Following the disastrous 2013 MLS campaign, D.C. United were in desperate need of help all over the field. Known for drafting well, United don't have quite the same penchant for finding capable starters in MLS from foreign leagues. So when it came time for the 2013 MLS Re-Entry Draft, the Black-and-Red took their chances, picking up Bobby Boswell, Fabian Espindola, and Sean Franklin.
Franklin, now in his second season with the four time MLS Cup champions, welcomes in his former team, the LA Galaxy, for the first time to his new abode at RFK Stadium. Last year, United played the Galaxy out at StubHub Center, and were humbled to a 4-1 defeat. Franklin has other plans for the game tomorrow.
"It's [a game] against a bunch of guys that I had a fun time playing with. I know them pretty well," Franklin told reporters on Friday. "It would be nice to get a win this time since last year we went to their place and they beat us. So I'm looking forward to saying hi to everyone, but also I want to win the game as well."
Franklin had quite the history with the Galaxy. Born in California, Franklin played college ball at Cal State Northridge, before being taken fourth overall in the 2008 MLS SuperDraft. Franklin won the 2008 MLS Rookie of the Year award, before being part of Galaxy teams that won two MLS Cups and two Supporters' Shields in the span of three seasons.
After being selected by United in the re-entry draft, Franklin was expected to step in and immediately help shore up a defense that was the second worst in the league in 2013. Franklin did just that, as United conceded the fewest goals in the league in 2014, as the right back added a goal and four assists to boot.
But after a back and fourth start to the season thus far, compounded by the overwhelming loss last weekend to the New York Red Bulls, Franklin and company are looking forward to welcoming the Galaxy, who will be without the services of Jaime Penedo, Robbie Keane, and Gyasi Zardes, all out on international duty.
"[Rebounding from the NYRB loss] starts tomorrow with LA. Everyone wants to beat the champs, but it will be a tough game," Franklin added.
With the absence of Zardes and Keane, two of Franklin's former teammates will look to step in their place and continue LA's good start to the season. Edson Buddle and Alan Gordon might not have the allure and capabilities of Keane and Zardes, but both have shown the ability to score in MLS.
"They are both dangerous forwards. Edson is strong and fast," Franklin said. "I have played with him and against him, and he is tough to handle. And then you got a guy like Alan Gordon, who doesn't give up on plays. He scores late goals, and that's been his bread and butter. They are still going to be a tough bunch up top."
Earlier in the week, Franklin's manager, Ben Olsen, struggled to hide a smile when he said that his team had caught a break with international absences affecting the Galaxy and not United. But on Friday, he struck a different tone, one wary of the different threats that the Galaxy can pose to a Black-and-Red team on the rebound.
"On set pieces, they are very dangerous. What I think has made LA great over the last few years is they can counter you, and they can break you down," Olsen said. "They have a good balance of beating you with ball movement and passing, but they also have the ability in transition through their counter to punish you that way. They're not one dimensional in that sense."
United have been buoyed the past day by news of several players returning to action this weekend. Rookie midfielder Miguel Aguilar, who last weekend missed the game against the Red Bulls due to work permit issues, became eligible for selection thanks to quick action from the offices of two Congressmen. In addition, Olsen said that forward Luis Silva, who has struggled throughout the pre-season with injury, will be available for selection to the gameday roster of 18.
"He's back, full in during the last three or four days. He is available for the 18," Olsen said on Friday. "It's nice to get some bodies back. We are starting to see a little bit more of the options that we are going to have. In the short term, we have a tough task on the weekend, but certainly a doable task."