CARSON, Calif. – Sean Franklin had scored only five goals in six MLS seasons, so the odds that he'd be the difference in the LA Galaxy's triumph over Real Salt Lake in Sunday's Western Conference Semifinal opener weren't very good.
It took a rocket of a shot, a 48th-minute blast from just outside the RSL box that bent inside the far post, to give LA a 1-0 advantage heading into Thursday's second leg in Utah, but the veteran defender wasn't bragging about his precision afterward.
It was suggested that he knew it was going in as soon as he hit the ball.
“No,” he replied. “But once I opened my eyes, the ball was in the back of the net. It was a good shot. I'm just glad it went in.”
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It arrived following a first half in which the Galaxy put lots of pressure on RSL's defense but couldn't convert their chances. LA pushed forward, forcing the Utahns' defenders deep into their box, and Robbie Keane used his experience to exploit the only space open to him, turning at the left post and dropping the ball back through the box – where nobody was.
It rolled out, and Franklin, by himself above the box, ran onto it and hit it the best he could.
“It was a great strike,” Keane said. “He's lucky to be where he was, because all the defenders were certainly running in, you know. Sometimes you just pull those balls back and hope for the best, and lucky enough for us, Sean was there, and what a strike.”
Franklin was where he was supposed to be, and Keane knew he, or someone else, would be there.
“When we attack, we encourage our midfielders and our outside backs to stay forward more, so we can keep the attack going if the ball pops out,” Landon Donovan said. “Sean did a really good job with that all night, and he got rewarded for it.”
Omar Gonzalez noted that Franklin was “one of the unlikely candidates to be scoring from outside the box, but, boy, was I happy when he did it.” Franklin said it was “probably” the best goal he's scored.
“The ball just kind of came out the top of the box, and I had time and space, and I just ran on in and hit it,” Franklin said. “I just tried to keep it on frame, and it went in. ... My first-ever MLS career goal [in a July 2011 victory over Columbus] was like that, where the ball came out and I hit it. I thought [tonight's] was a pretty good goal.”