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New York Red Bulls re-sign Aurelien Collin

Ali Curtis has got his man, again.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

It is January 4 and the New York Red Bulls preseason schedule still makes no sense. But the team's back line has taken a big step forward with the re-signing of veteran center back Aurelien Collin.

Scarcely a day after the RBNY beat's scoop-whisperer, Kristian Dyer, reported for Metro (no relation) that player and club were close to agreeing terms, the Red Bulls have announced Collin is "back for 2017" (per Ali Curtis). As tends to be the case with MLS signings, there is no immediate news on the length of the contract.

The 30-year-old (he turns 31 in early March) has been arguably the most successful signing to date for RBNY sporting director Curtis. The center-back joined the Red Bulls at the end of April, 2016, arriving at a team that was just picking itself up after losing six of its first seven league games of the year. A veteran of four leagues by the time he was 25, the journeyman CB landed with Sporting Kansas City in MLS in 2011, and almost instantly joined the top tier of defenders in the league. With KC, he won the US Open Cup in 2012, MLS Cup in 2013, picked up MLS Best XI (2012) and the MLS Cup MVP (2013) awards along the way, and was named to the MLS All-Star team for three consecutive seasons (2012-2014).

Talent comes at a price, and proven talent is even pricier. Sporting KC's stated reason for trading Collin to Orlando City in 2014 was the combination of his salary requirements and the threat of an impending Expansion Draft. By the time Collin landed at RBNY, he was carrying a contract paying him around $500,000 for 2016.

When the Red Bulls urgently needed an experienced defender to shore up the back line, Curtis was able to snag Collin from Orlando on extremely favorable terms: RBNY gave up a draft pick and left OCSC carrying about half of the player's salary for the season. Even if Collin hadn't subsequently been successful for RBNY, it was a remarkably good deal: trading from a position of need (the Red Bulls' back line was injured and ineffective and everyone in MLS could see that), Curtis spotted Orlando was ready to move on from an expensive player it wasn't really making use of, and snapped him up in a deal that risked very little, not least because Collin would be out of contract at the end of 2016.

Of course, Collin did play very well for RBNY, taking immediately to the RalfBall style of play (in part perhaps because he had flourished in a high-pressing system under Peter Vermes at Sporting Kansas City) and getting much - deserved - credit for the Red Bulls' 2016 turnaround.

At the end of the season, one of RBNY's ambitions was to re-sign Collin. This time around, however, Curtis did not have Orlando to call on for help with the player's salary demands, and Collin's agent had ample evidence his client was still a capable contributor.

Per Kristian Dyer's reporting, Ali Curtis is to be credited for getting the deal done: "Ali made this happen," a source described as "close to the player" told Metro (no relation). Back in November, Collin gave an interview to Surface magazine in which he said he was open to returning to play in Europe if nothing could be settled with RBNY.

We likely won't know what Curtis had to give Collin to persuade him to stay until the next time the MLS Players Union published salary information, and the true impact of re-signing the player won't be clear until we see what he does in 2017. But RBNY needs center backs (2016 ended with three senior CBs out of contract: Collin, Ronald Zubar, and Damien Perrinelle) and the club has landed the one it perhaps wanted most out of this off-season.

A few more players, including more center backs, are needed before the roster can be regarded as complete and ready for the season ahead, but Curtis's continuing ability to find ways to get what he wants at the negotiating table is an encouraging sign for the work the team needs to do before February 22.