Franklin the best

Alonso Tacanga

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If school authorities want to raise – or create – school spirit, then forget about making a Matador statue. Instead, build a Sean Franklin one.

Sean who? You might ask. We answer: Sean ‘Mr.-Former-Matador-and-now-2008-Major League Soccer (MLS)-Rookie-of-the-Year’ Franklin. That’s Sean who.

Franklin, a 2004-07 CSUN men’s soccer team member drafted by the L.A. Galaxy in January, was voted 2008 MLS Rookie of the Year Thursday. Just a year ago, the defender out of Palmdale was still playing his last games of his Matador career. Just a few months back, he was still walking through the Northridge halls on his way to class. What a difference some time makes for a few.

‘It’s been crazy and it’s been long,’ said the man himself, Franklin, during a phone interview. ‘It’s been one big roller coaster.’

The roller coaster that was his first season in the nation’s top soccer league hit its highest point just 18 days after the Galaxy’s season ended without playoffs once again. Franklin was given what is a first-ever for a Matador and one of the most important first-year recognitions that any athlete can receive at the professional level.

Not that anyone’s belittling the capacity of CSUN athletes. He’s not the first Matador to make it into the pros, but if you know sports, you know that in his accomplishment Franklin has more than just given the Northridge athletics’ programs reason to dust off their shoulders. He’s given CSUN a huge reason to be proud. It’s sheer school spirit.
How did he do it?

‘He’s so quick, so cool. He reads you,’ said Franklin’s former coach, Northridge men’s soccer Head Coach Terry Davila. ‘He’s just so competitive. He just has a will not to get beat. He does it with his brain and his athleticism. He has a great combination that way.’
‘He’s very cool under pressure. At the highest moment of intensity, he’s so calm. He sees things so clear.’

Franklin played in 27 games for the Galaxy and started in 26. Los Angeles led the Western Conference for a while before falling into a 12-game winless streak that dropped them to the bottom of the standings, got its coach fired and, ultimately, eliminated them from the playoffs.

Not even having David Beckham could save the Galaxy from a third consecutive postseason-less year. Besides Los Angeles forward Landon Donovan leading the MLS in scoring again with 25 goals, Franklin was the one who shone brightest in Carson.
‘Its kind of bittersweet.’ said Franklin. ‘I’d rather have made the playoffs than winning Rookie of the Year.’

That doesn’t mean he’s giving back the award, of course.

‘I felt excited. I felt relieved,’ he said about getting the news that he won the honor. ‘It was a good feeling after having ended a bad season. Personally, I accomplished something. It made me take the season as a positive.’

No team allowed more goals (62) than the Galaxy in 2008. It’s ironic, but don’t look at Franklin. The rookie committed only 22 fouls this season and earned plenty of praise throughout the league. It’s no coincidence that, in addition to being the best of rooks, he’s been called upon to train with the United States national team.

He’s the man. Davila said he could see the former Matador starting for Team USA in the next World Cup in 2010. That would be a big honor, but not bigger than what the coach said he’d be willing to grant Franklin. Davila admires him a great deal.

‘He’s just like an idol in this area. Everybody’s so proud of him,’ Davila said. ‘As I told one person, if my daughter was old enough, I’d let her marry Sean. He’s a great kid, very well-raised. He’s got the whole package.’

Franklin’s given the first step towards achieving the dream of representing the United States in the adult team. He’s not getting too ahead of himself, though. He knows there’s still a long road to transform Davila’s forecast into a reality. When asked what it was he possessed that made him such a great player, he might as well have shrugged. His humility is refreshing.

‘I don’t know if I have something super special,’ he said. ‘I just work hard. I want to be the best. That’s all coaches ask for. There’s nothing special that I have over other players or anything like that.’

Franklin somehow sees nothing special about himself for now. In turn, Davila realized about his gift a long time ago. Some other talented player kind of tipped him off.

‘When I first knew that Sean was going to be a great defender was when (2006 grad, forward) Willie Sims was here. He was the Offensive Player of the Year and Sean was redshirting. Willie was coming back from an injury. One day, Willie comes up to me and says ‘Hey coach, if you want to get my confidence back, get Sean Franklin off me because he’s killing me.”

Three years later, he’s giving life to CSUN school spirit.