Three Points: Sean Franklin rocket gives the LA Galaxy a 1-0 first leg win over Real Salt Lake
CARSON, Calif. – LA Galaxy Insider Adam Serrano offers his Three Points to LA’s 1-0 victory over Real Salt Lake in the first leg of their Western Conference Semifinal Series. LA and RSL resume the series with the second and final leg at Rio Tinto Stadium on Thursday night.
FRANKLIN GOAL BAILS OUT THE LA GALAXY
With the LA Galaxy’s attacking stars struggling to break through against Real Salt Lake, someone else was needed to provide a little magic—enter right back Sean Franklin.
Sean Franklin put the Galaxy ahead early in the second half with a swerving, first-time strike from more than 25-yards out that left Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando helpless. In his past 73 regular season and postseason appearances, Franklin had only tallied once—a goal in LA’s 4-0 victory over Seattle Sounders FC on May 26—before tallying the first postseason goal of his MLS career. That wasn’t the end of Franklin’s contributions, however, as the veteran right back put forth a solid performance defensively including a critical block of a Sebastian Velasquez chance from close range in the 67th minute.
How much Franklin contributes in the second leg may determine on his place on the field as head coach Bruce Arena opted to push Franklin into the midfield in the closing minutes, after A.J. DeLaGarza came on for Juninho, moving DeLaGarza to right back and Hector Jimenez to central midfield while Franklin was positioned wide on the right side of midfield. With the Galaxy likely to need all of their available defensive options on Thursday, Franklin getting the start in midfield is a real possibility.
MISSED CHANCES FRUSTRATE LA
The Galaxy may be heading into the second leg in Utah with a 1-0 lead on aggregate, but the lead could have been considerably greater if not for a frustrating evening finishing wise.
In control for a majority of the match against an RSL side that came out in a defensive shell, the Galaxy had numerous opportunities from the outset. In particular, the typically clinical Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan had numerous chances to find the back of the net— including nearly identical attempts that went just wide of Rimando’s net—but were unable to find their finishing touch.
Perhaps, the only silver lining from the Galaxy’s creation of chances is that they could amass an even greater amount in the second leg as RSL are forced to abandon their defensive posture and push forward early. With RSL expected to try and control the possession, the Galaxy can rely on their counterattack which should have plenty of opportunities to test Salt Lake.
LA GALAXY HEAD TO RIO TINTO WITH A CLEAR OBJECTIVE
For all the missed opportunities, the LA Galaxy head into the second leg at Rio Tinto Stadium with a clear objective—get a result.
A victory or a draw at Rio Tinto Stadium will put the Galaxy through to the Western Conference Championship for a fifth consecutive year. The statistics will be on LA’s side as the Galaxy have never dropped a two-leg, aggregate goal series in the MLS Cup Playoffs since Bruce Arena took over as head coach and general manager in August 2008. Since MLS first adopted the current Conference Semifinal setup in 2003, LA have advanced to the Conference Championship six times
To advance, however, they’ll have to overcome their inconsistent road form this season, which saw LA compile a 4-9-4 record away from StubHub Center in regular season play. However, LA have been competitive in both road matches against RSL this season, despite using an understrength squad each time. In two matches at Rio Tinto Stadium, LA picked up a 2-0 victory on April 27 against RSL and suffered a 3-1 defeat on June 8, though that game was tied 1-1 until the 84th minute when Olmes Garcia scored the first of his two goals to give his side the full three points. With a full strength group expected to be available on Thursday, the Galaxy have every reason to be confident of their ability to earn the result that they need on the road in order to advance to the Conference Championship.
Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/Insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com