Sean Franklin puts Galaxy past Real Salt Lake 1-0

Although the Los Angeles Galaxy opened their MLS title defense

with the result Landon Donovan wanted, he’s hoping they don’t

regret their missed chances to make it even better.

Sean Franklin scored on a dramatic 27-yard strike just after

halftime, and the Galaxy began their run at a third straight league

championship with a 1-0 victory over Real Salt Lake on Sunday night

in the first leg of the Western Conference semifinals.

Franklin’s first goal in more than five months provided a small

advantage for the third-seeded Galaxy when the clubs head to Utah

on Thursday for the second leg.

The Galaxy were good, dominating possession and effectively

shuttering Real’s attack, but they could have been even better.

Donovan and Robbie Keane had numerous chances up front throughout

the match, but repeatedly failed to provide additional cushion for

the Galaxy.

”We put a lot of pressure on them throughout the night, so

there’s going to be some cracks,” Donovan said. ”Robbie and I

need to do a better job with our counterattacks. Usually we’re

better than that. I have a feeling we’re going to have a lot more

chances Thursday as the game goes on as they open up and expose

themselves, and we’re fine with that.”

Jaime Penedo posted his fifth shutout in 10 MLS matches for the

Galaxy, who are in search of their league-record fifth MLS Cup

title.

Los Angeles is trying to become the first MLS team to win three

consecutive titles despite losing two key components of its

previous championship teams: star midfielder David Beckham and

goal-scorer Mike Magee. The Galaxy are in prime position to make

that run, but a couple of extra goals would have helped from an

otherwise one-sided game.

Keane barely missed a goal on a breakaway in the 85th minute,

pushing a low shot just wide of the far post. The Irish

international star scored 16 MLS goals for the second straight

regular season.

”We certainly left a few chances out there, but we can’t score

every time,” Keane said. ”I wasn’t connecting with the ball

properly. You have nights like this. It’s not something I’m going

to lose any sleep over.”

Salt Lake, which had a four-game unbeaten streak and a lengthy

break before the playoffs, might have a sleepless night after an

ineffective performance at StubHub Center. Los Angeles largely

controlled the flow against second-seeded Salt Lake in a matchup of

franchises with three of the last four MLS titles between them.

”On a different night, Keane and Donovan are going to kill you

on those,” Real coach Jason Kreis said. ”We weren’t good enough.

We gave the ball away cheaply so many times in so many dangerous

spots. … Players need to be better. We’re just missing some

simple passes. Our better players need to be better, and they

will.”

Keane and Donovan both missed on impressive runs in the opening

minutes, and Real’s Chris Schuler slid in from behind to knock the

ball off Donovan’s foot at the goalmouth in the 42nd minute.

But Franklin thrilled the Galaxy’s lively sellout crowd in the

47th minute when he collected an errant pass from Keane well

outside the penalty area and put a rocket of a shot inside Nick

Rimando’s left post.

Franklin, a stalwart defender, hadn’t scored since May 26.

”The ball just came out on top of the box, and I had time and

space to hit it,” Franklin said. ”Once I opened my eyes up, the

ball was in the back of the net.”

Real had its best chance in the 80th minute, but substitute

forward Devon Sandoval fell down on contact with a Los Angeles

defender while closing in on Luis Gil’s pass in front of the Galaxy

goal.

Los Angeles entered the playoffs unbeaten in four straight games

after allowing just one goal in its entire October schedule. The

Galaxy have never lost in the two-leg conference semifinals since

MLS adopted the playoff format in 2003, advancing eight times.

These clubs met in the MLS Cup final in 2009, with Real Salt

Lake winning its only league title on penalty kicks.