LA Galaxy's Sean Franklin still adapting to switch from defense to midfield
CARSON, Calif. -- Sean Franklin's move up the right flank, into midfield, is clearly a work in progress. The LA Galaxy believe his tools -- especially that blistering speed -- should translate into something special on the wing, they just might need some patience before it pans out.
Franklin, MLS's Rookie of the Year in 2008 when he played out of position in central defense, has been the Galaxy's first-choice right back for more than four years. He's played in midfield on occasion -- with A.J. DeLaGarza moving from center back to right back -- but is getting an extended run at the post since Landon Donovan has joined Robbie Keane up top.
“We like his speed and the ability to use that speed on a wide spot where he can be a little more threatening going forward,” associate head coach Dave Sarachan said. “He needs to improve on his consistency of crosses and the moments that come when he can take advantage of numbers up, when he and the right back can sort of overlap. I think he gives us good athleticism and now good experience as an outside wide guy who can stretch defenses.”
It's been hit and miss so far. Franklin has made three MLS starts in midfield and come off the bench on two other occasions since getting some time there during last month's International Champions Cup friendlies. He was most effective in a 25-minute stint Aug. 17 against Real Salt Lake, assisting two goals in a 4-2 victory, and in the 3-0 romp over San Jose two weeks later, in which he picked up another assist. He's not always so influential.
“Consistency's always a challenge for Sean,” said head coach Bruce Arena, whose team plays Saturday afternoon at D.C. United. “He at times is very good and sometimes isn't as good as we'd like to see. We'd like to maybe tone down the very goods and just a very solid game in and game out. That way you know what you're getting.”
Franklin sees it, too, and is working to be more impactful, but the subtle differences between right back and right winger require time to absorb.
“I'd say it's still new to [DeLaGarza and me],” Franklin said. “The more games we play, the more time we're training together in practice, we'll get a better understanding of runs, give-and-gos, and stuff like that. It's a process. It's a new position, something I want to get better at.”
He says he's adjusting to seeing less of the ball than he did at right back and the need to be more proactive when it does come his way. Off-the-ball movement and crossing are particular areas of study.
“They want me to be dangerous and use my speed and go at players, and I've got to get more comfortable and confident that I can beat a guy and send in a good cross,” Franklin said. “I've played a lot of games at right back and am more confident there, but I've just got to be more aggressive and take chances when I have the opportunity.”
Arena says that “it remains to be seen if he's the answer in that position on a full-time basis,” but Sarachan believes he could be, with more work.
“We've in the past used him there and kind of liked him there,” Sarachan said. “And with our comfort level with A.J. behind him, we still think Sean can [play at] right midfield. I think it's a good position for him. I think he enjoys it. He's got the tools to be pretty good at it.”