Sporting Kansas City defender Aurelien Collin took a can of white spray paint and turned it toward a wall on the northwest corner of Sporting Park. It highlighted the team’s championship success.
Moments after goalie Jimmy Nielsen added “2013” to the list of MLS Cup championships, Collin signed his name below.
“I love SKC,” he wrote. “AC78”
Collin made his imprint on the wall.
He made it on the game, too.
Collin was named the 2013 MLS Cup most valuable player Saturday after Sporting KC defeated Real Salt Lake 7-6 on penalty kicks in front of another sold-out crowd at Sporting Park.
The honor was well-earned. Collin scored the game-tying goal in the 76th minute — a header off a corner kick from midfielder Graham Zusi — and then added what proved to be the game-winning penalty kick in the 10th round of kicks.
Not a bad afternoon in a championship setting.
“I was very lucky that Zusi put the ball exactly where I wanted it,” Collin said. “I put my head up and it went through.”
He later added, “Thank God that it happened at the money time.”
It seems only a footnote now, but Collin says there was once a time when he felt he wasn’t taking advantage of scoring opportunities, especially those off corner kicks.
Over his three seasons with Sporting KC, he’s slowly solved that issue. And there couldn’t have been a better time for it.
Collin scored three goals during the 2013 postseason run — more than any other player in Major League Soccer.
“I know I’m a better player now than I was three years ago,” Collin said. “... I wasn’t expecting all of this, but I feel very blessed and happy to be a part of it.”
The day, however, wasn’t all positive news.
Real Salt Lake struck first Saturday on a play that started with a misguided clearance from Collin. Kyle Beckerman intercepted the pass, then found Saborio, who took one dribble and rifled a shot past Sporting KC keeper Jimmy Nielsen.
Collin was previously handed a yellow card in the 35th minute.
“Salt Lake City has been very smart,” Collin said. “Since the first minute, they were trying to get in my head. I didn’t respond to their provocations. I was pretty proud of myself because that was pretty strong. I kept my calm and didn’t respond to anything. I scored and we won, so I’m pretty happy.”
The initial yellow card did little to deter Collin’s physical play. In fact, he came close to a second yellow card midway through the second half — which he admitted was a possibility. That would have resulted in an ejection.
Instead, he stayed in the game. Sporting KC needed him.
Collin perfectly placed his penalty kick into the right side of the net, past a diving Nick Rimando. It was the first penalty kick of his professional career, he said.
“And hopefully the last,” Collin quipped.
If it was, he certainly ends on a good note.