Gone Pro!

Alonso Tacanga

A Matador player turned pro is not something we hear about everyday, but it happens, and in multiple sports.
Some names: Jonathan Heard, playing basketball professionally in Finland. D.J. Hackett, a wide receiver for the NFL’s Carolina Panthers. Calvin Chitwood, getting paid to dunk on people in Japan. These athletes are part of an elite list of former Matadors representing our colors and receiving a large paycheck while they’re at it.
Add one more name, a big one: Sean Franklin.
Franklin has been a winner throughout his life. He is one of the greatest athletes to ever come out of Northridge and, as a rookie, is a starting defender for our hometown major professional soccer franchise, the L.A. Galaxy.
‘He’s stepped up very well,’ said Cobi Jones, an American soccer legend and assistant coach of the Galaxy. ‘He’s transitioned into a good pro. That’s what it’s about.’
Franklin’s story is truly amazing. One who thinks about Franklin’s upbringing would come to the conclusion that he’s living a life-long dream: He grew up in Southern California, played soccer since he was a kid and led his high school team to a championship. Then, Franklin came to Northridge, where, in three years, he became the target of multiple MLS scouts who wanted him on their team’s lineups. Finally, at the beginning of this year, he was selected by his home team with the 4th pick overall in the league’s SuperDraft. The rookie got a starting position just days into the season.
It’s like out of a fairytale, but not quite. Franklin loves what he’s accomplished, but didn’t always foresee it in his life.
‘When I was younger I played numerous sports,’ said Franklin. ‘I did basketball, soccer and track. It wasn’t until after high school that I really wanted to try to become a pro soccer player. Once I started playing in clubs, I started thinking I’d be able to compete at the professional level.’
He broke his arm last year and played in only eight games of his senior season at CSUN, but that didn’t stop the Galaxy from taking him so high up in the draft. Franklin started in the team’s second regular season game, a 2-0 home win over the San Jose Earthquakes, and has since drawn praise from multiple soccer authorities. Besides Jones, former Galaxy head coach and all-time soccer great Ruud Gullit once said that Franklin was the team’s best player. That’s quite the compliment considering the squad features David Beckham as well.
Funny anecdote: While his former coach praised him, Franklin looked up YouTube videos to find out who the Dutch was.
‘It’s funny because I had no idea who he was,’ said Franklin of Gullit, who won multiple World Soccer Player of the Year Awards in the 1980’s.’ ‘I didn’t know what he accomplished or where he came from because I never watched soccer (growing up).’
That’s Franklin. He never watched the sport. He just played it. In a world where athletes look up to other athletes as inspiration to achieve their goals, Franklin just went out and played hard. That was enough for him to get where he is at now at only 23 years old.
Coaches like Gullit and Jones love his work ethic. Teammates have similar feelings.
‘Sean has had the right attitude from day one,’ said Chris Klein, a teammate of Franklin’s in the Galaxy’s defensive line. ‘He’s one of those guys that you can trust. You always know where he’s going to be and you always know what you’re going to get from him.’
‘He’s a good kid. He’s got a humble spirit. He’s willing to listen to the older guys and willing to put the work in to be very good. I’ve been in this league for 11 years and those are the guys who succeed,’ said Klein.
Franklin has yet to score his first MLS goal, but that’s not his department. Instead, he takes the responsibility of limiting the opponent’s best offensive weapon. The speedy Northridge product has accepted the challenge and become one of the Galaxy’s keys to success.
That success, however, has been diminishing as of late. Los Angeles hadn’t seen a win in nine straight matches entering Saturday’s game at New England. Gullit quit a couple of weeks ago and former national team head coach Bruce Arena took over the team’s reins.
Franklin is still doing a great job. So much that Jones and Klein both think he has a good chance at representing the U.S. adult team one day. Sure it must be discouraging that the Galaxy hasn’t won a game in two months and a half and that they could miss the playoffs for the third consecutive season, but Franklin isn’t letting that ruin his mood.
‘I’m still having fun,’ said Franklin, recalling how the Galaxy went from first place to winless in almost three months. ‘I’m still enjoying every minute, every practice, every game.’
Franklin is living proof that hard work pays off. He’s getting paid to play the sport he loves and he does it in his hometown. He’s drawing praise from world-class footballers, but still conserving a humility that many lose when they reach their dreams.
He even remembers the people back home.
‘I’m always thinking about you guys,’ said Franklin, sending a greeting back to Matadors still at his alma mater. ‘Do well this year. I hope to see you in the future.’
Sean Franklin can be reached on some weekends at the Home Depot Center in Carson, home of the L.A. Galaxy. Go say hi to him some time.