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KC's Aurelien Collin -- the great escape artist
by Paul Gardner, July 28th, 2014 1:39AM

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TAGS:  mls, referees, sporting kansas city, toronto fc

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By Paul Gardner

Some seven months ago, writing on the day before the 2013 MLS Cup final between Real Salt Lake and Kansas City, I commented that KC defender Aurelien Collin "... is physical to the point of recklessness and seems to lead a charmed life right on the edge of red-card territory.”

Collin’s immunity to red cards continued in the final. After committing a series of physical fouls -- and receiving a yellow card -- Collin pulled off a classic, cast-iron yellow-card trip on Real’s Robbie Findley in the 69th minute for which should have meant his ejection. Referee Hilario Grajeda called the foul, but no second yellow card appeared. Instead, Grajeda opted for a nice little chat with Collin. Quite unjustifiably pardoned, Collin scored the tying goal eight minutes later. It got better -- Collin was voted the game’s MVP.

So the legend of Collin the Untouchable continued. But it took a nasty knock earlier this month when referee Edvin Jurisevic had a rush of blood to his head and had the temerity to eject Collin for a foul on the Columbus Crew’s Adam Bedell.

Jurisevic, of all people, might have known better. Within three days, the so-called Independent Review Panel had reversed the call. No foul by Collin, hence the red card was canceled. So no suspension for Collin.

Yes, Jurisevic should have known better. It was Jurisevic who red-carded Collin in his debut game for KC back in 2011. The red card was quickly reversed by the MLS Disciplinary Committee. Mistaken identity, the Committee decided.

Bringing the Collin Escape Saga bang up to date, we need to take a look at Saturday’s game that featured Toronto hosting KC. And we don’t have to wait long for the Toronto protests to erupt. Just until the 23rd minute, when Michael Bradley’s deft forward pass allowed Gilberto to peel away from Collin some 27 yards from the KC goal. Gilberto had open field in front of him. Collin, the last defender, brought him down immediately.

Definitely a foul, a tactical one that demands a yellow. Quite possibly Collin’s foul could also be deemed as Denial of an Obvious Goal-Scoring Opportunity (DOGSO). In which case, Collin should have been red-carded.

By now, you will not be amazed to learn that Collin escaped without any punishment at all. Referee Ted Unkel allowed play to continue. Toronto coach Ryan Nelsen was appalled: “Collin should have been sent off, I mean, an under-12 ref can pick that one.”

That a foul should have been called and that Collin should have been yellow-carded is beyond doubt (if there was no foul, then Gilberto, obviously, should have been cautioned for diving. He wasn’t.)

But the red card for DOGSO is not so clear cut. I think many referees would regard 27 yards as too far from goal to justify the call. Though I don’t think that’s what went through Unkel’s mind -- I think he just made a mess of the entire call. As for what was happening in Collin’s mind, you might think that he was canny enough to know that his foul had to be made quickly, before Gilberto got any closer to the goal.

Not a good call from Unkel, then. And Collin is let off the hook yet again.

Perversely -- and lamentably -- the guy who comes out of this most recent Collin escapade looking really bad is Toronto’s Michael Bradley, for the way-over-the-top remarks he made about MLS refereeing after the game. “The referee was absolutely awful,” said Bradley, “The people at MLS in New York, when they talk about wanting to improve the league, the first thing that needs to be improved is the refereeing -- bottom line. … It was bad for both teams and I’m sure they’re sitting in their locker room saying the same thing to themselves.”

I’ve been trying to recall post-game locker rooms of winning teams (I’ve been in hundreds, possibly thousands) where the players were complaining about the refereeing. No luck so far.

A more likely response is what we got from KC coach Peter Vermes: “I thought the referee did a good job tonight. I don’t think it was an easy game to ref. I really liked his management of the game ...”

Impossible to avoid the impression that Bradley’s frustration was mostly down to the fact that Toronto failed to score more than once from it’s 17 shots on goal (two hit the goal frame) and the embarrassing finale that saw KC -- playing with 10 men after Matt Besler had been ejected -- score the winning goal. Taking that frustration out on the referee, though, is pretty reprehensible.

Meanwhile the unstained, ejection-proof Collin marches implacably on.


20 comments
  1. Jogo Bonito
    commented on: July 28, 2014 at 7:37 a.m.
    Aurelien Collin is 2nd rate defender that was bouncing around Europe before finally sitting on the bench in Portugal for a couple of years. He must have a hard working agent that somehow got him to KC. Great column by PG because this guy is a perfect example of what the MLS needs to avoid going forward. If MLS referees started punishing guys like this then he would have to learn how to actually defend. He would have to actually have to move his feet and try to stay goal-side rather than just launch himself at the feet of an attacker that's actually trying to play fairly. Hopefully, the powers that oversee refereeing in the MLS will change because this group of "experts" they have brought in are stealing money so far.

