright spots so far this preseason.
With Aurélien Collin a lock to start at center back, the second CB spot has been a carousel so far this preseason. A rotating cast of rookies, trialists, loanees, and failed signings have filled in so far. However, with Gustavo and Paulo André gone and no indication that youngsters Conor Donovan and Tommy Redding are quite ready to start, the spot seems to be up for grabs between loanee Seb Hines and trialist Sean St. Ledger.
While the second CB spot is definitely a concern, I've increasingly begun to question the Lions' purported defensive anchor, Frenchman Aurélien Collin.
Collin has been a good MLS defender with Sporting Kansas City since he moved to America in 2011. Maybe even great, depending on who you ask. He's a former MLS All-Star and was awarded the MLS Cup MVP in 2013 when Sporting KC defeated Real Salt Lake in the final.
That said, it's no secret that there are serious holes in his game. He has a penchant for getting caught out of position and committing careless fouls, and he struggles to mark more nimble forwards, such as NYRB's Bradley Wright-Phillips or D.C. United's Fabián Espíndola.
Collin played poorly for much of 2014, as Sporting KC limped into the playoffs with the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference. They were quickly eliminated by the Red Bulls in the knock-out round, as Collin struggled to contain the aforementioned BWP.
For all the success he had in Kansas City, he spent much of it paired with U.S. international Matt Besler, and had former number one overall SuperDraft pick Chance Myers next to him at fullback. Given Orlando's defensive shortcomings, he certainly won't have this level of support around him to start 2015.
Additionally, despite hailing from soccer-crazed France, the defender has very little international pedigree to speak of. He was, at best, a journeyman defender in Europe, bouncing between minor clubs in Scotland, Greece, Wales, and Portugal, before finally finding success in MLS.
Collin has also struggled in his preseason appearances for Orlando. At the Carolina Challenge Cup, his lunging challenge 40 yards from goal led to New York City FC's only goal of the match. It got worse against the Houston Dynamo, as his reckless 30th minute tackle gave Houston a penalty and saw Collin sent off, effectively putting the match out of reach for Orlando.
Collin struggles to contain attackers when he's drawn out to the wings, however, there's every chance he'll be forced to do this often with Orlando's attack-minded fullbacks. He also needs to be paired with a more conservative, organized center back who can cover for his lapses. Perhaps this is Hines or St. Ledger, but neither has proven it so far.
None of this is to say that the Frenchman isn't a perfectly adequate MLS defender. However, he was brought in to be, and continues to be treated as, a defensive anchor that Orlando City can build around. Given his struggles last season and his mistakes so far this preseason, I'm beginning to question that designation.
What are your thoughts? Based on his performances so far, is Collin up to the task of being the Lions' top defender?