CARSON, Calif. – Sean Franklin, playmaker?
Maybe it’s a stretch to give that label to the former MLS Rookie of the Year, but the LA Galaxy’s third-year defender definitely has shown his attacking side this season. The 25-year-old has a career-high five assists, third on the team behind Landon Donovan’s league-leading 14 and Michael Stephens’ 7, and he even scored a goal against the Puerto Rico Islanders in a CONCACAF Champions League Preliminary Round match.
Franklin has been getting forward more and more as the season wears on, and he surprisingly is growing more accustomed to the added dimension to his game.
“I’m getting used to it,” Franklin said Tuesday. “I have a lot to improve on. I want to continue to work on my crossing, work on getting into the attack and be more dangerous and be confident enough to take on players.
“I just want to be more aggressive.”
Franklin, who missed five games earlier this season because of a sprained left ankle, was coming off a 2009 season in which a severe hamstring injury limited him to 13 games. He started off 2010 in top form before his latest injury, but Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena said Franklin has been one of his club’s best players of late.
Franklin’s forays into the attacking end of the field, as it turned out, have been more out of necessity than anything else. With midfielder David Beckham only now returning to action after being sidelined six months because of a torn Achilles tendon, Franklin was asked to go forward to provide more width in the Galaxy attack.
“He’s done very well in that capacity,” Arena said. “He’s a player with pace and has a pretty good understanding of his timing and when to get forward.
“At the start when he had David playing on his side of the field, it was a little bit easier to make those runs and learn, and also David could deliver the ball. David reinforces what we’re trying to do to get him in the attack.
“He does a real good job of it. It’s natural for him.”
Franklin said getting forward has been something he still has trouble getting used to. He likened it to an acquired taste.
“We’ve been talking all year,” he said of discussing the strategy with Arena and his staff. “They tell me, ‘Take that space, have confidence going forward.’ I’m working on that, and I’m trying to get as far as I can in helping the attack.
“With the guys on the outside, they come in a lot which allows me to get around them. Whoever is on the right side has been working really well with me. I’m glad I’m able to get into the attack and create some things.”
He also admitted to hearing a little voice in the back of his head which constantly reminds him of his defensive responsibilities.
“Definitely,” he said with a grin. “Kind of like the last game (a 3-1 victory over Columbus). We’re winning 3-0, so there’s not really much of a reason to go forward. Just hold the fort and play good, solid defense.
“There’s always a time when you can go. It’s just a matter of reading the game and knowing when to go forward. I’m pleasantly surprised with the way things have gone, and it’s nice to contribute more this year.
“I’m happy with how I’m playing.”