  1. Steve Greene
    commented on: July 28, 2014 at 8:21 a.m.
    If you look at where PRO is getting their "experts" it is no wonder why we are getting what we are getting. Modelling the BPL is not what we need, it is not what soccer(football) needs - but it is what we are getting...

  1. Carl Walther
    commented on: July 28, 2014 at 10:56 a.m.
    I'd like to see how the kids of referees who only warn or talk to players who continually commit gross infractions, turn out. I'll bet it's a lot like a guy I used to work with. "I warned my son not to hit other kids at least twenty times, but he keeps on doing it." When I asked if he ever followed through on his warnings, he looked at me as though I was crazy. His son's been arrested twice.

  1. R2 Dad
    commented on: July 28, 2014 at 11:48 a.m.
    Steve, I actually think we are getting the Championship rather than BPL--it's that style of "agricultural" soccer those in England complain so much about when referring to, say, Scottish Premier League or other "lesser" organizations. Bradley was, of course, correct in his assessment of the refereeing standard but being on the losing side undermines his credibility. He is absolutely correct when insisting it should be a priority but that does not seem not to be the case. TV ratings are the driving forces, so we can only assume PRO is calculating that their existing standard is geared towards improving TV ratings. It's a cynical take on the state of MLS but those guys running it are all business/lawyer types, not soccer enthusiasts.

  1. Allan Lindh
    commented on: July 28, 2014 at 12:34 p.m.
    If Michael Bradley is fined, I will contribute to a fund to cover his fine. He can give it to charity if he prefers. Since when is it reprehensible to tell the obvious truth? Collins is not a thug, he is the worst kind of cheat -- a sneaky cheat. MLS will remain a bush league until they hire competent refs, and instruct them to follow the laws of the game.

  1. Allan Lindh
    commented on: July 28, 2014 at 12:59 p.m.
    And in addition, those of us who find MLS matches almost too painful to watch, in part because of the incompetent refs and the obvious tolerance of grabbing, chopping and brutal tackling, should hit the league where it hurts -- with the TV networks and advertisers. Write them carefully reasoned letters explaining that we will boycott products of those who buy advertising time on MLS matches, until such time as they: 1. Pay enough money to attract good refs, 2. Enforce the laws of the game, and 3. Punish severely teams and players who use cheating and gratuitous violence as a game strategy. (Kansas City for instance.)

  1. G O
    commented on: July 28, 2014 at 1:52 p.m.
    I have always thought that the halfway line perspective one gets from TV watching a match does an incomplete service to seeing the machinations used by so many defenders, particularly the now usually slow but tall central defenders who anchor a team's defense. Might this be a good comparison? Soccer central defenders often feature the same sort of player one sees for a baseball team's first baseman: He's the older guy. The now much slower guy. But the guy who knows the game due to his journeyman years of 8 - 10 years at this level. So it is with centerbacks. To best see their tricks, subtleties, breeches of FairPlay, gamesmanship, abuses, elbows, shoulders to the back of the forward just a fraction of a second before the passed ball arrives (to knock off a forward's equilibrium/balance), all of this is in the kitbag of the modern defender and what we now call holding midfielders. They apply these underhanded tactics all game long. So forget the 50 yard line game perspective if one wants to best see this as practiced over 90 minutes live. Get as close as possible behind the end line and watch with eagle eyes from there. It is all game long and most of it when the ball is nowhere near, so the match official's eyes will never see. Why do all leagues struggle with sufficient goalscoring opportunities and goals/balls successfully into the back of the net per game? Easy answer: These underhanded misdeeds of those who cannot play the game fairly and openly cheat to unfairly diminish their better skilled, faster, more agile, more soccer-like opponents.

  1. Kent James
    commented on: July 28, 2014 at 3:58 p.m.
    Paul, while your analysis of the MLS cup final last year was spot on, I'm a little confused by your criticism of Michael Bradley. You spend a column criticizing the referee's performance (at least with regards to a game critical call), then you say Michael Bradley looks bad when he says the ref was awful, and assessment with which you seem to agree.

  1. Rick Estupinan
    commented on: July 28, 2014 at 4:38 p.m.
    I think Robbie Findley took a dive.Too many fake fouls occur during a game,and looks terrible for the sport.Even in the girls game,you don't see them faking too many fouls,falling all over the place,rolling over in the pitch so many times,with their mouth wide open,that looks they are dying,only to get up and continue playing,specially if the referee don't give them any credit.Is so ridiculous.saw a lot of this during the World Cup,mostly from the Argentine players 'real pros'.

