"You never get a second chance to make a first impression," as the old saying goes. While Aurélien Collin has been winning his fair share of tackles over the past few weeks, he has been slow to win over a small segment of the Orlando City support. A rough first game that ended abruptly with a red card didn't make the best of impressions on the over 62,000 in attendance.
I'd counter anyone who doubts Collin's talent with a few facts. First, the red card against New York City FC was only his fourth ever career ejection. Second, as you can see in the video below, right before the red card Collin attempted a tackle on a streaking Khiry Shelton. While the tackle was unsuccessful, it was enough to slow him down and allow other defenders to prevent him from attempting a shot.
The red card, which was a tough tackle, and in end I think the right call, came because Collin was left on the ground after the previous attempted tackle and was trailing the play after picking himself up. The tackle on David Villa prevented one of the best strikers in the league an essentially open shot from the top of the box.
I think the card came not from some aggressive tendency on the player, but more a combination of recovering from being out of position, the lack of a midfielder tracking back to help the short-handed defense, and seeing David Villa open at the top of the box. Had Collin not crunched shins with Villa, our first match could have easily ended with two NYCFC goals.
While I think this is a convincing argument to exonerate the defender, plenty of people have used this tackle to implicate Collin as "a red card machine" as my friend likes to call him.
Going into the opening match, the back line was one of the biggest question marks about the new MLS squad. This defensive miscue was one of a very few in that game, while they have become more solid and kept Orlando City competitive in all the games this season. It is the attacking corps that has begged the most questions in the early season, not the defense. Collin's leadership has been a large part of that group's early season success.
Since returning to the field, Collin has had exemplary games, including clinical tackles in the box against Montreal Impact and an MLS Team of the Week-worthy performance last week against D.C. United.
Of course, to long time followers of MLS, the idea of having to argue the talent of Aurélien Collin is a foreign concept. He has been an MLS All-Star three out of his four seasons in the league, and was the 2013 MVP of the MLS Cup for his former club, Sporting Kansas City.
He is built like a linebacker and is an intense competitor. At the age of 29, Collin is at the perfect age to be both an on-field talent as well as a mentor to Orlando City's young backs Tyler Turner and Tommy Redding.
With his impressive resume, its easy to see why Orlando City made moves before the MLS Expansion Draft to bring him into the club.
If the small, but vocal, segment of Orlando supporters can look past one desperate crunching tackle, Aurélien Collin has the skills and work ethic to make him a fan favorite for Orlando City as the season progresses.