Sean Franklin has been named the Gatorade Rookie of the Year for 2008. The Palmdale, Calif., native overcame a poor season by his club, the Los Angeles Galaxy, to nab the prize.
The Galaxy drafted Sean Franklin fourth overall in the 2008 MLS SuperDraft with their first pick, and it looks like they got things right. The defender claimed the award despite playing out of position for most of the season. With Chris Klein firmly entrenched in his customary right back spot, Franklin moved centrally to carve out a consistent role in the heart of L.A.'s defense.
He's impressed more than just those who voted for him. Bob Bradley recently called Franklin into a four-day national team training camp. Overall, things have been going pretty well for Franklin of late.
"Jeez this is crazy," he said in a teleconference call. "It's exciting. I was on a high from getting called to the full team, now winning Rookie of the Year -- it's been a crazy week."
All this excitement comes on the back of a disastrous season for the Galaxy as a whole. They finished tied for last in the league overall and failed to make the playoffs for the third year running. Along the way, they posted a league-worst 62 goals against for an average of just over two a game.
With the turnaround in fortunes since the season ended, Franklin isn't letting the past get him down. He's focused on the future.
"From the club's perspective this isn't what we wanted," he said, "But on a personal level I'm happy with how I performed this year. I'm looking forward to next season. I think our team's going to do a whole lot better. It is a little bittersweet, but I'm looking forward to what our team's going to do next season."
Leading that charge next year will be head coach and general manager Bruce Arena, hired on midseason to steady the ship. He thinks Franklin can push on from winning this award to further improve, but is impressed with how well the right back played out of position.
"Sean had a very good season for the Galaxy and is deserving of this award," Arena said. "Despite being played out of position for a majority of the season, Sean was still able to demonstrate his skills and strengths as a player and I'm confident that he will continue to improve in MLS."
Franklin readily agrees that he's more suited to a fullback position. It's unclear exactly how things will pan out next season, but he's optimistic. When deployed on the right later in the season, Franklin gave an attacking impetus from deep and managed to notch an assist.
"We've talked a little about plans for next year, but I'd agree with him that my best position is right back and I'd love a chance to play out wide next year," he said. "It's what I'm most comfortable with. I like to get forward and make runs. Playing in a center role you stay back and don't get to go forward as much. It's more of an exciting role."
For now, the excitement of winning the Rookie of the Year Award and being called up to the national team set-up will have to suffice.