  1. Kelly Ross
    commented on: July 28, 2014 at 4:46 p.m.
    When the names on the field are of a higher value to the game, than the duly and properly enforced laws of the game, to protect the spirit and the letter of the law, offenders like Collin are free to do their deeds without respect to their opponents, the officials or the game. Unless and until the essence of the game, the spirit and the integrity are upheld and protected, and the thugs are held to a higher standard, and the league supports the difficult decisions of the game officials, you will have, what you have in MLS ... a developing league that is still unwilling and unable to nurture and protect the very integrity of the game, most players, coaches, announcers and league officials expect and demand but seemingly, when necessary, fail to do that which is necessary for the good of the game. And yet, when officials opt to service the league, protect the thugs and keep players on the field, officials are still criticized for failing to do their duty. In short, for soccer referees in MLS, it's a no-win scenario. Do your job, catch hell and possibly, have a proper decision reversed or overturned. Don't do your job, and allow thuggery and thievery to perverse the beautiful game, and suffer the wrath of the coaches, players, announcers and arm-chair referees for allowing such play. Who the hell wants to referee soccer?

  1. Rick Estupinan
    commented on: July 28, 2014 at 4:56 p.m.
    What I really think the referees should be doing is paying more attention to fakers,they should get a yellow right away and a stern talk,that if he keeps acting like a little girl,he will be in trouble.This actions makes World Football look bad.Also,pushing and fighting for the ball should be allow,anywhere in the pitch,specially in the penalty area.What the hell!,this is a man's game,no a'sisis'game.I see referees stopping play or cancelling a legit goal just because of a little pushing.

  1. Rick Estupinan
    commented on: July 28, 2014 at 5:17 p.m.
    I also believe that in Football/Soccer referees,in certain cases,are being influenced by what they see in American Football,the brutish,unnecessary actions of some players,that,for the majority of spectators,is okay.I once heard a radio commentarist,saying that in the game of Football,there was nothing that he enjoy most than 'the sound of bones crushing in the field' during a game.I thought,what an Idiot!

  1. I w Nowozeniuk
    commented on: July 28, 2014 at 5:18 p.m.
    Rick E. fakers or no fakers, it the laws of the game and nothing else matters. I don't care if it's a friendly or league game; the laws of the game apply everywhere. These MLS referees have become pigeons under the direction of the MLS head of referees; send him back to England and name an American guy with good credentials. There are plenty of them. MLS Commissioner needs to admit his mistake in making a bad choice.

  1. Glenn Auve
    commented on: July 28, 2014 at 7:05 p.m.
    I believe it was the Independent Review Panel (IRP) that overturned the red card, not the DisCo. Two separate bodies. And I think it was not because of "mistaken identity" but rather because they looked at all the replays and didn't see any serious foul play (or frankly any foul play). I also agree that I don't get calling Bradley reprehensible after you just spent your entire post picking on the referee. Also not sure how you would only get a caution on the TFC play. Gilberto is going to goal, all alone, from not all that far away. Textbook DOGSO.

  1. Zoe Willet
    commented on: July 29, 2014 at 12:01 a.m.
    In my humble opinion, Collin is right up there with Gattuso, Pepe, and Osvaldo Alonso. But also in my humble opinion, the manager and coaching staff could stop them in their tracks if they chose

  1. Allan Lindh
    commented on: July 29, 2014 at 1:34 p.m.
    Don't forget Dema Kovalenko.

  1. C Marshall
    commented on: July 30, 2014 at 5:21 p.m.
    Collin's red card was rescinded against Columbus because his play wasn't remotely worthy of a red card. He didn't even foul him. Collin's foul against Toronto should have been a yellow. It definitely was not a red as there were several defenders back who could have stopped the progression if Collin hadn't. Most commentators would consider that a good foul...as it was the "professional" type that happens at every level of football including Premier League, Champions League and World Cup.

  1. Jogo Bonito
    commented on: July 30, 2014 at 10:55 p.m.
    wow C Marshall .... good foul? really? I have heard commentators and coaches say this. The "professional foul" is EXACTLY what needs to be eliminated from the game. Too often we see this go unpunished. Any foul that a ref feels is "professional" - that stops the game because his team may be caught up attacking, should be an automatic yellow.

  1. C Marshall
    commented on: July 31, 2014 at 12:49 a.m.
    Jogo....I have heard them say it a hundred times in all leagues. The reaction from a lot of announcers is that these professional fouls are an accepted part of the game in many cases. As I stated above, the foul in question in the Toronto game should have been a yellow....not a red as suggested by Mr. Gardner. That is based on the rules of FIFA and the situation in the game.

  1. Jogo Bonito
    commented on: August 1, 2014 at 7:48 a.m.
    Yea these "announcers" and most coaches and many players need to understand that fouling someone should never be "accepted as part of the game" .... We don't intentionally violate traffic laws and get a ticket and say it's "just part of driving" and do it all over again in a few days. Maybe the game needs to punish the "professional foul" more harshly.


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