It’s MLS All-Star week and Los Angeles Galaxy fullback Sean Franklin isn’t in the line-up in Houston.
…and that’s a shame.
On a team chalk full of almost too much talent, Franklin’s contribution to the stoutest defense in the league is unrecognized this week as fellow backliner Omar Gonzalez and goalie Donovan Ricketts represent the Galaxy defense.
Franklin, though, should get more than his due shortly.
Just two short years ago, the wiry fullback who patrols the right flank for the Galaxy, was MLS’s 2008 Rookie Of The Year and earned an invitation to United States’ Men’s National team practice on the training grounds right outside his home pitch. The offer by Bob Bradley was Franklin’s second to the national team.
But, a series of injuries, including serious groin and hamstring maladies, forced Franklin into a continued battle with fitness instead of a focus on improvement.
Franklin missed most of the Galaxy’s 2009 season, but is now back in 2010 owning his righback spot and displaying the silky–with Franklin the word “silky” is acutely accurate–smooth moves that made him a standout during his rookie campaign.
TSG was able to chat briefly with Franklin following last Thursday’s Galaxy-Earthquakes match where Franklin’s intelligent play was again on display to those paying close attention.
For some Franklin’s loping style can be mistaken as being out-of-position or not aggressive, but if you watch #28 long enough, you find a player who has economy of motion and plays well within Bruce Arena’s zonal defensive system.
Franklin also made some subtle, but savvy plays that would go unnoticed unless you were focused on him.
For example, late in the 1st half, a square ball was played to space for Franklin with room on the corner of the 18′ box.
Instead of cutting in and receiving the ball with little room to do anything, Franklin faked at the ball, freezing the defender in their position and then retreated to receive, creating space for Landon Donovan who saw the open space and dragged across it creating an opportunity on goal.
That’s one of those plays that you don’t often recognize, but show a player who has an excellent feel and recognition of the game and play in front of him.
After the game, TSG got a chance to catch-up with the soft spoken and humble Sean Franklin. Here’s how the interview went down.
Matthew, TSG: How do you think the backline did this evening missing Gregg (Berhalter) in the back?
(Note: Los Angeles used back-up Leonardo in place of Gergg Berhalter last Thursday.)
Sean Franklin: I think we did good. In the first five minutes, we were a little sloppier than we should’ve been.
I think we stepped up and played well the rest of the way. I think we did fine.
Matthew: You’ve had a great first half of the year. You’re a contributer to the league-leading defense. Are you disappointed at all that you aren’t going to the All-Star game?
Sean: I mean, a little bit, but you know that’s the least of what I’m worried about.
Our team’s having a great year. I’m really enjoying playing. I want to do well and contribute and I want to help us get back to the MLS Cup and win it.
Matthew: You’ve had a few knocks over the last few years. Do you feel any effects of any of the injuries still?
Sean: No, thank God, no. Nothing’s been wrong.
The groin’s not slowing me down. The hamstring’s great. The ankle which I sprained earlier this season is starting to get 100%. Thankfully right now I’m feeling really good.
Matthew: We’re in the middle of transfer season for many players, especially in Europe and the way your playing there is probably some teams interested in your services. Do you hear that chatter?
(Note: TSG usually has little knowledge of player movement information. You have to ask the question this way, because if Sean corroborates the question, then in fact his name is in play.)
Sean: Nah, I haven’t heard anything and I’m sure someone would tell me.
That’s the last thing I’m worried about right now. I just want to continue to get better.
The only other team other team I’m worried about is…. <voice rises>I’m hoping to get called into national team camp. But other than that, I’m happy to be here playing with the guys.
(Franklin’s excitement when answering “called into national camp” was visible and near giddy.)
Matthew: Do you expect to get called in August 10th?
Sean: No, I don’t expect to be called in.
If I do, I’ll be grateful for the opportunity and make the best of it. Hopefully, I do, if I don’t there are plenty of other camps I’ll hopefully get called in for.
Matthew: One last question Sean. You are extremely adept at challenging for headers. It seems like you’re always going up against someone taller and you’re winning the ball or coming out on the better end. Any secrets on how you attack headers?
Sean: No, no secrets. It’s all about timing, 100% timing. Determining if you’re going to make it to the highest point and get the ball and getting to that highest point.
And then just a lot of practice and getting a good feel. Just getting a lot of practice and getting down the timing.
Matthew: Thanks for your time Sean. We’ll let you get out of here. We really enjoyed your first half of the season.
Sean: Thank a lot.
Sean Franklin, an All-Star on TSG’s ballot.