PHILADELPHIA– It didn’t take long for Aurélien Collin to be noticed in his first Philadelphia Union training session.
The 32-year-old defender, who signed with the club on Tuesday, made a crunching sliding tackle during one of the team’s drills.
“I feel very good,” Collin said. “I have to be very wise because I have so much energy to play. You saw today already tackling everywhere. I have to smart and be ready for Game 1 in March.”
Collin’s trademark edge and experience are exactly what the Union were looking for during their search for a backup center back.
Collin’s familiarity with aspects of the system the Union are trying to install this season also helped make the decision-making process even easier.
The Frenchman played the last three seasons with the New York Red Bulls, and Union sporting director Ernst Tanner, who came from Red Bull Salzburg, is going to implement some principles that are used within the Red Bull soccer organization.
“I didn’t need to see much because I know him from his time in Red Bull,” Tanner said. “The profile we were looking for, he is fitting it. We were looking for someone exactly like him to guide our guys, but he’s also able to play.”
“There’s a lot of young players mixed in with the more experienced players,” Collin said. “It’s a little bit similar (to the Red Bulls), but it’s a completely different club with a different philosophy. Right now, I don’t even think about Red Bulls. My focus is here on my new chapter.”
From the Union’s perspective, the deal for Collin is similar to the one they made ahead of the 2016 season, when they brought in Oguchi Onyewu to help mentor the young center backs on the roster.
“I think there’s some similarities there (to the Onyewu signing), but you also look at Collin coming from the Red Bull system where there is a high press mentality,” Union head coach Jim Curtin said. “You have a variable, his ability to communicate and speak French. It’s a young back line with Olivier (Mbaizo) and we have a leader in Ray Gaddis back there as well. To have another veteran presence back there is important at the center back spot where we’re as young as anybody in the league.”
Collin became a free agent at the end of the 2018 season in which he played seven games for the Red Bulls, and although he had offers from elsewhere, he wanted to remain in MLS.
“I had a couple of offers outside, but I wanted to stay in MLS,” Collin said. “It’s been an amazing journey, and of course in life there are ups and downs, but I love this league. I love the playoffs. I didn’t want to leave.”
Collin’s reasoning for remaining in the North American top flight was the type of endorsement officials at the league office would love to hear out of a foreign player.
“I think we see all of it. It’s getting bigger with more teams. It’s a lot more competitive,” Collin said. “When I came here, the different between the last team and the first team was pretty big and now it’s very similar. Every game is a fight and I love to fight and I love to win. With any team right now, you saw it in Open Cup and in playoffs, any team can be a champion. I’m here and I want to do everything in my power to help the team win a title.”
In addition to his familiarity with the system and veteran presence, Collin brings championship experience within MLS from 2013 with Sporting Kansas City, and that’s a quality the Union hope to bank on when the postseason rolls around.
“We won 19 games last year, which is the fifth most in MLS, but at the same time, we had a bad taste in our mouth when it ended,” Curtin said. “Everybody in the locker room was disappointed and that’s a shift in mindset and mentality that we weren’t just happy to be in the playoffs, we were disappointed that the season ended the way it did.
“Bringing in a player like Collin hopefully brings a type of edge in playoff games that can maybe help us build and get stronger as a club.”