Los Angeles Soccer: Will Hesmer
CARSON -- Sean Franklin scored his first Major League Soccer goal Wednesday night, and it was one to remember -- even if teammates teased him that he wouldn't get credit for it.
Franklin's low blast from a blocked David Beckham free kick sent the Galaxy to a 1-0 triumph over the Columbus Crew at Home Depot Center, extending their league unbeaten streak to 13 games -- and their Western Conference and Supporters' Shield advantages to four points -- with a victory that was a lot tougher than it ought to have been.
The Galaxy (11-2-9) created chance after chance through 16 corner kicks -- just three off the MLS record -- and a handful of free kicks around the box but struggled to beat an organized Crew backline anchored by Riverside's Chad Marshall.
The Galaxy missed their towering target on set pieces, 6-foot-5 defender Omar Gonzalez, who was on the bench but didn't play because of a fractured nose sustained last week in training.
Juan Pablo Angel nearly scored twice, but didn't -- he has only three goals this year, and none in more than a month -- and L.A. was en route to a second straight 0-0 draw before Franklin came through with a 26-yard blast in the 70th minute.
The ball caught Crew midfielder Eric Gehrig on the way in, and so Franklin wasn't sure he'd receive credit. Not after teammates kidded him that the goal wasn't his.
Said Beckham: "I've tried to tell him it's an own goal. But he's not having that."
“I think it might have deflected,” said Franklin, a fourth-year right back from Palmdale and MLS All-Star who has tallied just once before for L.A., in last year's CONCACAF Champions League series with the Puerto Rico Islanders. “They might call it an own goal, but I'm gonna try to claim it as my first goal.
“I'm happy I got it, but I'm more happy that the team played well tonight. We created numerous chances, corners and shots. The whole team effort was great tonight.”
The Galaxy didn't get nearly enough from the set pieces. Two of the 16 corners led to real opportunities, but Crew goalkeeper Will Hesmer did well to snare a 30-yard Franklin blast from a 34th-minute corner kick and to hold on under pressure from Todd Dunivant after Angel's header challenged him on the goal line in the 54th.
Miguel Lopez had the best chance before Franklin's goal, a glancing header from 14 yards off a Beckham cross late in the first half that Hesmer leapt to parry around the right post.
“[Columbus] did very well, packed their team in,” head coach Bruce Arena said. “Marshall kind of zoned and attacked every ball. Pretty difficult. The ball we played out to Franklin for the shot off the corner, probably have to do that a little more often or play the short corner, but they were tightly packed in there on corners, and you have the 6-foot-5 guy [Marshall] that has the freedom to attack every service, and he did a pretty good job.”
The game ended sourly, with referee Andrew Chapin giving Beckham a yellow card in stoppage for not taking a free kick. It was the Galaxy star's eighth caution of the season and comes with a one-game suspension -- for the July 30 match at Vancouver -- his second yellow-card ban of the campaign.
A quick look at the Galaxy's victory:
Until it cleared up so nicely on Saturday, Major League Soccer’s playoff scenarios were complicated, to be sure. The Galaxy might have ended up with a first-round series with Colorado or San Jose or FC Dallas; that they’ll face Seattle is fine with them.
Not that it’s perfect.
“Seattle’s not going to be easy. It never is,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said after Sunday’s victory over FC Dallas set up encounters with the Sounders on Sunday in Seattle and Nov. 7 at Home Depot Center. “But I think the choices were … what were the choices? I think they were Dallas … none of the choices were real good, to be honest. I wouldn’t want to be going into Dallas either.
“I do prefer going to Seattle than going into altitude. There was always a chance at some point we could go to Colorado or Salt Lake, and the altitude is an issue, and the one thing we’ve assured ourselves is that we’re not going to be playing in altitude. Not that guarantees anything, but I think that’s good. It’s a lot easier for the players to adjust to the artificial field [in Seattle] than to altitude. So In think that’s a positive out of this.”
Perhaps so. If L.A. and Real Salt Lake win their first-round series, they’ll meet in Carson. Toronto, where MLS Cup will be played Nov. 21, has a lower elevation than downtown L.A. But the Galaxy are hardly happy they’ll start their home-and-home, total-goals series on the fake turf at Qwest Field.
“I don’t like it,” said Edson Buddle, who led the Galaxy with 17 goals. “I’m not a big fan. I never was. But I have to deal with that and get over it.”
Said David Beckham: “At the end of the day, it is what it is. We have to go there, and we have to play. It’s the same for both teams. Obviously, it’s an advantage for them, because they play on it every other week, but it is what it is.”