KANSAS CITY — Aurelien Collin may not have been the very best player on the field Saturday from a technical standpoint – but talk about finding a way in the big moments.
His team wouldn’t even have been in the final, record-setting, 10-round nail-biter of a penalty kick shootout but for Collin’s big second half header, when he out-jumped and out-competed RSL defender Chris Schuler for Graham Zusi’s corner kick and Sporting Kansas City’s only goal Saturday night.
Schuler was actually right with his marker, but Collin just wanted it a little more – perhaps still a little stung for having his own paw prints nearby as Alvaro Saborio opened the scoring for RSL.
Collin was his usual, physical self, walking the line as always. He crossed it in the 35th minute and had to carry a yellow card from there.
Allowing Saborio to break free for some shooting space was Collin’s only big mistake in the back, but he more than atoned with the 76th minute goal, one that positioned his team for its 2nd MLS Cup triumph in 18 years, and the city’s first professional sports championship in 13 years.
He was also named the game’s official MVP, just the second time a defender has claimed the honor over those 18 years. (The only other time was last year, when the LA Galaxy’s Omar Gonzalez was named MLS Cup MVP.)
Collin’s penalty kick, the 10th, was about as sweetly hit as possible. It was audaciously, perhaps even dangerously, high and right. But when Collin put the spot shot right there, no goalkeeper on Earth would be able to reach it.
He was No. 10 on the list because, apparently, he isn’t the best PK taker in practices. He and manager Peter Vermes joked about it after the match, the SKC manager insisting that was the very best he has ever seen Collin hit a 12-yard shot.
Collin said he couldn’t remember ever taking a penalty kick, certainly not it the run of play and not even in a tiebreaker situation. So that was the first, he was asked, for clarification?
“Yes, and hopefully the last!” he said with a big smile.