A Sporting Park pregame highlight video runs through some of Sporting Kansas City’s most memorable moments from last year’s MLS championship before it reaches its climax — Aurelien Collin’s game-tying header in the MLS Cup Final. On cue, the crowd erupts as if it’s seeing the goal for the first time.
It’s a combination of that well-timed production on the field and a vibrant personality off it that has made Collin a fan favorite during his four-year tenure with Sporting KC.
But his time with the club may be nearing an end.
Collin is in the final year of his contract with Sporting KC, and while he has expressed a desire to remain with the club in 2015 and beyond, the two sides aren’t close to a resolution, Sporting Club CEO Robb Heineman said Tuesday.
“I’m not sure I’d say I’m optimistic,” Heineman said. “I’m probably more of the mind-set that we’re still working on it and something may change. But as of this moment, I think we’re in a bit of a stalemate.”
The two sides haven’t stopped talking, Heineman emphasized, but little has changed in what Sporting KC is willing to offer financially and what Collin desires.
Sporting KC locked up two players key to its long-term success in July, when it signed Matt Besler and Graham Zusi to designated player contracts. The deals will keep them both in Kansas City through the 2018 season while paying them an average of $706,250 over the next four years.
Heineman said those contracts wouldn’t prevent the club from having the means to sign Collin, though much of that will be determined by the next collective bargaining agreement, which may include a new salary cap. The current agreement expires after the season.
“We still have the financial flexibility to try to get something done with Aurelien,” Heineman said. “But at the end of the day, he’s going to want to have to make it happen. It’s not just a one-sided argument. I think we have obviously shown a propensity to want to keep our core guys intact, so obviously we would like to re-sign him, but again, we’ve got to do it in the context that keeps stability available for us to do other things with other guys on our team, as well.”
Collin sidestepped questions Monday about the progress of his contract talks. Instead, he said he is focused on improving his recent play.
Manager Peter Vermes was quick to call out his defenders after a 3-0 loss to D.C. United two weeks ago, and he again wasn’t pleased with their performance in a subsequent 3-1 loss to Houston on Friday.
“Right now I’m focused 100 percent on Sporting Kansas City,” Collin said. “Everything has been amazing since I’ve been here, so I don’t even think about the future right now. I’m focused on getting better and correcting the mistakes I’ve made and making sure I’m the best I can be until the end of the season.”
Asked if he’s confident the offseason will produce an extension with Sporting KC, Collin responded, “I really don’t know. Right now, it’s going to be a conversation between the club and I after the season.
“They know I’m very happy here. Everything has been great here.”
With the club skeptical it can work out a long-term deal with Collin, logically it could become motivated to trade him before the league’s Sept. 15 roster freeze deadline and get something valuable in return.
But Heineman dismissed that theory Tuesday.
“He’s a guy who obviously is highly desirable in the league, so I’m sure there are a number of teams that would have an interest in a guy like him,” Heineman said. “But there’s been nothing specific around anything like that.”