CARSON, Calif. — Hardly anything went smoothly for the LA Galaxy on Wednesday.
They had 16 corner kicks but not many of them were dangerous. Starting forward Juan Pablo Ángel missed an open opportunity in the first half and the Galaxy were unable to put consistent pressure on the Crew.
Perhaps it was fitting, then, that an unlikely source — right back Sean Franklin — knocked in his first MLS goal to help break the scoreless deadlock and ultimately help give LA a 1-0 win over Columbus.
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Even the goal, though, was not smooth.
“I think it might have deflected and they might call it an own-goal,” Franklin said. “I’m going to try and claim it as my first goal.”
The ball appeared to hit off of Crew midfielder Eric Gehrig, who made a lunge for the ball but got enough of it to change the trajectory and thwart Crew ‘keeper William Hesmer’s attempts to stop it.
“I’ve tried to tell him it was an own-goal, but he’s not having that,” David Beckham joked.
Franklin, though, showed in the first half his potential when he fired a rocket on goal that Hesmer scrambled to save. The 2008 MLS Rookie of the Year said he was just following orders on both shots.
“Bruce [Arena] is saying if we get a chance to get shots, just shoot and see what happens,” Franklin said. “When there are a lot bodies in front of the box, anything can happen. That shot [in the first half] almost went in also.”
Still, taking shots is one thing but putting them on frame with pace behind them is something else.
“He had one in the first half that he could have scored on and he hit this one really well,” Beckham said. “We needed it tonight. It was important for us to get the three points. Seattle was starting to creep up.”
Indeed, the victory pushed the Galaxy four points clear of Seattle as the club is now once again out in front of the Western Conference table. Through Wednesday’s matches, the Galaxy sit on 42 points while both Seattle and FC Dallas have 38. Real Salt Lake are in fourth place with 30 points but have five games in hand over LA and Seattle.
That the Galaxy were able to put away Columbus despite their struggles on corner kicks was encouraging. The Galaxy had nine corner kicks in the first half but few of them troubled Hesmer. It wasn’t quite a mystery why the Crew were able to turn the Galaxy away with relative ease.
“[Center back Chad] Marshall kind of zoned and attacked every ball,” Arena said. “They were pretty tightly packed in there on corners and they have a 6-foot-5 guy who has the freedom to fight for every ball.”
Perhaps if the Galaxy had had their own tall but absent defender in the match, things may have been different.
“It was unfortunate that on a night like tonight we didn’t have Omar [Gonzalez] because we weren’t all that dangerous,” Galaxy captain Landon Donovan said. “That would have been helpful.”
To have so many chances on corner kicks but to not be able to do much damage brought about some aggravation from Galaxy players.
“It’s frustrating,” Beckham said. “We can say we had 16 corners and we chances but they had a couple of big guys and it’s unfortunate when you’ve got big guys in the middle like that, it’s hard for our players to find space and get on the end of it. We created enough chances to win the game, and I think we deserved to win the game in the end. But it was a tough night.”